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Office Space: TV Documentary Looks At the Dreadful Open Office

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the get-to-your-cube-peasant dept.

Businesses 314

sandbagger writes "The CBC (it's like PBS only without the begging) is broadcasting a documentary about the open plan office this evening. You can hear a radio interview about the documentary here. In this documentary, the history of the open office is looked at, how it has evolved, and how the justifications for it being best for everyone else are used by those with offices. Advocates say fewer doors and walls means more collaboration. Critics say it's all driven by bottom line economics--crowding more people into smaller spaces saves money. Is it just me or do the people who want you to work in open offices sound like the nobility in Downton Abbey?"

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slaves (-1, Troll)

mexsudo (2905137) | about 9 months ago | (#46046695)

This is how they are kept

I like the open plan (4, Interesting)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about 9 months ago | (#46046709)

> Is it just me or do the people who want you to work in open offices sound like the nobility in Downton Abbey?

It's just you...here's my anecdote from which you can synthesize data.

I've had an office. It was lonely and I got sleepy. Give me an open plan any day, where I'm more productive and learn more about what's going on.

(And for what it's worth, in the last few places I've worked, the multimillionaire bosses have always sat right in the middle of the open plan with everybody else).

Re:I like the open plan (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046755)

Decent headphones make open plan offices bearable.

I wonder if it's an extrovert/introvert thing.

Re:I like the open plan (4, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 9 months ago | (#46046959)

It is kind of an extrovert/introvert thing. I have worked in both. Open offices encourages collaboration but discourages deep thinking. This has been my experience and there are studies that back this up. The odd thing is that you can skew people one way or the other depending on the environment. Extroverts skew towards collaboration but put them in a office and they do more deep thinking. Opposite is true of introverts. So it kind of depends on what you are trying to do.

Re:I like the open plan (4, Funny)

BonThomme (239873) | about 9 months ago | (#46047039)

yes, everyone with headphones on, you can just see the collaboration, can't you?

Re:I like the open plan (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047043)

One new type of person I met I like to call the "punctuation farter." I met a fat, dumb slob who preferred to fart during certain words, but it was unclear whether or not he was trying to disguise his farts or reinforce his point. For example, he would say things like, "Yeah, if we drilled the hole *PBBBHHT*here, then we could have enough slack in the cable to move the light fixture that *PPBBBBHT*far from where it is (him farting plosively when he said "here" and "far").

This "real life" thing is amazing, you all should try it sometime. It's far more bizzarre than anything "reality" TV can cough up.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:I like the open plan (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 9 months ago | (#46047311)

cough up

With all the farting you have to deal with, I can see why.

Re:I like the open plan (5, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 9 months ago | (#46047067)

I got moved to open office while still doing the same job. My productivity plummetted. I spend more time on slashdot than ever before because it's the only thing I can actually focus on.

Re:I like the open plan (5, Insightful)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46047211)

Open offices encourages collaboration but discourages deep thinking. This has been my experience and there are studies that back this up.

In other words it sucks for things that require sustained concentration, like programming and engineering. If you're supposedly in one of those fields, and you don't need to concentrate, then you're probably doing no more than glorified clerical work.

Yes, it's useful to informally hear about other things going on in the project, but continual eavesdropping (which also destroys concentration) isn't necessary. I find that the proverbial water cooler works fine. Even at times in the past when I had an office, they were kind enough not to lock me in during business hours. I could walk around to talk to other people (without disturbing everyone in the place), and could even go to the restroom without permission.

Re:I like the open plan (5, Interesting)

Pepix (84058) | about 9 months ago | (#46047035)

I wonder if it's an extrovert/introvert thing.

I am positive it is.

Ob. reference: http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/about-the-book/

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way related to the author, just liked her book.

Re:I like the open plan (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 9 months ago | (#46047323)

I would second that - it is a very good book.

Re:I like the open plan (4, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | about 9 months ago | (#46047321)

I'm a music lover, but I still don't want to listen to music through headphones while I'm working. And if you have to wear headphones to drown out the noise of your working environment, it means the working environment is faulty.

Re:I like the open plan (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 9 months ago | (#46047411)

it does vary, and a truly open office is a bad thing - you need partitions and plants around the place to break the sound from other teams up. You get to sit with your colleagues and chat about stuff instead of having to go to the water cooler for your fix of herd-instinct interaction.

But I find anywhere that had 'cubicles' or 'bays' were just as loud overall, and a personal office is just lonely and sad.

I know plenty of people who always wanted to sit with their backs to the wall, in a corner... a company I used to work at had one bloke like that - got sacked to surfing porn all day, and my colleague at the last place wanted that.. so he could surf facebook all day. You see where I'm going with this :)

Re:I like the open plan (4, Insightful)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 9 months ago | (#46046791)

>And for what it's worth, in the last few places I've worked, the multimillionaire bosses have always sat right in the middle of the open plan with everybody else

I bet they didn't write much code.

