Can We Be Open Here?
Ah, the open workspace.
Sit wherever you want. Use this desk today. Use that desk tomorrow.
Sit next to Eddie, the hardcore Steelers fan on Thursday. Sit next to Virginia with the cat photos on Friday.
Gotta make a private call? Ain’t gonna happen unless you go outside.
What’s that, it’s minus 20° out there? Use the bathroom stall.
Need to have a private meeting? Well, Shiela the CFO has poached the one and only conference room and now it’s her office.
So... can two fit in that stall?
"But it looks so cool," argues the designer and the architect and the architect’s assistant who graduated from architect school 20 minutes ago.
And it does look cool. And it does give off a chic vibe. And it does help make it feel less like an accounting firm. And it did cost a bundle.
So why does it suck?
Oh, we all pretend to like it. All those ooohs and aaahhs and wows and cools. And then we look at the person sitting 3 inches from us and wonder how we’re going to talk on the phone to the urologist without the whole world learning our little problem.
The open space is so open you can throw a bowling ball down the hall. And you’d like to. So that it rolls right over the feet of the guy who approved this space cadet.
You bring friends to see it. They love it. So cool. So hip. So dynamic. So rad. So f-ing what?! They don’t work here, you do. And, as we said, now everyone knows your urological travails.
Open space seems like a good idea on paper. It allows you proximity with your co-workers. It invites collaboration. It eliminates that hierarchical thingy. But sometimes you just need a damn door, and the closest one around, besides the one Shiela stole, is 18 blocks away because every other company nearby wanted those ooohs and aaahs too.
So the questions become: Does cool prevail over practicality? Does cool win out over productivity? Does cool outweigh the ability to concentrate and focus? Is cool more important than an effective, constructive, considerate workplace?
I’m in advertising. So the answer to all four is yes.