Shh! Be quiet!
I’m trying to work!
The greatest corporate lie of the last 20 years (and geez, there have been more than a few candidates for that honor) is that the open office concept works.
Article after article has suggested that somehow this openness translates into faster communication and synergistic creativity as peers and coworkers no longer have to slog down the hall to have a word with Fred or pitch an idea to Joan.
What open really means is that employers analyzed the cost of walls, doors, and related HVAC and determined the savings in same would be greater than the loss of productivity caused by shepherding people into a corral and hoping they do the right things more or less. Have you seen a stockyard? The analogy is close.
Open really means you become intimately familiar with practices and predilections of your closest neighbors.
- The person who makes numerous personal calls all day? Right there
- The one who chews constantly on various foods (hopefully)? Next door
- That awful techno music you swore no one actually listened to? Around the corner
- Endless discussions of crockpot vs slow cook just across the aisle
- And the never-ending sports chatter rivaling even the best AM radio can be heard across the room
And on and on it goes, from people blowing noses loudly (or otherwise clearing themselves) to those raised in a barn who feel compelled to yell over the minimalist cube “walls” railing at their coworkers all day in frenzies of both good and bad nature.
Let me be clear: open sucks.
Emerging research clearly indicates it has a downward effect on productivity, but I don’t need research to confirm what I experience every day. People wandering from their desks for longer and longer periods to escape the tumult, people using ear buds (and noise-canceling ear phones) to get some peace and people re-arranging their cubes so chair backs face the opening all but telling co-workers “go away!”. There’s your research.
Running a start-up and looking to save money? Either hotel it letting people pick space when they arrive or do the ultimate cost-savings/productivity-boosting step and let your folks work from home. Either solution will get you a more productive workforce.
Just don’t stuff them all in the afore-mentioned corral, turn up the ambient noise and try to convince them that its anything other that a cost-savings for you. Its not.
You might pen people up like cattle, but they’re smarter than that.