In the late 90’s the stereotypical office space was one that was drab, closed off and filled to the brim with Lumbergh type characters that would lurk around the office for people trying to work over the weekend. Over the years people grew tired of this concept. I can imagine that they actually wanted to see some sunlight during the day and the tall walled cubicles that dominated the 90’s office landscape made work life mighty stressful. Especially when your bosses voices comes streaming over the walls, asking you about those TPS reports you forgot to do, again.
However after 20 years of the open office concept being a thing perhaps we might want to reconsider the whole idea? As someone who worked in a semi-open office, I couldn’t stand it and I really couldn’t imagine working in a wholly open concept office. The reason why open offices are common are for collaboration and cost savings. It’s a lot cheaper to cram people to “workstations” and pack more people into work areas then it is to build huge hulking cubes. Also it is a lot easier to collaborate with people, an open office plan is usually great for creative company, but the problem is a lot of companies use the open office plan just to save money.
One problem is the noise, if you work in a solitary professional, like accounting, you’ll struggle with the noise of an open office. All of a sudden you’ll be involved in conversations whether or not you want to be involved. Also not to mention anyone can “drop in”, usually by casually sliding by your desk and doing that obnoxious knock in order to get your attention even though you saw them the whole time. Usually to ask you about a boring project or to assign you a boring project you don’t want to do.
Another set of problem is that open offices can be susceptible to a “micro management” mindset. Developing mostly because people can see exactly what everyone else is doing. To be honest you should be trying to work as hard as you can during your shift/workday, but, people aren’t machines and they cannot be 100% on all the time. Also an open concept kind of reinforces that flat hierarchical structure, that again is great for a creative office environment but in more solitary professions can lead to feelings of resentment due to lack of advancement within the company.
The open office is a great idea in theory but it is not a “one size fits all” solution for the modern workplace. Individual employers need to weigh the cost with the benefits and come up with a solution that works for their businesses. Just because Apple, or Microsoft does it, doesn’t mean it’s inherently the better office layout. Every business is different and sometimes the tall drab cubicle of the 90’s may actually be better.