Which would you rather have: an open-air office or cubicles? | The Tylt
Which would you rather have: an open-air office or cubicles?
Open-air offices are the way the workplace ought to be. When each employee can interact with their peers, creativity thrives. By taking down individual offices, everyone is able to prioritize interaction over competition, which boosts morale and company output.
But not everyone is on board. As Alison Green writes for Slate:
Of all the workplace trends that inspire grumbling...perhaps none generate as much vitriol as “open offices,” those wide-open workspaces with no private offices or cubicles. For many workers, the noise, distractions, and lack of privacy make open offices a modern torture device.
The constant small talk, the sudden debates, the fantasy football leagues—it all adds up, and employees are left with very little time to focus. Open-air offices had a nice run, but there's a reason cubicles have been the go-to for so long.
For certain departments, open office plans are helpful with addressing problems before they get out of hand. For example, according to this developer:
I've found that open plans can work when a) it's mostly devs & b) we're all working on different parts of the same pro[ject/duct].
And for some, open offices are all about camaraderie. It's much easier to build community when you don't have hellish cubicles separating you from your coworkers.
But some experts argue open offices go against the human need for privacy. Most people combat the open office plan with noise-canceling headphones, phone booths (which is just a pseudo-cubicle anyway), and by communicating via Slack or email, so as to not let in-person conversation get out of hand. The British Psychological Society found face-to-face interaction actually decreased in an open office setting. BPS's Christian Jarrett writes:
If you’ve ever sought refuge from the gold-fish bowl of an open-plan office environment by cocooning yourself with headphones, or if you’ve decided you’d rather not have that challenging conversation with a colleague in front of a large group of your peers, and opted to email them instead, then these findings will come as little surprise.