Aram Seddigh

How does your office environment affect your performance? This has been studied in Aram Seddigh’s thesis "Office types, performance and health." For the first time a study has compared different types of offices, while collecting information on productivity and health.

Size matters

It turns out that the size of an open-plan office matters, the bigger it is, the more cognitive stress and distractions do the employees experience. Those in cell offices experienced the least amount of stress and distraction. Personality is not critical to how employees perceive disturbances, but there is one trait that may worsen the situation – people who are highly agreeable are more distracted in open-plan offices.

“The fact that agreeableness is a factor which may increase the stress level could be explained by the need to stand up for oneself in a large office environment. In a place with lots of disturbances, it is necessary to express your own needs”, says Aram Seddigh, Ph.D. at the Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University.

Results not entirely conclusive

The results of the three sub-studies were however not entirely conclusive. When the memory capacity was measured in a cognitive test, employees in cell offices were more affected by disturbances. The best performances made in the test were found in small or medium-sized offices. One explanation for the result may be that people in open-plan offices have developed strategies on how to concentrate despite disturbances.

“Based on the overall results, I would say that it is important to adapt the workplace to the needs of the job based on factors such as requirements of concentration abilities or creativity. Small offices are preferable to large, and when you have your own office, it is important to use it correctly, such as turning off the mobile phone when you need to concentrate”, says Aram Seddigh.