Mid-Week Tangent: down with the open workspaces

I would like to meet the wizard who brainwashed organizations into thinking open concept workspaces somehow foster endless innovation and “spontaneous collaboration” (ugh, buzzword alert).  Particularly in the tech sector, the open concept workspace has a pretty strong choke-hold on floor plans.

distractedI hate it. I am like the adorable Dug in the movie Up. Whenever there is something shiny around me I (metaphorically, of course) yell “squirrel”! While endearing in a cartoon dog, it is not endearing for an employee who is trying to demonstrate some level of productivity.

I believe that the original open concept office wasn’t actually born out of a desire to foster collaboration and innovation, but rather to fit ten times more people into the office than you can with cubicles or offices.  It’s also cheaper. No walls. No barriers. You can just slap a cheap six foot table in place, line up the laptops, roll in a few chairs and call it a day. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will, but I’m sure this open concept office is nothing more than the brainchild of a crafty developer who saw the potential to convert tiny spaces into rentable offices.

Here’s what the designer of open office spaces has forgotten: not everyone works well amidst noise, motion and conversation.  Sure, the open space allows for spur of the moment questions, conversations and problem-solving, but I’ve yet to see much evidence of that over the last five years. In fact, employees may talk more because they’re forced to sit elbow to elbow, but more talking doesn’t mean they’re talking about work. Even worse, all that chatter makes it virtually impossible for the easily distracted (me) to focus when shit needs to get done. It’s pretty much my worst nightmare.  And I have legit support for my views here.  Virtually any studies I’ve seen show that open offices actually decrease productivity and tend to increase sick days by giving airborne illnesses free reign.

And don’t even get me started on placing ping pong and foosball tables in open spaces along with employee desks…

So there you have it, a mid-week tangent/rant that squarely places me in the camp of cranky old people.  I’ll take an office now, please.




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