The open concept office has made its presence very much known in the workplace today. Where it used to be just startups adopting this style of working, in more recent times, corporate firms too have begun adapting to this change.
THE DEATH OF CUBICLES
Cubicles, that once defined the workplace, are a concept of the past. They just weren’t for everyone. People began to realise that cubicles were restricting the “creative flow”. Co-workers just weren’t communicating or collaborating with each other.
On the outside, it seemed like the perfect idea. Getting rid of walls improves workflow and communication between co-workers. You no longer feel like a captive, stuck within the walls of a cubicle 8 hours a day. It’s an ideal collaboration hub, right?
But one major loophole in the open concept office has been neglected. While the open concept office may increase communication and collaboration, it takes away personal productivity.
LESS WALLS = MORE DISTRACTIONS
Sitting here in an open concept office right now, I am triggered by almost 5 different noises. These noises are nothing more than distractions to me. There’s the two guys behind me conversing ever so loudly, my friendly co-worker next to me typing furiously, or the guy two seats away munching on his food.
Never mind the fact that you’re constantly aware of the movement and footsteps around the office.
THE INTROVERT’S NIGHTMARE
My introvert friends will agree with me on this: if you’re an introvert working in an open concept office, headphones are your best friend. Just be careful not to come off as an anti-social.
While the lucky ones may be able to train themselves into blocking out the noise, the open concept office is every introvert’s worst nightmare. There are enough articles written about introverts for everyone to know that introverts thrive on personal space, which evidently, the open concept office doesn’t offer much of.
It only makes sense for us to want personal space if we’re going to be spending 8 hours a day seated in the same place.
NOT JUST ABOUT THE INTROVERTS
The lack of privacy is a hindrance to the creativity and productivity of all workers. It almost feels like your actions are being policed because you never know when your boss or colleagues are watching you.
It actually kind of reminds me of Bentham’s Panopticon prison design that forces inmates to self-regulate their behaviour. Of course, the level of intensity is a little different.
The truth of the matter is, not every job is reliant on communication or collaboration that enthusiasts preach about.
By no means am I implying that I’d rather work in a cubicle. But it makes me wonder if there is a middle ground between the traditional workplace and the workplace of today. A workplace for both the introvert and the extrovert – one that gives you the privacy you need AND allows room for collaboration.
NEGLECTING WHAT’S IMPORTANT
I’m all for having “Google” themed offices that make it hard for workers to leave for home. Implementing fun into work with beanbag chairs, foosball tables and sleeping pods are all great ways to keep workers happy.
But isn’t the main purpose of a workplace… to work?
Maybe you’ve just wasted 2 minutes of your time reading this. Maybe it is all about preference. But there has to be some truth behind publications like The New Yorker, that have reported on how research shows that open concept offices reduce productivity.
Until the time comes when open concept offices are a concept of the past, you’ll find me with my headphones listening to Linkin Park, or something.