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There are quite a few studies debunking the effectiveness of Open-Plan Offices (sometimes named Open Space), such as this study by the Queensland University of Technology. However, I wonder whether it might be true that OPOs might have any positive impacts. Is there any proof for that or is there only evidence to the contrary?

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As mentioned in the comment on my answer, Omer is looking for evidence of a productivity boost for Open Plan Offices. I am concerned that it may be that no-one has ever made such a claim (relying on simple cheapness). Omer, do you have any references for people making such a claim? If not, it may be out-of-scope here. – Oddthinking May 21 '11 at 16:04
The thought came to me after reading that those advocating OPO do not offer evidence, but do make the claim, in an excerpt to the book Peopleware and I was wondering whether some of it may be based. – Omer van Kloeten May 21 '11 at 17:46

The cost of fit-out for open-plan areas is much lower than traditional offices.

For example, this interior decorator suggests:

An open plan office design traditionally cost approx $400 per square meter. An average office fitout with a few offices traditionally costs approx $550 - $750 per square meter depending on the level of finish required.

(That's Australian dollars, but the units are largely irrelevant.)

If you squeeze more people per square metre into an open-plan area than a traditional office, that is even more savings per employee.

(I'm half-expecting responses that this is a false economy, but that is largely dependent on the commercial conditions the company finds itself in. There may well be some situations where it makes good economic sense to sacrifice longer term productivity in order to reduce up-front costs.)

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Good answer, but that is not what I meant. I'm looking for anything indicating a productivity/profit boost resulting from OPOs. – Omer van Kloeten May 21 '11 at 15:58
I'm guessing you won't accept "There is an immediate profit-boost in reducing overheads by a greater amount than the resulting lost revenue." – Oddthinking May 21 '11 at 16:06
That's not what I'm looking for :) – Omer van Kloeten May 21 '11 at 18:06

It depends on the job: for programmers, productivity trumps cost effectiveness and open plan is bad

This answer might count as incestuous on a stackexchange site, but, what the hell.

Some time ago Joel Spolsky argued that making programmers more productive dominated everything else in a software company (I'm simplifying his argument a bit). As a result he recommended the following (my emphasis):

Building great office space for software developers serves two purposes: increased productivity, and increased recruiting pull. Private offices with doors that close prevent programmers from interruptions allowing them to concentrate on code without being forced to stop and listen to every interesting conversation in the room. And the nice offices wow our job candidates, making it easier for us to attract, hire, and retain the great developers we need to make software profitably. It’s worth it, especially in a world where so many software jobs provide only the most rudimentary and depressing cubicle farms.

So that is at least one, expert, source who thinks open plan is a productivity killer (at least for programmers).

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

This isn't a full referenced answer, but more of an opinion... Joel Spolsky is not a valid reference. – Sklivvz Oct 23 '12 at 21:50
@Sklivvz While it isn't exactly a randomised trial, he is someone who has to make an economic judgement on the basis of the success of his own business where he trades off the cost of private offices agains the benefit of productivity. So only one data point, but a significant and relevant one. And not just opinion but something based on observing business success. – matt_black Oct 23 '12 at 21:55
It's still an unsourced opinion. Whatever is his experience it still has no validity scientifically speaking. – Sklivvz Oct 23 '12 at 22:09
@Sklivvz I think you have invented a new and harsh standard which, if applied everywhere, would probably cause the deletion of the majority of references. I have provided a source, yet you still flagged me as not providing references. You say Spolsky is not a valid reference yet I would say he counts as an expert on the subject of the quote. It is a sourced opinion from an expert. Given that the other answer's source is an interior decorator's advertising and only addresses half the question, what is it you have against Spolsky? – matt_black Oct 23 '12 at 22:20
@matt_black I don't have anything against Joel, but given that both I and other users have repeatedly opened questions doubting his claims, I don't see how you can suggest that "I have inventend a new and harsh standard". Furthermore, arguments from authority have always been unacceptable on Skeptics! – Sklivvz Oct 23 '12 at 23:40

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