- Roy Saunderson, contributor for Training Magazine, challenges the idea of open office work environments and how they can either negatively or positively impact employee learning. He says that around 70% of American companies now have an open office layout of some type.
- Matthew C. David, an organizational psychologist, studied the increase in the use of open office plans since the 1950s. He found that these environments actually had a strong impact on employee attention spans, creative thinking ability, work productivity, and the feeling of being satisfied. Further, employees have reported high levels of stress, combined with low levels of motivation and concentration.
- Saunderson suggests that learning environments should be designed around the needs of each learner and that open office environments can be modified to help employees focus on learning materials, such as encouraging the use of headphones to drive out background noise when reviewing e-learning modules. Employers can also make the corner of the office a learning space to encourage employees to collaborate and share the learning experience.
Given that today's generation of employees have even more issues with staying interested and focused at work, open office environments can create problems for workplace learning despite their increasing popularity.
Open office environments have been the subject of much controversy for years, but so too are cubicle farms and closed off offices that essentially pen employees in. Each person has a different work style, and for some, this requires an open space to interact and learn with peers. For others, working and learning requires less distraction. Each company must find out from employees what they prefer and then design a learning experience around these factors.