Open offices may be bad for our health - study

Open office spaces are in fashion, as it's believed they save money and are good space to work in.

But new research by the University of Canterbury has found that may be completely wrong and workers are suffering as a result.

Flight Digital managing director Leon Thomason says his open-plan office works, because his digital marketing team is small and creative, with dedicated spaces to work, socialise and take a break.

"We've got pinball, we've got a pool table, we've got a golf green, we've got beer on tap.

"I just don't feel like I would be happy walking into a big room with a lot of people, day-in day-out."

Which unfortunately, is what most of us seem to do. 

Open-plan offices became popular in the 70s and now it seems we all work in them, theoretically, because workers are more productive, happier and collaborate more often. 

Plus businesses save cash.

Or so we were told. 

Ann Richardson from the University of Canterbury says new research goes against the traditional wisdom around open offices. 

"They can be cheaper to build and you can fit more staff into a set area, but it may be that those initial savings are offset by negative effects." 

New research looks at how open office spaces and individual ones compare, and the results are worrying. It shows workers in open spaces have poorer health, take more sick days, are less productive and less focused. 

"When people are asked to move into open plan, usually they're told that this is going to be a positive thing, and it will improve collaboration and communication, but what we found with our review of the literature that it wasn't the case,"  Ms Richardson told Newshub.

We asked some workers what they thought.

"I think, because we're all sharing the same air, you do get quite a lot sicker," said one employee. 

"Yeah, it's good, really collaborative, not as stressful, I guess, because it's open," said another. 

One architect says there's no need to completely revamp your office just yet.

He says open-plan spaces can work better by creating zones for specific tasks, like brainstorming, making calls and having enclosed quiet areas.

It's hoped the research will motivate bosses to rethink work spaces, which may help with retaining staff.