No file cabinets. No assigned desks or phones. A backpack to carry materials from meeting to meeting. And a large swirl of desks and chairs.
There’s much complaining among our cohorts about open space offices. Conceived by German engineer-architects in the 1950s, and now boasting a 70 percent footprint in U.S. workplaces, office openness has long spurred a contentious discussion, with retorts right and left:
“It’s a great concept: Our organization is flatter and executives are more approachable.”
“Help! I can’t hear myself think – and am constantly interrupted.”
“Just think about the other benefits – in terms of real estate savings and increased collaboration.”
“Where’s our focus – and concentration? I go home at night with migraines.”
The two factors missing? One, self-determination – that is, the ability to decide what, where, and how to work – is absent. Millennials, for instance, pride themselves on selecting environments that help them contribute in a big way; the mere presence of open offices indicates that there is no choice and, probably, few options to make a difference. [Quite a few years ago, European workers passed laws to allow forms of co-determination.]
Two, communication. The havoc generated by having to figure out where to work each day, to find colleagues, even to identify the ‘what I need to-dos’ is considerable. Plus, instead of fostering collaboration, open offices often cause us to retreat, requesting every private cubbyhole and avoiding conversations.
What’s your take?