Re:I like the open plan (3, Interesting)

denis-The-menace (471988) | about 9 months ago | (#46047273)

I come in late so that I can code late with no distractions

All they care is that I put in my hours and produce.

Re:I like the open plan (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about 9 months ago | (#46046793)

The original founder of the company that got bought out by the one I work for currently still comes in to what was his old home office years later (though he doesn't work there) to work on his own persuits. Guy refuses a assigned parking spot, didn't want an office. Just sits at a desk right in the middle of the floor, like anything else.

Re:I like the open plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046911)

The original founder of the company that got bought out by the one I work for currently still comes in to what was his old home office years later (though he doesn't work there) to work on his own persuits. Guy refuses a assigned parking spot, didn't want an office. Just sits at a desk right in the middle of the floor, like anything else.

Note the "his own persuits" - he doesn't depend on the job for his livelihood, so he is not harmed by the open office plan. If you are being stack-ranked, open offices are a hazard, because you cannot concentrate without headphones, and possible not even thien, if you require absence of visual distractions.

cpatcha: endured

Re:I like the open plan (3, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 9 months ago | (#46046803)

I'm still in cubicle land- and the ONLY time I can get anything productive done, is between 6-8am. After that, there is just way too much noise. Even headphones don't really help.

Re:I like the open plan (4, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 9 months ago | (#46047095)

I've noticed it doesn't impair slash-dotting at all.

Re:I like the open plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046893)

Why should you learn more about what's going on?

Depending on your position, you SHOULDN'T know what's going on. The engineering department doesn't need to know that the payroll department is investigating suspicious sales commission claims. The marketing department doesn't need to know that the accountants are overworked and grumpy during tax season (as usual). The CEO doesn't need to know that Jane from compliance gets herself a cup of coffee from the break room at 3 PM everyday on the dot.

Re:I like the open plan (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 9 months ago | (#46047377)

There is a difference between "knowing what is going on", and "a couple of guy's desk conversation or conference call makes it impossible for me to think."

Re:I like the open plan (1)

Mahldcat (1129757) | about 9 months ago | (#46046909)

They went over to this where I work (I call this the bullpen arrangement), and my biggest initial complaint was the managers were not in the bullpen with the rest of us. Thankfully at least some of the higher level execs had the wisdom to say "no that is not going to fly" and made them change it around...now the offices are "break out/mini conference rooms"....

Re:I like the open plan (4, Insightful)

BonThomme (239873) | about 9 months ago | (#46046943)

perhaps I can interpret. you don't actually do any work. that's why you get sleepy when left alone. in the open plan, you keep yourself awake by bothering everyone who does do work.

Re:I like the open plan (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047301)

I used to get sleepy in my cube.

I was on an SSRI learning a bunch of sparsely documented DOS 'C' code.

One can only concentrate so long - even less when suffering from a side effect of somnolence. It was nice being bothered because it perked me up a little.

I tried getting up as much as I could until someone bitched to my boss about it - I even got written up for it.

Any job that requires sitting in front of a computer all day long sucks. After three to four hours, I'm toast and I need to get away for a few hours - I don't care how interesting the project is. We didn't evolve to sit all day.

Re:I like the open plan (1)

gabebear (251933) | about 9 months ago | (#46047021)

I prefer a well laid out open plan to anything else:
  • Separate Office - I get bored and many questions are much more difficult to ask via Chat... why the fuck bother coming to an office building, but work from home
  • Open plan with everyone scattered - interesting that you talk to more people on a day to day basis, but nearly as hard to actually communicate as when you have an office.
  • Open plan with similar people grouped - You can see when people aren't stupid busy and actually talk about issues that are happening. You still run into other departments, but not as often

I'm an iOS developer.

Re:I like the open plan (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46047285)

Separate Office ... many questions are much more difficult to ask via Chat... why the fuck bother coming to an office building

Were you forbidden to go to other people's offices to talk to them? Just to make it easier, in places I've worked where I had an office, everyone kept the door open except if they were doing something that would distract/annoy others (e.g. small meeting).

Re:I like the open plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047423)

I prefer offices per group of people working together all the time to open plan.

Complete open plan is so loud, you can't think straight, because someone will be talking at any given time. Headphones don't help at all, they just distract me (I'll be whistling along in my head instead of thinking straight).

When you have individual offices and all the people you need to talk to over and over during the day, you probably don't ask some of the questions you would have asked otherwise. But if your complete Scrum team (9 ppl!) is in the same room, but sheltered from everybody else in the company, you do get more collaboration and you get less distraction. Keep teams you talk to often in the adjacent big offices but with a door and wall in between. The last part will obviously become a game of optimization, which can never be won but hey ...

