This New UK Study Suggests Open-Plan Offices Make Women More Image Conscious

office
credit: Twenty20

Open concept offices, where employees sit next to one another instead of in their own rooms, are pretty much the norm these days. They save employers money, after all. You can learn more about the open office concept in the Vox video below. Spoiler alert: Frank Lloyd Wright is involved.

But what affect do these privacy-free workplaces have on employees? Maybe not the greatest one, according to a new U.K. study from Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Bedfordshire. The behavior of approximately 1,000 employees of a "U.K. local authority that moved from six separate departmental buildings into a new shared office building" was observed over the course of three years. This new office building — you guessed it — has an open plan and makes extensive use of glass.

So how did things go for the uprooted employees? Well, they were found to act and dress differently in their new building — and particularly the women.

"Women in particular felt anxious about the idea of being constantly watched, and felt they had to dress in a certain way," said lead author Dr. Alison Hirst of Anglia Ruskin University.

Some employees also reported feeling exposed in situations such as when receiving bad news or feeling emotional. It simply isn't as easy to hide.

office
credit: Twenty20

But, it should be noted that the new open concept office isn't a negative experience for everyone. Evidence was found that workers feel more equal, considering everyone is more approachable in an open space. Some also see the new environment as an opportunity to dress more nicely and to fulfill a new identity.

So what's the conclusion? Workers often find open-plan offices unsettling rather than liberating. But, for some, feelings of equality and opportunity are a result. To each their own.