Open workplaces may result in more sick days used

March 18, 2014 at 10:04 PM
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STOCKHOLM, Sweden, March 19 (UPI) -- Offices with open floor plans and no individual cubicles may result in employees taking more sick days, researchers in Sweden suggest.

Christina Bodin Danielsson and colleagues at Stockholm University said the link between open-plan offices and worsened health might be due to group dynamics being different in an open floor plan where everyone can be observed by everyone else, Health Day reported.

For example, the open workplace might increase the risk of "presenteeism" -- workers coming to work sick -- and potentially making others sick.

Or it could be due to the fact that germs can spread in the air and on surfaces for up to six feet after someone sick with a cold or flu sneezes or coughs.

Danielsson and colleagues analyzed data from nearly 2,000 people working in seven office designs.

The study, published in the journal Ergonomics, found those who worked in offices with open floor plans took more time off for sickness. Women were more likely to take sick-leave days, the study said. However, in open-plan layouts without individual workstations but with some meeting rooms -- men had higher rates of short sick-leave spells and individual sick days, the study said.

It might be that in addition to the risk of infection, the types of jobs performed in open work spaces, as well as the lack of privacy and control over personal space, could all play a role, the researchers said.

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