Re:I like the open plan (4, Interesting)

Antipater (2053064) | about 9 months ago | (#46047051)

I like my company's open plan, too. Working in cubeville felt like I was in a pen - there was a subtle "what are you doing outside your cube? Your work isn't done yet!" vibe going on. It was dehumanizing.

At my current job, we have L-shaped desks arranged into plus-signs, with all the monitors at the center. So if you want human contact, all you have to do is lean back to talk to the guy next to you. If you don't want human contact, just don't talk to the guy next to you.

Now, I can definitely see how it can go bad. We keep peace and quiet because everyone in the room is also an engineer, and nobody wants to be Loud Howard. We keep our sales guys and people-on-the-phone-all-day in a different place. If those didn't happen, or if our "open office" was really just us being stuffed into a tiny space for budget reasons, then I would have a problem with it. But overall my experience has been very positive.

Re:I like the open plan (4, Insightful)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | about 9 months ago | (#46047065)

Any PHB who puts developers in an open plan has no clue what we do. Which they don't. Obviously. My last job put the developers AND phone tech support in the same room.

My current gig is so cheap that it's an open floating plan where nobody even has their own chair and we telecommute half the time. So half the time I'm in a noisy office with a shitty laptop PC and no personal space, and the other half I'm at home listening to a screaming baby from the next room.

I'm amazed at how much money they'll pay us in salary and then cheap out on little things that kill productivity.

Seriously? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046725)

After reading the headline I seriously expected to see a documentary about Apache OpenOffice. That would've been a justified rant!

Re:Seriously? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 9 months ago | (#46047197)

However if they didn't make Libra Office, you would have been thoroughly outraged.

At least one CEO eats his own dog food (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046729)

There is a case study in the book Lean Thinking where the CEO liked it so much that he also sits in the open office.

Re:At least one CEO eats his own dog food (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46047319)

There is a case study in the book Lean Thinking where the CEO liked it so much that he also sits in the open office.

Did that include when he was talking about how large the next unnecessary round of layoffs will be?

The solution is obvious (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046735)

Switch to LibreOffice. It's much less dreadful.

Re:The solution is obvious (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 9 months ago | (#46046975)

Or Google Docs. Work anywhere.

Humans are territorial animals (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046763)

Forcing someone to work in the same space as someone else is psychologically stressful no matter how fine you are with it.

Re:Humans are territorial animals (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 9 months ago | (#46047267)

Working is psychologically stressful.
Every job has its annoying parts to it. And we can't have a world where everyone does what they want, because there will be a serious gap in what needs to be done.

Re:Humans are territorial animals (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#46047271)

Forcing someone to work in the same space as someone else is psychologically stressful no matter how fine you are with it.

You think that's bad? When the company I work for sends 2 same-sex employees off for any sort of training or event, they only spring for 1 hotel room.

I haven't found much in my career that's more unsettling than having to split a bedroom/shitter with someone who is, essentially, a complete stranger.

Re:Humans are territorial animals (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46047355)

Much as I dislike open office plans, you do have territory in the form of your desk and a small area near it. It's the same as traditional electronics labs, where there are long lines of benches and no partitions. Your bench is your territory.

I miss walls... (5, Interesting)

Moof123 (1292134) | about 9 months ago | (#46046771)

Cubeville is bad enough. I'm having to overhear folks politics the next row over right now (not my politics...). For real design work you need to be able to shut out enough outside noise and distraction to really immerse yourself for a couple hours at a shot, and a door would be awesome right now...

Re:I miss walls... (2)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 9 months ago | (#46047047)

Hell, I'll beat that. I had to endure two women talking very explicitly about their last births. Ain't no stacked wall of manuals that can keep that out.

Re:I miss walls... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047241)

This morning, I listened to the harpies shriek about Justin Beaver's arrest. They've been quiet for a while, but I don't expect it to last. SSDD. :(

Re:I miss walls... (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46047381)

Hell, I'll beat that. I had to endure two women talking very explicitly about their last births. Ain't no stacked wall of manuals that can keep that out.

I assume you're a man (as I am), but I'll guess you don't have kids, or at least didn't see them born. After that, you wouldn't bat an eyelash at such stories, any more than you'd think much of (literally) handling shit when they're still in diapers.

Re:I miss walls... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 9 months ago | (#46047331)

Cubeville is bad enough. I'm having to overhear folks politics the next row over right now (not my politics...).

Never mind politics... It's the guy 3 cubes down ALWAYS making personal calls for mundane crap, like getting his car's oil changed, getting his house cleaned, arguing with his wife about who's going to pick up the kids, etc.

