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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a holistic and systematic understanding of a fundamental issue within open plan office designs: the sustainability of two extremely contrasting requirements, concentration and collaboration, in the same workspace and work environment at a given time. A literature review is presented, along with initial suggestions for potential improvements in knowledge work organizations. Design/methodology/approach – A thorough range of fields, including those outside the built environment, are investigated for their contribution to findings on distractions, especially auditory distractions and their impacts. Findings – This research underpins the need for cost analysis of the impact that distractions have on knowledge workers. Provisions for appropriate and adaptable workspaces are needed to meet the dual needs of collaboration and concentration on complex tasks in order to maximize worker contribution and value. Research limitations/implications – Additional field research on improved workspace is needed to confirm the hypothesis of savings from reduced or adaptation from auditory distractions. Practical implications – As knowledge work grows, the evaluation of workplace architecture and design must include analysis of the needs of knowledge workers. The sole consideration of cost savings in real estate and facilities ignores the tremendous cost of human capital. This reduces overall value and profitability of the organizations choosing to ignore the workspace needs of their workers. Originality/value – The paper provides a new and original review of multi‐disciplinary research on the impact of distractions, especially auditory distractions, providing the groundwork for analysis of total costs of auditory distractions in the workplace.
Journal of Facilities Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 2, 2008
Keywords: Open plan offices; Workplace; Office layout; Noise control; Cognition; Information personnel
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