Research showing that *any* office rearrangement improves productivity?
March 4, 2014 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Some years ago, I read about a study on workplace productivity, set up to test the effect of a new office layout (or perhaps some other physical feature of work environment). They changed to the new layout, and productivity jumped up. Over the following months, however, productivity tailed off to the original levels. So they changed the layout back to the original one. Again, productivity spiked suddenly and gradually declined back to the baseline. It was concluded that, whatever the relative merits of different office arrangements, the very act of making a change causes a temporary productivity increase. Does anyone know where I can find this study?

I don't remember many specifics beyond what I wrote above, except that I think the experiment took place in the second half of the twentieth century (70s maybe, if I had to guess) at a large US company (IBM, General Motors, or somewhere similarly hefty). My recollections are pretty vague, though. So far my googling has turned up nothing at all, but it's not a very easy thing to google for. Ideally I'd like to find a solid published reference for it (assuming it's not just an urban myth), but I'd be grateful for any reference at all, since all I have at present is a very fuzzy memory.
posted by pont to Science & Nature (3 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You are probably thinking of the Hawthorne Effect.
posted by phoenixy at 10:22 AM on March 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

You might like this: More or Less on the Hawthorne Effect.
posted by philipy at 10:43 AM on March 4, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks phoenixy, that looks like the one! As ever, I see the story is a lot more complex than my recollection of it. And thanks for the BBC programme, philipy -- I have queued it for later listening.
posted by pont at 11:56 AM on March 4, 2014

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