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更新时间:2014-3-12 10:43:53 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

Study: Open Offices Are Making Us All Sick

Another reason not to like open-plan offices: they could be making people sick.

A recent study published in the journal Ergonomics found that workers who share open spaces with multiple colleagues are more likely to take short-term sick leaves than those who enjoy the privacy of their own office.

Researcher and architect Christina Bodin Danielsson and three colleagues at Stockholm University studied 1,852 employees working in seven different types of offices in Sweden. The layouts ranged from private offices to rooms housing two to three people to open-plan layouts with more than 24 people. They also looked at employees working in what they dub 'flex-offices,' where there are no assigned workstations.

Workers were asked to report the number of short sick leave spells -- defined as a week or less -- they'd taken over the past year as well as the number of long spells, or periods longer than a week. The study found 'a significant association with office type' when it came to the short sick leave spells: workers in small, medium and large open office layouts had 'elevated risks' as compared to those who had private offices. Those most likely to take a few days off from work were workers in open offices with 4 to 9 people per room and those in open offices with more than 24 people per room.

The authors have a few hypotheses as to why open-plan layouts are worse for employee health. Packing more workers into close quarters could increase the spread of infection, or workers without their own offices could be exposed to more 'environmental stressors,' including noise and less personal control over their surroundings.

Nearly 70% of offices have open plan layouts, according to a 2010 survey of 424 facility management professionals by the International Facility Management Association. The popularity of private offices has steadily declined as open floor plans and unassigned seating have become more common, according to the survey. In 2010, 32% of respondents reported having a setup that employed private offices, a drop from 36% in 1997.

Proponents of open office spaces point to benefits like increased collaboration between workers, more friendly relationships and a faster spread of information. But less privacy and more noise can take a toll too; workers may find themselves distracted or display poorer cognitive performance when it comes to tasks that involve a lot of math or memorization, Danielsson says.

Michael Taylor, a workspace researcher for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based office furniture company Steelcase Inc., says that as open plan layouts started to go mainstream in the late 2000s, he began being approached by corporate facilities professionals concerned about the health risks associated with breaking down office and cubicle walls.

'It is front and center in some people's minds,' he says.

Steelcase has responded by designing furniture that aims to keep the sniffles at bay. A new desk, for example, has silver ion on areas where workers are likely to frequently put their hands, such as the lever to adjust the desk up or down. The silver ion kills certain bacteria, Taylor says. Steelcase has also started manufacturing office chair parts out of material that mimics the physical texture of shark skin, which eliminates 90 to 95% of bacteria, according to Taylor.

Many anti-germ technologies are still in development; Taylor says he doesn't know when the shark skin-like parts will be incorporated into products and put on the market.

Until every office is armed with the latest technologies in the fight against bacteria, Taylor gives out old-fashioned advice to concerned managers. Make sure your employees are washing their hands and tidying up their desks, he says.



研究人员、建筑设计师克里斯蒂娜·博丁·丹尼尔松(Christina Bodin Danielsson)和三名斯德哥尔摩大学(Stockholm University)同事调查了瑞典七种不同办公室内工作的1,852名雇员。这些办公室的布局既有私人办公室、容纳两三人的房间,也有24人以上的大开间。



据国际设施管理协会(International Facility Management Association)2010年对424名设施管理人员的调查,接近七成的办公室都是开放式布局。这次调查显示,随着开放式布局和非指定工位的做法越来越常见,私人办公室的数量已经稳步下降。2010年32%的受访者报告其办公区域布局采用了私人办公室的形式,低于1997年36%的比例。


密歇根州大急流城(Grand Rapids)办公家具公司Steelcase Inc.的工作场所研究员迈克尔·泰勒(Michael Taylor)说,在2000年代后期开放式布局开始成为主流的时候,开始有企业设施管理人员来找他,他们担心打通办公室和小隔间之后会有健康风险。