The hope is that an open office layout will inspire greater organizational cohesion and allow workers to relax more. The reality is often something else entirely. Maria Konnikova explains for The New Yorker.
Research demonstrates that open office layouts can damage attention span, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Stress levels go up, and motivation goes down. In fact, one survey of 38,000 workers found that employees performed even worse proportionate to their escalating seniority. Without walls, a sense of privacy disappears, which directly decreases job performance. And to add insult to injury, a study from Denmark seems to indicate open office employees take sick leave significantly more often than standard office counterparts. Konnikova finds though that the worst part of all of the open office experience could just be the noise. Noise is annoying, people.
You can read the full article and more surprising statistics here: http://www.newyorker.com/currency-tag/the-open-office-trap