Office design and health: a systematic review

N Z Med J. 2017 Dec 15;130(1467):39-49.


Aim: To carry out a systematic review of recent research into the effects of workplace design, comparing individual with shared workspaces, on the health of employees.

Methods: The research question was "Does workplace design (specifically individual offices compared with shared workspaces) affect the health of workers?" A literature search limited to articles published between 2000 and 2017 was undertaken. A systematic review was carried out, and the findings of the reviewed studies grouped into themes according to the primary outcomes measured in the studies.

Results: The literature search identified 15 relevant studies addressing health effects of shared or open-plan offices compared with individual offices. Our systematic review found that, compared with individual offices, shared or open-plan office space is not beneficial to employees' health, with consistent findings of deleterious effects on staff health, wellbeing and productivity. Our findings are also consistent with those of earlier reviews.

Conclusion: These findings have public health implications for the New Zealand workforce. Decisions about workplace design should include weighing the short-term financial benefits of open-plan or shared workspaces against the significant harms, including increased sickness absence, lower job satisfaction and productivity, and possible threats to recruitment and retention of staff.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Environment Design*
  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • New Zealand
  • Occupational Health / standards*
  • Public Health
  • Workplace*