Research shows shortcomings of open-plan offices

The Royal College of Art recommends that the traditional open-plan office design be reconsidered to address emerging changes in the workplace.

Welcoming Workplace, a two-year research project led by RCA Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design Jeremy Myerson and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, highlights the shortcomings of the currently widespread open-plan office in accommodating the needs of an ageing population and a variety of working styles.

The research, which is being presented today, finds that while the traditional open-plan office accommodates collaboration and teambuilding, it is unsuitable for contemplation and deep thinking.

Design elements such as lighting, acoustics, ergonomics and wayfinding ought to be addressed to be more sensitive to the needs of an ageing workforce, whose eyesight and hearing may be compromised in traditional workplace formats, the research finds.

The study, which includes guidance for architects and developers of office buildings, recommends that the optimum office environment be more responsive to user needs, facilitating a variety of working styles.

Welcoming Workplace launches today at the fifth Worktech conference at the British Library, London NW1.

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