Re:I miss walls... (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | about 9 months ago | (#46047393)

Maybe if the people around you had a good work ethic and worked it wouldn't be so noisy.

Maybe you need to tell them to shut the fuck up and get back to work. Or suggest to their manager they need additional work.

The company I work for pays me to work, not discuss politics while in their building. If I have to discuss something with someone in person, we have these things called 'conference rooms' with doors that close and keep the noise in the room. We also have this think called a 'network' so I can pick up my laptop, go to a conference room, and still have everything on my screen. I try to limit my talk about what I did this weekend to when I'm in the break room or walking down the hallways.

I have a 'U' shaped cubicle that is probably 10x8 feet. The desk area has two standard filing cabinets and one long one. It also has two book shelves. All I really need is space for my two monitors, keyboard, laptop, mouse, phone, and a place for drinks. I haven't cracked a physical book in probably 5 years, both bookshelves are empty. I could probably get by easily with half that space.

Had an office a couple of times. Didn't really care. Don't notice much of a difference between the quality or quantity of work I did then and now, except I've gotten better over the years and work a bit faster/smarter. None of that had anything to do with being in an office.

Only if naked ladies (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046785)

are in the office. Then I am all for that. Exspecifically naked parachuting ladies.

Re:Only if naked ladies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047079)

are in the office. Then I am all for that. Exspecifically naked parachuting ladies.

I don't think your concave (due to wind compression) boobs fetish is terribly common.

Re:Only if naked ladies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047387)

Nor would most of us want to see what happens then the chute opens.

it isn't always about money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046789)

open spaces mean management can keep better eye on the peons... can peek at desks and computer screens at will and with ease and make sure that people are productive and not slacking.

Re:it isn't always about money... (5, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | about 9 months ago | (#46046891)

You know, if a boss has to peek at desks or screens to know if people are productive they've got a real problem. I can tell if people are productive by what gets accomplished. If someone is working his ass off and just spinning his wheels getting nothing real done then he might just as well be fucking off. Bosses like that are incompetent little martinets.

I like them for Dev Teams (1)

Kagato (116051) | about 9 months ago | (#46046795)

So long as you give people enough desk space and drawers to store stuff I think it works well for agile and paired programming. When it doesn't work is when some bean counter decides "Let's throw all the contractors into a meeting room". Things get cramped and stuffy. It also doesn't work when you have resource that take a lot of phone calls. They just end up disturbing everyone else.

Re:I like them for Dev Teams (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 9 months ago | (#46047137)

It works well if they co-locate the buisness people with the programmers during initial development. It is wonderfull just being able to stand up and ask a question about the requirements. The stuffy meeting room occurs sometimes. It can be really depressing. We have given official names to all the confernce rooms. Most are named after planets and stars. We have a room whose official nickname is "shawshank". Also called "the closet". It is a tiny room with 1 door, 0 windows, and 10+ peolple in it. I think it was originally a room that stored filing cabenets.

Human capital (4, Funny)

ThePhilips (752041) | about 9 months ago | (#46046797)

To me the reasons for the open office space are partially explained by this Dilbert strip [dilbert.com] .

I know OpenOffice was terrible but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046805)

The bureaucracy of the organization was blocking many necessary bug fixes. That is one of many reasons why OpenOffice was forked into LibreOffice.

Libre Office is better (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 9 months ago | (#46046807)

Oh wait, that's not what they are talking about.

Open Plan currently suffering this situation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046813)

Open Plan offices are a cheap arse solution, shove all your goyims into one office.

Re:Open Plan currently suffering this situation (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#46047429)

goyims

The correct plural is goyim; the singular is goy. If you're going to use Yiddish, at least be a mensch and do it right.

Downton Abbey (4, Funny)

CarsonChittom (2025388) | about 9 months ago | (#46046825)

Is it just me or do the people who want you to work in open offices sound like the nobility in Downton Abbey?"

It's just you, since I don't watch Downton Abbey. Make a reference to Doctor Who and I might get it, though.

Re:Downton Abbey (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#46046865)

It's just you, since I don't watch Downton Abbey. Make a reference to Doctor Who and I might get it, though.

Bah, it's also an oblique reference to Iron Man 3 -- try to pay attention next time, this will be on the final exam. ;-)

Re:Downton Abbey (3, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 9 months ago | (#46046897)

It's just you, since I don't watch Downton Abbey

Neither does the submitter, since there's no way Lord Grantham would talk that way about "commoners".

Re:Downton Abbey (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 9 months ago | (#46047441)

It's just you, since I don't watch Downton Abbey

Neither does the submitter, since there's no way Lord Grantham would talk that way about "commoners".

