Open Offices Are Bad for Productivity, Study Finds

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iStock

The results of a new study from Oxford Economics should sound familiar to anyone working in a cubicle. As Forbes reports, working in an open office lowers employees' output as well as their morale. 

For their study, researchers surveyed over 1200 senior executives and non-executive employees about their workplace arrangements. While 53 percent of employees reported feeling less satisfied and less productive when they had to work through ambient noise, only 35 percent of executives felt the same way.

The disconnect between the perceptions of management and the people they employ was evident in other areas as well. Just 41 percent of employees said they have the necessary tools to filter out distractions, while 63 percent of executives felt that their employees had everything they needed. Fifty-two percent of employees described work/life balance as being very important to them. When employers were asked the same question about their team, only 34 percent of executives said that balance was a priority for their employees.

These discrepancies aren’t too surprising when you compare the work life of an executive to that of a lower-level employee. The study reveals that a majority of executives are equipped with tools that make it easy to do their jobs outside the office, while less than half of employees can say the same. The most drastic difference between the two groups is their physical workspace. Sixty-two percent of top-level workers have a private office—a privilege granted to just 14 percent of employees.

With so many executives lucky enough to have a quiet space to call their own, it makes sense that minimizing distractions was ranked last on their list of priorities when laying out an office. But when team productivity is at stake, poor office design is bad for everyone. Distractions can have such a negative impact, another study suggests employees may be better off working from home.

New Memory Foam Neck Pillow Takes the Pain Out of Travel

iStock.com/izusek
iStock.com/izusek

Travel can be a pain in the neck—quite literally. Kinks and cramps don’t have to be part of the package, though. Edge Signature, whose lineup of practical travel products includes a digital luggage scale and an anti-theft backpack, has designed a memory foam pillow that adapts to the contours of your head and neck.

The True Adaptive pillow has been given an ergonomic M-shape, with the two bumps in the back providing some extra support for your neck. The problem with many travel pillows is that they don’t hold your neck steady when you start to doze off. “The deeper we fall into unconsciousness or our sleep state, the more relaxed our muscles will be,” Edge Signature writes in its Kickstarter campaign for the True Adaptive pillow. “This makes it practically impossible for us to get a good rest or sleep while sitting upright as our neck muscle will have to keep working to support our neck.”

That’s where the pillow’s high-density memory foam comes in. It will stay in place even as you move around, and an adjustable string in the front makes it fit as loose or as snug as you’d like. There’s even a smartphone pocket on the side, so you won’t have to worry about finding your phone in a dimly lit aircraft cabin.

When you’re done using the pillow, fold it up and place it back into its carrying pouch, which can be clipped onto your suitcase or backpack. After returning from a long trip, you can remove the cover and throw it in the washing machine to get it ready for your next big adventure. The zipper is hidden, though, with the advantage being that you won’t have any plastic bits poking you in the face while you’re trying to nap.

The pillow’s usefulness isn’t limited to travel, either. Wear it at your office desk, or while studying or reading for extended periods of time. Backers who pledge $39 or more before January 9, 2019 will get the True Adaptive pillow and carrying pouch at a 35 percent discount. U.S. shipping is free.

Finally, an Umbrella That Bends Without Breaking

Pluvi, Kickstarter
Pluvi, Kickstarter

Make 2019 the year you replace the collection of busted-up umbrellas at the bottom of your closet with a piece of gear that will stand up to whatever the weather throws at it. Instead of a metal stretcher that splinters apart on a windy day, the Pluvi umbrella is made from flexible polymer, so no matter how much abuse it endures, it will always snap back into its original shape.

Pluvi, which is raising funds on Kickstarter now through January 11, owes its strength to its innovative design. Rather than the 100-plus parts you'd find in a conventional metal umbrella, Pluvi's stretcher is made from just 24 plastic components that snap together. The material is meant to bend in any direction, so years of use or a few particularly windy days won't wear it out.

At just 265 grams (about a half-pound), Pluvi is also lighter than most umbrellas. The canvas canopy is made to repel water and block 95 percent of UVA and UVB rays, and the entire package is 100 percent recyclable.

One Pluvi umbrella costs $14 to $15—and if you're someone who tosses out several wind-damaged umbrellas a year, that price quickly pays for itself. You can reserve yours today with a pledge of $14 or more on Kickstarter, with delivery estimated for April of next year.

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