The architect behind the aforementioned study compared his design to a nudist beach. Women are already scrutinized for their appearances at a far greater extent than men, and when put in an open-floor office, many report feeling that scrutiny. Women are already hyper-aware of their looks with regards to everything down to the makeup they put on their faces. That's because "attractive" people earn roughly 20 percent more than “average” people, and women who wear makeup are considered more competent than those who don’t — but women are tasked with having to appear competent but not "unprofessional" by applying too much. An open-floor plan that calls attention to women's appearances can exacerbate the power dynamics already at play.
4. They can amplify sexual harassment.
When women work in private offices, they have privacy and what should feel like safe spaces. But those are taken away in open-floor offices. One woman told Fast Co.Design: "I eventually discovered that not only was I being watched all the time, (at first I thought it was just my imagination) but then my boss started following me around. If I went upstairs to make a phone call to have privacy, he would go upstairs to get water, or tea, or something. Even when I would use the side rooms, he followed me ‘to grab something’ in one of these rooms, and made sure to check my screen to see what I was doing. It wasn’t long before I realized this guy was a little obsessed with me... It turned out to be a long-term disaster when I didn’t respond to his advances and dreamy-eyed gazes. I had to leave in a huff, and I do not regret it."
5. They make private conversations more difficult.
Open offices mean that there's virtually no privacy, which makes difficult conversatins that much more difficult to have. As evermore women are reporting sexual harassment and sexism in general in the workplace, they've limited private spaces to share their concerns with human resources and management. Speaking with someone on a one-to-one basis without the fear of being overheard, judged or worse becomes a challenge.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.