Oh, I don't know. The aristocratic class on Downton Abbey often seem to express confusion when those "below them" even talk about concepts of concern to the ordinary worker. Witness, for example, Dame Maggie Smith (the Dowage Countess) completely befuddled when someone talks about having time off from work on the weekend to attend to other things in his life: "What is a week-end?" [youtube.com]

I think there are plenty of workers in office environments who also believe that their bosses have no concept of what a "weekend" is supposed to be.

Re:Downton Abbey (3, Funny)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 9 months ago | (#46046919)

I want a cubical that is bigger on the inside.

Re:Downton Abbey (1)

BonThomme (239873) | about 9 months ago | (#46046979)

ok, maybe they sound like the Cybermen.

I prefer Libre Office (1, Funny)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 9 months ago | (#46046831)

Things really went downhill when Oracle took it over.

YUO FAIL IT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046833)

JOIN THE GNAA!! n3w core is going Ops or any of the [tux.org]? Are you Stagnant. As Linux

It's the other factors. (5, Insightful)

Admodieus (918728) | about 9 months ago | (#46046835)

The problem with open office floor plans is that every other office accommodation is also affected, but in a negative way - at least at the companies I've seen or worked in. Conference rooms are downsized as well and are given uncomfortable chairs (such as bar tools). Quiet places or "phone booths" are moved to reservation systems. Kitchens, cafes, and cafeterias are no longer respites from work, but just another area to hold meetings. Any office implementing an open floor plan should also set aside traditional offices, cubicles, or booths that can be rented out, ad-hoc, when a serious conference call or task comes up that requires undivided attention. Moreover, these workspaces should be equipped with all of the necessary amenities (laptop dock, second monitor, etc.) so that workers can truly come and go at a whim. Having to pack up my desk and wander the halls for half an hour just so I can hear myself think over the lady having the daily conversation with her college-aged daughter or the guy slurping his coffee is not productive at all.

I like my own office, thanks (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 9 months ago | (#46046853)

Am I the only programmer in America who still has his own office (with four walls, and a door, and everything)? To me, the idea of working in a cubicle (or, god forbid, one of these weird open offices) sounds like a fucking nightmare. Shit, I hate it when the person in the office next to mine turns her goddamn music up too loud. I can't imagine working in an office where my co-workers were literally looking over my shoulder all day too.

Re:I like my own office, thanks (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about 9 months ago | (#46046925)

Music? No problem... most of us here in our offices like music.

However, one lady has planned 3 weddings in the past 2 years, as well as various conferences and stuff that is barely job related.

And, I found out last week that her son is getting married, so we're going thru another wedding plan....

Re:I like my own office, thanks (4, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 9 months ago | (#46046969)

Am I the only programmer in America who still has his own office (with four walls, and a door, and everything)? To me, the idea of working in a cubicle (or, god forbid, one of these weird open offices) sounds like a fucking nightmare. Shit, I hate it when the person in the office next to mine turns her goddamn music up too loud. I can't imagine working in an office where my co-workers were literally looking over my shoulder all day too.

You're not the only one - I am fortunate to have my own office at a university (staff, not faculty).

However lately - no joke - some of the faculty have been talking about wanting to replace everyone's walls with glass panels. They've even got a design person to work on plans. Yeah, that'll work out well...

Re:I like my own office, thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046997)

It definately is a personality thing (and one can be accustomed to it), but I have really come to love the collaboration of an open office. I am more systems admin then coding, so that maybe one reason.

However, I have heard of people in my area worrying about others looking over their shoulder. The thing to remember is that most of the people don't care what your doing at any given point in time enough to want to watch your screen. And the ones that do will realize that it is noticeable when they try.

Open Office Plan, Cheap Boss (1)

thevirtualcat (1071504) | about 9 months ago | (#46046857)

The only place I've ever worked that had an "open office plan" was because the boss was a penny-pincher who had deemed cubicle walls to be an unnecessary expense. Our "desks" were mostly mismatched folding tables that he'd picked up from various places and all desks faced the wall so he could watch what you were doing. (Think "panopticon.")

Fortunately, I got out of there quick.

That's not to say *all* open office plans are a result of that, of course. But it has soured my opinion of the concept.

Hearing loss (4, Insightful)

jordanjay29 (1298951) | about 9 months ago | (#46046859)

I'm someone with a hearing loss (mildly hard of hearing, good enough for one-on-one conversation, adequate in group situations, bad in loud environments) and open office plans drive me crazy. My brain spends half the time trying to catch what people are saying, even as I'm consciously trying to block it out, and then I can't hear when someone actually needs to get my attention.

It's worse when the folks who are used to talking at a low volume, to their computer screens, and can still be heard by the other person then have to talk to me, and can't figure out why I can't understand what they're saying. If they had to physically get up and walk over to me, instead of just talking across the open office, it would be far easier to work with.

