Work Culture

In defense of open office plans

While I am always one to question everything and try to find the best, evidence-based solution, I can’t get on board with the idea that open office plans are bad!

I have read many blogs and articles stating that open offices are too noisy and distracting, contribute to higher levels of virus spreading, etc. But I am enthusiastic about open offices because I love seeing the people I work with. Even simply looking across a room full of people, I feel the spark of energy and collaboration!

Of course, most times I’m not going to pop over to someone’s desk if they are obviously deep in thought or typing. I may send them a quick ping to ask if they’re free for a minute before walking over. But the point is that it encourages a lot more face-to-face interaction, which I truly think is invaluable.

Being able to talk with people saves a lot of back-and-forth email traffic that is oftentimes confusing and annoying. How many times have you had to send a follow up email because the person tried to save time by skimming your email and subsequently asked you a question you clearly already answered?

We are in the office for a single reason: face-to-face interaction. Otherwise, companies could save a lot of money and effort by having everyone work from home.

When everyone is hidden behind a cubicle wall or office door, it becomes a much more invasive move to attempt face-to-face interaction. It’s almost easy to forget you have coworkers with whom you can talk to vs firing off another email.

When their door is shut, how are you supposed to know if they’re on an important phone call or if they’ve shut their door because they are embarrassed of listening to Justin Bieber’s Christmas album in October? Or December.

No, I’m not judging because I have definitely shut my door due to Bieber’s holiday tracks. And you shouldn’t judge, either. Have you heard his song with Boyz II Men? Talk about collaboration!

Now that we’ve come full circle on collaboration, I’ll end by saying that I don’t think offices have to be one way or the other. I think we can achieve open office plans while still giving people their privacy.

My last company had official meeting rooms to reserve, but it also had a lot of private “huddle” rooms that anyone could use with no reservation. This could be for private phone calls, work you need absolutely no distractions for, whatever. There were also a lot of large open spaces for teams to work in as to not distract those at their desks trying to work. I felt like that company really got it right on this balance, and I hope to see more of that going forward!