Silence, please!

3-Star learning experiences

Paul A. Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

Open-plan offices are noisy workplaces. Workers complain about concentration problems and a lack of privacy and have started to use all kinds of tools – such as headphones – to close themselves off from the outside world. The assumed and predicted benefits of these open workplaces, such as more collaboration, more socialisation, better communication, and increased productivity, are nowhere to be seen.

In terms of cognitive performance, Helena Jahncke and David Hallman, for example, found that workers working on a cognitive task in quieter private workspaces outperformed workers in open-plan offices by 14%. In fact, workers chose to email each other instead of talking to each other! So much for increased productivity and better communication. If adults – who are supposed to be relatively good at regulating their own behaviour – are hindered in their work because of all the noise in open-plan…

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