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Ergonomics Tips: Pros and Cons of Open Offices

Ergonomics Tips: Pros and Cons of Open Offices

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

“70 percent of US offices have some form of an open concept” International Facility Management Association 2018

While there are many issues to consider when designing the perfect workspace (ergonomics, safety issues, sitting vs standing, etc.), the open office space is a trend worth examining. In fact, according to the International Facility Management Association, “70% of US offices have some sort of open concept.” Despite so many offices adopting the open office, there has also been an increasing pushback to the idea. So, just what are the pros and cons of an open office environment?

Ergonomics Consultants | Solutions Northwest Inc.

The Pros

Tech companies like Facebook and Google helped make the open office environment popular and many other companies have followed suit. One of the major selling points of the open office is that it tears down cubicle walls and allows employees to openly communicate and build relationships.

The idea is that, without walls, office workers will be able to brainstorm and bond while working, ultimately becoming a greater team with greater productivity than their cubicle counterparts.

Additionally, open office spaces tend to be more affordable to build than cubicles as well as more attractive to look at in an office setting.

The Cons

While the cubicle wall sounds old fashioned, it was serving a few purposes. Having walls around you allows for you to work in privacy and focus directly on your task, which can be lost when exposed to the noise and distractions of the open office environment. In fact, “75 percent of office workers report frequent noise during the workday and 38 percent would change jobs to have an office door they could shut,” according to Gallup 2017.

While open offices are designed to promote more communication, the lack of privacy may have had a negative impact on communication. YouGov reports that “31 percent have had to go to a closet or hall to make a call and 31 percent have held back thoughts and opinions for fear of co-workers hearing and judging.”

Design the workspace that feels right for your workers

Open office layouts may increase face time, leading to stronger bonds, but it could also lead to negative communication or fear of communication due to the lack of privacy in the forced open space. Knowing there are pros and cons to having an open office, it may make sense to seek out alternatives.
The Hub and Spoke office design attempts to extract the best of the open office while maintaining some of the concepts of the private office design. The Hub and Spoke utilizes “a singular entryway into common spaces and hallways that spoke out to different individual offices” as described by ArchDaily. The concept is meant to be a mixture of the open office and the personal office, which allows workers the ability to collaborate, but also work on their own in private.

An important takeaway is that you should balance different concepts and create a custom space that works best for your needs.

In conclusion

Whether your workers work in a home office, open office, cubicle workstation, or other type of workstation, it is important to create a healthy work environment for your workers because it will lead to more productivity in the long run.

We recommend contacting an ergonomics expert to perform an ergonomics assessment on your workspace. For more tips about your workspace, be sure to visit and subscribe to our blog for more office and ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

What Makes a Mouse or Trackball Ergonomic

What Makes a Mouse or Trackball Ergonomic

What makes a Mouse Ergonomic?

By Janet DeLapp, MS, CDMS, CPDM, CPE and Matt Copeland, BS, CEOE

Have you been using a computer for a long period of time? Chances are yes in this digital world that we all live in. But how does that mouse treat you after you’ve been working for a while? Do you feel discomfort in the wrist, elbow, or shoulder? Chances are you are not using a device designed with ergonomics in mind. Ergonomics Consultants | Solutions Northwest Inc.

What makes something ergonomic?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ergonomics as, “an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely”. In this case, designing a device to fit a person properly would be ergonomic. So, what makes a device ergonomic? There are two simple points to consider when riddling whether your device is ergonomic or not: proper fit and placement/posture.

Proper fit: If your device is too big or too small for you, it’s not an ergonomic solution. If your device is too big, then you’re likely engaging the muscles of your hands and arm far more than necessary. Likewise, if your device is too small, you’re likely putting yourself into an awkward posture by holding your hand or fingers precariously to get enough hand/finger real estate on the device to use it.

Placement/Posture: Both are very important and both inform the other. Posture can be tricky as most all of us have developed our normal posture and departing from it can be difficult. Proper ergonomic or “neutral” posture goes like this. Your shoulders should be relaxed with your elbows by your side and bent about 90 degrees. Your wrists should be straight and not bent up or down or in or out. If your device is too far left or right, you are likely causing undue work for your shoulder. If it is too far forward or too close, you may start feeling it from the shoulder all the way to the wrist after extended periods of use.

In conclusion

If it doesn’t fit your hand and you can’t use it without straining your arm or shoulder, it’s probably not the right one, it is not in the correct position, or both. Be sure to consult with your Office Admin or Manager to see about ordering the proper tools and perhaps contacting an expert for a workplace ergonomics assessment.

Hopefully these ergonomics tips can help keep your workplace a safe work place. For more guidance on all work related health and safety issues, visit or Contact Us for more information.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.


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