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Creativity Productivity & Work

Open spaces, closed doors

Everything is design. 

While cubicles emerged as the “action office,” they created an environment antithesis to work. Says Dilbert creator Scott Adams, ‘cubicles are like prisons.’ Cubicles are anti-work; they impede collaboration.

If companies want to create more office conversation, they have to make the conditions for more office collisions. Thus, the open space design became the standard model for companies looking to encourage idea-sharing. 

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Open spaces increase the chances of overhearing something important, clarifying a miscommunication, and leading to the next great business opportunity. Multiple bump-in discussions have replaced those at the water cooler, keeping potential email threads from getting out of hand.

Human interaction is still vital to the workplace. One gets more from speaking with a co-worker for a few minutes than they do via structured meetings and email recaps containing a list of myriad “next steps.”

Serendipity is the name of the game.

In theory, overcommunication should save employees from having to attend extra meetings and send superfluous emails. But open spaces do come with invasiveness that can “can cause workers to do a turtle.” No wonder coders and copy-writers throw on noise-canceling headphones to cancel out the extra noise. 

Open offices have come to resemble a chaotic classroom. External conversations crimp the thinking voice inside a person’s head. Perhaps that’s why working from home is still the most productive space of them all

Working from home allows workers to build a space they can call their own. While the internet and email are always on, the door can be closed at any time for silence so that one can do deep work. 

The cubicle and the open office beg for distractions. Isn’t the point of work to get stuff done and ship?

By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of Discvr.blog and four books.