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A problem is a problem is a benefit? Generation Y perceptions of open‐plan offices

Heidi Rasila (Aalto University, Espoo, Finland)
Peggie Rothe (Aalto University, Espoo, Finland)

Property Management

ISSN: 0263-7472

Article publication date: 10 August 2012




The purpose of this paper is to understand how the youngest generation at work perceives problems that are linked to open‐plan offices. They are the future users of the work environments and thus it is important to understand how they perceive different office solutions. The paper looks at one specific type of job and one group of office employees: generation Y – those born in the 1980s and early 1990s – working in a contact centre environment.


The research was carried out as a case study. In total, 20 thematic interviews were conducted among the representatives of generation Y from three different sites of one big Finnish telecommunications company. The themes of the interviews were outlined by a thorough literature review concerning problems that are often linked to open office solutions.


The findings suggest that in this case, the generation Y employees in fact liked their open‐plan office. They acknowledged most of the issues or “problems” that the literature suggests, but they did not necessarily see these purely in a negative way. Instead, they often perceived these issues as fair trade‐offs for some greater good. This result supports the idea that open‐plan offices are complex and interrelated systems where all parts affect the others.

Research limitation/implications

The main limitation of this research is the small sample size. The results cannot be generalized to all young office employees; rather, they are intended to give a first in‐depth insight into the experiences of one specific group of users in the complex interrelated open‐plan office system.


The paper's findings add to the understanding about how generation Y perceives their work environment. The research also highlights a limitation in earlier open‐plan offices and suggests that future research needs to take a broader perspective on this complex system.



Rasila, H. and Rothe, P. (2012), "A problem is a problem is a benefit? Generation Y perceptions of open‐plan offices", Property Management, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 362-375.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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