We often write about divisive issues here, so today, we hope to unite our readers against a common cause: open office plans. In theory, this workplace setup is meant to foster conversation and brainstorming among office worker drones, while simultaneously making management figures more visible, creating a freewheeling utopia of nonstop idea-sharing and professional growth.
Such a nice theory, but, if you work in an open office, I bet you barely got to the end of the first paragraph before being distracted by someone in your office:
- blowing their nose or coughing phlegm onto their computer screen
- standing up, stretching, and stomping to the back to make some tea
- engaging someone else in a heated debate about gluten allergies
- all of the above, at once
This is a global issue. New research from Harvard suggests that the rise of open office plans in the US has actually resulted in unhappy, unmotivated workers. In the UK, the BBC has devoted some extensive reporting to the pros and cons of opening up office spaces. And research in Australia indicates that temperature is the most common gripe in an open office.
Here is what life’s like in the Guardian US loft at 11:30 a.m. on a Monday: Being one of the annoying coworkers who inspire researchers to commission things like the Harvard study, I organized an ‘open office selfie’ of the Tumblr crew, which ended in us distracting National Security Editor Spencer Ackerman from his story on … national security. Spencer popped his head into the photo, and then inexplicably recommended that we Photoshop a doge into the photo, which lead to a discussion about what the doge meme is, because I didn’t know … which kind of took me somewhere far from where I started.
Which kind of makes the open office plan awesome? Screw you, Harvard.
Advantage: … office selfies? (Also, send us yours.)