Lindsay Kaufman, a New York advertising writer, says: “These new floor plans are ideal for maximizing a company’s space while minimizing costs. Bosses love the ability to keep a closer eye on their employees.”

However, an open office environment can have an adverse effect on productivity as employees often find it difficult to focus; a 2013 poll revealed that two out of three workers say that noise is a problem, whilst 53% are distracted by others when they attempt to concentrate. The same poll suggested that productivity went down six percent between 2008 and 2013; a time period when open layouts were being increasingly adopted.

These statistics though haven’t stopped a number of well-known companies adopting the open layout, including American Express, eBay, Google, Yahoo and Goldman Sachs, based on research carried out by the University of Southern California in 1996. The author of the study, Ann Majchrzak PhD says: “The layout of a work site can either inhibit or promote collective responsibility. In our study, process-complete departments with layouts that permitted people to see others’ work had cycle times 4.4 times faster than those with layouts that didn’t”.

The conclusion is that office design is difficult due to conflicting variables. The cubicles of the 1960s fell out of favour with staff working in the early 1990s when people began to be packed tightly together with minimal access to sunlight. Good office design should incorporate natural lighting, minimal distractions, good air quality and space for both individual and group work in order to increase productivity.