The Demise of Open Plan Offices?

Apparently 90% of people who work in open plan offices feel more stressed and are less productive than their non-open plan counterparts.

I can see how in a large office, the sheer noise and distraction of people constantly walking past may lead to this… But otherwise, isn’t the stress and lack of productivity more related to stupid people than open plan?

I know if I had a boss who constantly looked over my shoulder and judged me for taking a minute off to browse facebook, I’d feel more stressed… And I wouldn’t be productive if people thought that just because I was physically in eyesight, I was therefore available for questions and conversations at any point.

I think open plan workspaces work awesomely… As long as there are rules. What most people forget is that a little self control goes a long way and just because you work in a place that doesn’t physically shut you off from the rest of the world, doesn’t mean you have free reign to socialise and/or snoop.

It would be a shame if we as a species could no longer trust ourselves to think and act in appropriate ways unless there was some physical barrier in place.

4 thoughts on “The Demise of Open Plan Offices?”

  1. I’ve never worked in a non-open plan office (well, actually there was one job where I was in an office, but so were 3 other people squeezed in so it was even worse) but it seems to work well for me.

    You’re right that there do need to be some rules in place for it to work well. When I worked at Air New Zealand we did some ‘workwise training’ I was cynical at first from the name – but it came up with some really great concepts for working in a busy environment. One of the themes was moving away from being reactive to being proactive so that we not always constantly interrupting each other, and there were times during the day where meetings we not to be scheduled so that we could actually get some work done. If there was a question you needed answered you just had to wait (unless of course it was something critical like the site was down).

  2. People in NZ tend to laugh at big US companies with Dilbert-style cubicles.

    I’ve worked in a cubicle in a company in the USA and it was a *huge* improvement over NZ open plan offices.

    Yes, cubicles are bad … but only in comparison to real offices. This is one thing Microsoft gets right.

  3. After yet another rant of mine when something goes wrong, we have now decided to acquire an ‘angry cubicle’ so when something goes wrong for one person and they start loudly letting the rest of us know, we can go get the cubicle and cut them off from the rest of the room.

    I have a suspicion I will be int he angry cubicle more than my fair share.

  4. Now that I have been working from home for over a year, I find going into the office noisy and distracting. I can’t focus. I can’t block out the comings and goings of people.

    If I had to go back to it, I daresay I would be in the angry cubicle most of the time ;)

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