Re:Hearing loss (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047239)

Yes, you try to catch what people are saying (situation awareness) and try to not pay attention to it or get drawn into it.

One item that really drives me up a wall is the impromptu at desk discussion just behind me. Everyone is on the same team, and someone comes over and starts up a conversation. Sometimes my will power to stay out of the conversation lasts for an entire fifteen or twenty minutes. However, if they get lost in a detail that I happen to know, it takes a lot of willpower to not entangle one's self into the conversation.

Either way, you lose productivity. You're either working in a distracting environment, or joining the distraction.

Re:Hearing loss (1)

hodet (620484) | about 9 months ago | (#46047277)

I am in the same boat as you. Quiet environments are actually more essential to hard of hearing people.

Choice (2)

ChodeMonkey (65149) | about 9 months ago | (#46046873)

Probably participation in an open office design should be optional so that all the extraverts can follow their desires and get together in one ginormous noisy collaborative hive and all the introverts can follow their desires and perform deep contemplative naval gazing in their alone-cave.

Re:Choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046977)

hahahahahahahahahaha, good one

Re:Choice (1)

BonThomme (239873) | about 9 months ago | (#46047013)

followed quickly by, "hey, where'd all the extroverts go?"

Re:Choice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047221)

In reality, it would work better to take the preferences, then do the opposite. As someone else posted, extroverts become slightly more contemplative in seclusion and introverts become slightly more sociable in open environments.
Still, put a dozen introverts in a room, and the loudest sound you will hear is the clicking of the keyboards until something serious happens and assistance is right there. They'll probably rig up some sort of non-interruptive-assistance-request system, possibly involving LEDs or maybe automatic semaphores.
Split up a dozen extroverts in closed offices, and they will call/walk back and forth often, but still find themselves showing more independence in their decision making.

Dreadful Open Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046875)

The article title made me think that the documentary was on bad alternatives for Microsoft Office.

Misleading article (1)

Blake1024 (846727) | about 9 months ago | (#46046887)

Be careful, open office can be confused with openoffice.org but has nothing to do with it. In fact, the article you refer to doesn't even use the term "open office".

They're probably right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046905)

You do get more collaboration, and people are more in tune with what everybody else is doing. The problem is that the additional cost is mostly in the form of stress, which is borne by the office workers. So yes, it has its ups and downs, but the downs are the workers' problem, the ups are the capitalists benefit.

The New Yorker: The Open-Office Trap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046915)

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2014/01/the-open-office-trap.html

Re:The New Yorker: The Open-Office Trap (1)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#46047347)

TFA says the open office concept originated in Germany in the 1950's. Take a look at the interiors of Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building [wikipedia.org] (1906). But in those days, office work was a lot like assembly line work. Not very creative.

As long as the toilet stalls are not like these (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046935)

No privacy = lost possibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46046945)

It means the teams get sick together, you can't have any personal calls if you need to make them (within reason), and conference rooms are needlessly booked up for what could have been handled in a cube. If you want an employee to always be looking elsewhere take away their emotional attachment to where they work. If you need to have teams that collaborate, but don't require constant communication give them plenty of open spaces, but give them their privacy when they need it. Happy employees are more productive and come up with ways to make your company more money for less overhead. Too much efficiency ruins long term effectiveness, just look at IBM. Focused too much on saving money and cutting waste and it's basically gutted their company. Same thing with Microsoft. Short term gain, long term pain. I can say I have personally saved the company multiple times my yearly salary because I was given time and space to play when I needed to. I think the actual thinking is rote tasks are okay for this type of set up, but creative/thinking tasks require space to breathe.

The movie (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 9 months ago | (#46046985)

We have an 'open' office space. There is a scene in the movie where the hero finally gets fed up with his cubicle's stupidity and disassembles his cubicle wall. You see the bosses situated the hero's cubicle next to a window but with the cube wall BLOCKING the window. I used to have a nice cubicle with a great window behind me so I could look outside. But they recently moved me to a worse cubicle. But I can't really complain. The guy behind me has a cubicle next to the window. Guess how they put his cubicle.... No, it is not load bearing - he has three walls around him, one blocking a window for no reason except the total stupidity and bureaucratic rules. If I were him I would go to our boss and tell them "Look, I like my job, and I hope you like my work. But I need to know: 1) Is this a joke? Because it's in bad taste. 2) Am I being punished? If so, what can I do to fix the situation. 3) Did no one comment on the situation before I did? Am I really the first person to notice this? 4) Is there any possibility of taking down that temporary wall in the next oh say, week? I don't know whether to feel sorry for him or laugh.

retarded managers (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 9 months ago | (#46047001)

>> it's all driven by bottom line economics--crowding more people into smaller spaces saves money. ...and massively decreases productivity. Its amazing how most managers can never see the obvious unless it has a directly quantifiable $ value.

