Hugh Pickens writes:
Lindsey Kaufman writes in the Washington Post that despite its obvious problems, the open-office model has continued to encroach on workers across the country with about 70 percent of US. offices having no or low partitions. Silcon Valley has led the way with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enlisting famed architect Frank Gehry to design the largest open floor plan in the world, housing nearly 3,000 engineers with a single room, stretching 10 acres, where everyone will sit in the open with moveable furniture. Michael Bloomberg was an early adopter of the open-space trend, saying it promoted transparency and fairness. Bosses love the ability to keep a closer eye on their employees, ensuring clandestine porn-watching, constant social media-browsing and unlimited personal cellphone use isn’t occupying billing hours. But according to Kaufman employers are getting a false sense of improved productivity with a 2013 study showing that many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance. Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy. The New Yorker, in a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction says Kaufman. "Though multitasking millennials seem to be more open to distraction as a workplace norm, the wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of under-performance in their generation," writes Maria Konnikova. "They enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run."
In a sort of fight fire with fire move, I've found wearing a headset and listening to something that you don't have to pay attention to the lyrics helpful, even better if it is without words entirely. It gives me a single sound source that I can easily expect and allow me to focus on my task. For me, I think it is the disjointed cacophony of unexpectable noise that repeatedly breaks my attention. Granted, working on a team makes this solution less practical when dealing with the fires that occur during business hours. But when I need to focus to get my head around a particularly hard problem / project I happily shut everyone out with my over the ear headphones.
I have heard tell of one workplace [zgallerie.com] that has its retail-store background music played in its office space. Headphones and things that look like headphones are forbidden, because the corporate lords have seen fit to provide for music at some cost.
Skin colored ear plugs that are really headphones? :p
Or just inverted-phase speakers on the desk? ..(connect to roof speakers or whatever skew it the same length of time it takes to reach you and invert the amplitude)
This wasn't my workplace, but it was (and I suppose may still be) in Berkeley, CA, USA. I suggested a trip to the gun store for some suitable ear protection. Bonus points for ear protection that suggests to those who see it that one could have also purchased hardware and consumables.