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Being constantly visible to co-workers isn’t necessarily easy or positive for employees, especially women, according to a recent study published in an online academic journal.

In studying the transition of a British local authority with about 1,000 workers from six separate departmental buildings into a shared office, Gender, Work & Organization found many employees disliked the increased opportunity for scrutiny of their appearances.

“When changing from a more closed, compartmentalized office space to a new open-plan, transparent and fluid working space, office workers were more conscious of their visibility and often found this unsettling rather than liberating,” said Dr Alison Hirst, director of post-graduate research in Anglia Ruskin University’s department of human resource management and organizational behaviour in Britain and lead author of the report, in a press release.

Read: How to manage diverse needs in converting to open offices

Women felt a particular loss of privacy in certain situations, such as receiving bad news and feeling emotional. The idea behind the move to a new office setup, which made major use of glass and created large, open areas, was to promote networking and break down barriers between departments.

“Women, in particularly [sic], felt anxious about the idea of being constantly watched and felt they had to dress in a certain way,” said Hirst.

“However, there was also evidence that workers felt more equal as everybody was more approachable in an open space. It was also seen by some as a chance to dress more smartly and fulfil a new identity.”

Read: Employees divided on productivity, stress of work-space configurations: survey

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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