Office ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047019)

Take a look at some nice modern office layouts [designist.ro] for more relaxed and creative offices.

Re:Office ideas (1)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#46047169)

Cool. But that 'artsy' feeling wears off after a while. There's only so many times I can look at the decor (even the Mona Lisa) before it starts to get old. Put people in the Cistene Chapel and they'll be trying to stick pencils in the ceiling inside of a couple of months.

The best office art I've ever seen is the kind that changes frequently. Let people bring in their own pictures or knick knacks. I'll bet that management would have a fit if employees started messing around with the expensive, professionally designed interiors.

OTOH, that 'wall of books' look in the photos. I've had cubicles that looked like that. But it was our project documentation.

No (1)

MikeRT (947531) | about 9 months ago | (#46047029)

Is it just me or do the people who want you to work in open offices sound like the nobility in Downton Abbey?"

Lord Grantham (Robert) and his family regretted having to change with the times to become more efficiency-focused in their dealings with their renters and workers. These people are gleeful by comparison.

Best office layout ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#46047053)

... individual offices with glass wall, a door (sliding glass would be nice) and blinds. Each worker can open close door and/or blinds to suit their current working requirements.

I've also found in my travels between individual offices and open bays of a few acres in size: The people that seem to love to continuous shoulder to shoulder contact with fellow workers are social creatures. They tend to come to work to make friends (no social life outside) rather than be productive. And they get upset if some people don't participate in their sports pools or go out drinking with them at lunch time. Closed offices drive them nuts. They either quit or start bothering people with closed doors and get canned. Either way, good for the company.

Semi Open (2)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | about 9 months ago | (#46047063)

Why not both? I prefer the semi-open office plan where you have multiple cubicles in a group where 4 people share the square space and their cubicles have only two walls. Basically a large 4 person cubicle. It promotes communication between the people there but can be private and quiet enough so that you can focus and get things done.

Hate Open Office (1)

ToasterTester (95180) | about 9 months ago | (#46047077)

The last place I worked had open office plan and I hated it. Noisy, no sense of my area to feel comforatable in. Just rows of tables not eveb desks. The owner and managers were a big part of making it feel so uptight, they discouraaged conversation, that SCRUM or meetings were time to exchange ideas. Development and SysAdmin involves sharing of problems, solutions, and communication is the key.

I like having cubes and co-workers would come by to disuss work, or there would be group talks outside of the cubes. What would appear to some as people just hanging out was a very creative enviromnet.

What I could see working is a mixed open area and then cubes for people that want to get away to think. Options are good.

I work in an open office (1)

Peter Simpson (112887) | about 9 months ago | (#46047107)

It's not bad, as long as you can manage to claim a spot on the periphery (as I have). If I had to work in the middle of the floor, I think I'd have a problem. I've done this, but as soon as I was offered an opportunity to move, I chose a place out of the mainstream. I'm an electrical engineer, I do circuit, firmware and programmable logic design. When I'm head-down, the office plan makes no difference at all. When I'm less busy, it's not really any more distracting than a cube farm. I am glad, however, for the carpeted floor and acoustic tile ceiling. Downstairs, it's a bare metal high-bay type ceiling and the noise reflected off it is so bad I couldn't stand it (I spent a short time desk-hopping as an experiment).

What's best for the employees? (1)

quietwalker (969769) | about 9 months ago | (#46047143)

I've worked with an industrial psychologist for quite a while now - they focus on things like pre-employment screening, improving employee efficiency, hiring (both from the company and candidate viewpoints) and so on.

One of the things they'll point out is that not every employee has the same motivations or same 'best' work environment. You're going to get some that thrive in an open environment, and others that don't. You'll get some that spend more time chatting, and others that use collaboration to become more productive. Unfortunately, there's no silver bullet to say which is best, and office layout is only a small part of that anyway.

However, you can do an employee survey (by which I mean an actual scientific survey with statistical analysis, not just a slopped together 'do you want open seating yes/no' form), and determine which environments work best for your best workers and average workers. This gives you the information you need to make a good decision. For example:

- Does it make sense to change the environment to make the average workers more efficient?
- Alternatively, should you change the environment to make your star workers most efficient and expect that the environment will help turn your average workers into stars (and weed out the underperformers)?
- Are your tasks inherently better suited to solo efforts or team efforts?
- Are your employees good communicators?

Of course, most of this is moot.

There are only a few cases where an immediate manager has the ability to radically restructure the work environment - those decisions are made higher up. At the same time, those higher up are making decisions primarily on immediate financial costs - so cubes and open offices are much more cost effective.

Personally, I'd rather have a small office with complete control of the light and temp, and don't have a chance that someone's looking over my shoulder.

