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posted by n1 on Wednesday December 31 2014, @01:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the can't-hear-myself-think dept.

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."

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by elf on Wednesday December 31 2014, @11:51AM

    by elf (64) on Wednesday December 31 2014, @11:51AM (#130489)

    Destroy's the work place ??? Really ???

    I think the non open plan office space setup is more typical in the US, it's a cultural thing that people are used to. In the UK open plan has always been the norm and the work place is a live and well, despite what you may think a lot of work gets done too. The head line is a complete over dramatisation, for all the bad things about an open office there are plenty you can list about a closed office.

    Working with other people talking near you might be hard to start with but it isn't something you can't over come and get used to, its like living in a quiet neighbourhood and then suddenly moving to a noisy area (I have done this), its odd at first but over time you get used to it and when moving back to a quiet area you find that odd.

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by VLM on Wednesday December 31 2014, @12:50PM

    by VLM (445) on Wednesday December 31 2014, @12:50PM (#130497)

    despite what you may think a lot of work gets done too

    With all due respect, using the UK as a shining example of the right thing to do is not wise. Every once in a while they'll be some story about how if the UK rejoined the colonies, England would be one of the poorest per capita income states in the USA, poorer than even our deep south which for all intents and purposes is basically 3rd world villages transplanted into the USA.

    I'm no fool and you guys being hopelessly screwed up "in general on average" doesn't mean every small component of what you do is inherently screwed up. But "hey guize we make Mississippi look wealthy and we do it all the time so it must be a great idea" puts open offices right up there with sniffing gasoline (aka petrol) or drinking large quantities of cough syrup.

    I like that you guys are dirt poor, because every time the local savages do something typically savage, as they often do, their political apologists always claim they only act like savages because they're poor, and then I bring up you UK people who despite your grinding poverty generally are more civilized and better educated than us, and your crime rate is what we would consider a rounding error compared to our huge rates. So just because you live in poverty and can't run an economy other than into the ground, doesn't mean I don't respect your countries considerable achievements in numerous other areas.

    • (Score: 2) by bd on Wednesday December 31 2014, @02:15PM

      by bd (2773) on Wednesday December 31 2014, @02:15PM (#130522)

      While I do share your dislike for open office arrangements, I must admit I have no idea whether office culture in the UK (or a bit of common sense regarding noise) could make them work.

      Nevertheless, for me as a foreigner, it is really hard to discern whether what you posted could make native speakers perceive you as funny or an ignorant.
      The choice of words and comparisons does seem quite harsh.

      Maybe it would be helpful if, in the future, you could include something like APPLAUSE! tags where one is supposed to laugh?

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bd on Wednesday December 31 2014, @01:18PM

    by bd (2773) on Wednesday December 31 2014, @01:18PM (#130508)

    That is odd, it really seems to be a cultural thing.

    In Germany, at least according to my experience in engineering, one to eight person offices with proper walls and an actual door are far more common, large cubicles farms like in the US are rather uncommon. For me, at least, this working environment does not make me less productive. I work in a two person office, and the other person is just enough to not make you think nobody would notice if you don't work and also not distract you too much if you have to think about a problem.

    A friend of mine had his company taken over by HP a few years ago and they changed everything to cubicles. He hated it so much, he changed jobs.

  • (Score: 1) by Nuke on Wednesday December 31 2014, @08:38PM

    by Nuke (3162) on Wednesday December 31 2014, @08:38PM (#130616)

    Always been the norm in the UK? Rubbish. I am there and have worked in quite few places, and really it's only recent years that large open offices have become a fad. Typically, following WW2 until the 80's or later, many public service offices used the former hospitals built for air-raid casualties. A "ward" accommodated only about 8 workers with a team leader or computer terminal in the former matron's office. Otherwise I've worked in 3-4 person offices till recently.

    Managers like large open offices because they can keep an eye on skiving. I hate them, and won't get used to them. Depends on your personality. Some people, generally arts types, need others making a din around them for motivation. I don't; I need quiet for motivation.

    • (Score: 2) by elf on Thursday January 01 2015, @07:26AM

      by elf (64) on Thursday January 01 2015, @07:26AM (#130716)

      By open plan I was more talking about there not being partitions separating every single person, I understand that not every room is large but a small room can still be open plan.

      I am obviously in the minority here, but I quite like the open office feel. Where I work there is a big open room with IT people in, I can interact with my colleges quite easily, people don't spy on other people or comment what's on their screen where I work, people are generally more sociable with each other which makes it more of a fun place to work in and it also makes it easier to make the hard decisions when they need to be made.

      I understand this isn't for everyone but the headline makes it sounds like its for no one and that the end of the world is close.

      • (Score: 2) by ticho on Thursday January 01 2015, @03:15PM

        by ticho (89) on Thursday January 01 2015, @03:15PM (#130779) Homepage Journal

        Yes, open plan can work in some cases. Especially if only people around you are members of your team, and do similar work. In such cases, it can even be beneficial in that you are always informed about everything that goes on, or can bounce your ideas off of someone.