Modern office environment makes most people uncomfortable

Modern features such as hot-desking and open-plan floors appeal mainly to extraverted workers with others finding them uncomfortable says a study presented today at the BPS Division of Occupational Psychology’s annual conference in Nottingham.

Lead author John Hackston, Head of Research at business psychologists OPP, said: “Despite changes in technology many people still work in an office. Understanding how personality interacts with the office environment is key to improving job satisfaction and productivity.”

Over 300 people (71 per cent female and average age 47 years) completed an online survey about their current office environments. The participants had previously completed a personality test to ascertain their personality type.

The results showed that many features of the modern office were much more likely to be preferred by extraverts than by introverts. Extraverts were significantly happier at work and had higher levels of job satisfaction. Personality differences were also shown to be behind areas of conflict in the office, such as people’s reactions to the idea of a clear desk policy. Some features were desired by almost everyone, such as having your own desk and working area, having well-designed workplaces and having ‘quiet areas’ available. Others, such as desk-sharing or hot-desking, were disliked by most people.

John Hackston said: “These results support previous research into the unpopularity of open-plan offices and hot-desking and the positive effects of personalisation. However, there are some simple changes that can be made to improve staff satisfaction and increase productivity.

“These include allowing staff more storage for personal items when hot-desking; creating smaller neighbourhoods within open-plan offices; not overdoing clear desk policies as clearing away all personal items can be demotivating to some people and providing quiet zones for people to work in when needed.”

The Division of Occupational Psychology annual conference takes place from the 6 to 8 January 2015 at the East Midlands Conference Centre, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RJ.