There are so many different office layouts to choose from nowadays; each with benefits for different employee mindsets. While some may be geared towards encouraging collaboration and team working, others are well suited to allowing workers to get on with their work uninterrupted. However, does gender have anything to do with how well you work in certain office environments? It’s not something that automatically comes to mind when picturing specific office layouts; after all, any office design should cater for the workplace as a whole, not just one specific gender.

The Role of the Office Layout

A study which was carried out in June last year takes a closer look at how different office layouts affect both males and females who work in them, highlighting a specific interest in the amount of conflict reported by individuals of each gender.

Published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, the study which is entitled ‘The relation between office type and workplace conflict: A gender and noise perspective’ studied the responses of 5,229 Swedish employees who completed a survey called the ‘Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health‘. It looked at how different office layouts affected employees psychologically and found that gender seemed to play a larger role than expected.


The Combi Office

The office layout which sparked the most interest in the study was the ‘combi office’; an office which boasts both open plan and private offices in one space. Although this style of office layout is favoured by many businesses because it allows workers to choose where they work, boosting their productivity and happiness, it was one of the most commented on in this study from Sweden.

Researchers found that 16.2% of women who reportedly worked in a combi office environment revealed that they had conflicts with other employees compared to 14.7% of women who worked in offices with different layouts. They also highlighted that women were more likely to complain that combi offices were too noisy and distracting for them to work in than men; 56.3% of women reported this compared to 50.5% of male employees.

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What Does This Mean?

So, does this really mean that gender has a huge influence on how well you work in certain office layouts? Possibly. The researchers couldn’t outright say that gender was the underlying key to why more women complained of conflict in certain office layouts. Instead, they concluded that rather than differences in gender and their perception of the environment, it was “differences in patterns of interpersonal relationships” which resulted in more conflicts in the office. The researchers commented that “It is established that women receive more social support than men at work,” and that “proximity, visibility and audibility have been shown to be key factors for support in social networks”. So, although this study found that more women preferred to have a quieter, more personal office space than men, it couldn’t fully determine that gender was the reasoning behind it.

Productivity and overall employee happiness should be your main focus when it comes to committing to an office refurbishment, so make sure that you’re adequately catering for your entire workforce, not just one portion of it!

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