Team rooms (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 9 months ago | (#46047145)

I'm in an office and honestly, I'm not sure it's very productive (particularly not right now, heh). At a former employer we were five people in a fairly large room - IT&Ops. At yet another employer I know at least one sprint team that was placed in their own corner of the open office because they chatted so much with each other, they were annoying everyone else but they were very effective. I'm really not an extrovert and yet the office is lonely. Unless someone explictly tells me, I don't gleam into what anyone else is doing. I can never hear two people discuss and put in a "I have a solution for that" or "No, don't do it that way". And you are really starved for social interaction, I guess you could hover at the coffee machine or water cooler or use Lync but exchanging a little banter is so much more natural.

However, make sure there's enough quiet rooms for people to go to - particular one man rooms for people on the phone or something as it 's often off-topic and loud. Or as a big "Do Not Disturb" sign. Or to just grab when two or three people need to discuss something on a whiteboard. Those that are extremely tight fisted with space and only look at rent per square meter is missing the point, it's like skimping on office supplies which are ultimately petty change when you spend five minutes chasing down a paperclip. Meaningful communication is extremely valuable to the company, noise is just annoying. The point is to get the signal-to-noise ratio up, neither blasting everyone with everything nor to cut it off entirely.

AKA: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46047231)

Veal pens

The shrinking cubicle wall, from cube farm to open (5, Funny)

netsavior (627338) | about 9 months ago | (#46047235)

I worked for a big corporate overlord for a long time, and for some reason every 3 years or so our cubicle walls got shorter. They started out at 6 feet high, which was great and quiet and semi-private. They got short enough so if you sat up straight and leaned forward, you could barely peak over... which was a little distracting.
The breaking point was when they got lower than the average person's stupid mouth. Then EVERY phone call was basically broadcast across the entire warehouse of an office complex. Seriously, god help you if you are within shouting distance of sales, because you are never ever ever going to get any work done.

As a final insult they shrunk our desks from U shape to L shape, then lowered the cube walls to desk height... so if something rolled off your desk, it could roll down the hall too. It was insanely stupid...

Eventually they just sent all the tech people to work from home... since they had sabotaged our work so much at the office, we might as well take the initial hit on telecommute.
I am all for ruining the office so badly that we no longer regard meat based presence as mandatory, but I wish it could happen faster, rather than the phased "lets ruin everything every 3 years" approach.

Worst idea ever (1)

Bearded Frog (1562519) | about 9 months ago | (#46047281)

I work in an office that is extremely poorly designed as an open office. There are still two cubes for mid level managers, and offices along the wall for the high level managers. The rest is all a mix of half height cube walls or no walls at all. There's an "island" counter near our area where people tend to put snacks and treats. It is IMPOSSIBLE to concentrate or get any work done 90% of the time. It drives me insane, and after 5 years I am to the point of telling management I am going to leave if at least our area (IT) is not changed soon. People are constantly talking/shouting nonsense and completely non work related shit across the entire office. Technically, this is still possible with cube walls as its not like they have any sound deadening but this atmosphere completely encourages people to talk to their neighbors and even their neighbor's neighbors. People don't even use phones a lot of the time and just yell across the office. The worst part is our area, with the island of snacks makes people show up like it's a water cooler and have little inter-office meetings and cell conversations there (again rarely work related). They also try to prod me and my co-worker into conversations with them from the island. I am a Network Administrator and my co-worker who is a programmer are distracted the majority of the day by these drive by visits and shouts across the office (whether involving us or not). When you're trying to solve a critical server issue, multi-task multiple issues, or just concentrate on reading tech whitepapers it is impossible most of the time to effectively do it in this environment. I can't even imagine how bad it is for him as well being that writing code rarely goes well with constant interruptions. This type of environment on paper might look good for "communication," but in reality it just breeds the wrong kind of communication. People are not getting their work done effectively because they are distracted which leads to them joining in on the distraction. If I had my own office or we had a normal cube setup around here, our IT team alone would be like 400% more efficient and effective. Don't get me wrong I am not against taking breaks and the occasional distraction can be helpful, it's the constant nature of it in this office; and the way that it affects everyone at the same time that is an issue.

Open office = grade school mentality (1)

Akratist (1080775) | about 9 months ago | (#46047363)

I have worked in nothing but open office environments over the years, and I hate them. I know all the usual BS arguments for them, such as "fostering collaboration" and other buzzword crap, but if that works so well, why does everyone grab a meeting room in order to work on something? Instead of having a quiet space to focus on a problem, I get to hear my coworkers going on about how they're sick, the sports game I don't care about, and a hundred other things that I have no interest in, none of which are conducive to a good programming environment. Wherever I'm at, I'll find the "quiet corner" of the building I can go work in, be it a lab, or an unused conference room, or some other place that the voices of meaningless don't penetrate.
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