Science has found that cheaper open plan offices might have other benefits

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Open plan offices, said by some to be impersonal and full of distractions, might be better for your health than a private office in the corner.

Research published in the BMJ finds that those who work at desks without partitions in open plan offices tend to have higher levels of physical activity at work and lower levels of stress outside the office.

The scientists at the University of Arizona monitored the heart rate and physical activity of 231 office workers in either open bench configurations, cubicles with high walled partitions, or private walled offices.

Workers in open plan offices with open bench configurations clocked up 20% to 32% more physical activity than those in other work spaces.

The researchers say open benches may have other benefits, including more impromptu conversations, better communication, and increased awareness of co-workers.

Previous studies looking at the impact of the workplace environment on health have focused on survey responses.

None looked at how the type of workstation might affect both physical activity and objective measures of stress.

“The results of this study are an important step towards establishing best practices and guidelines for office design and operations,” the researchers say.

“There are ongoing and accelerating trends towards reducing dedicated individual work space in offices in order to save rental and other overhead costs, and to reduce environmental impacts of underutilised space.”

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