There’s a conversation over at The Globe and Mail about whether moving to a more remote desk is a good idea or not. The question was posed by a white collar employee who really wants to claim a larger workstation that’s opened up a little further away from the “hub” of the office activity. The employee has this to say about the pros of moving:
“My current desk is more in the hub but the new desk will give me piece of mind, more space, more privacy to think, and make me happier, but now I’m concerned about the message I may be sending.”
The employee’s manager and a coworker have both subtly hinted that moving over one desk might give the impression of “choosing isolation”. The manager outright stated that the employee being able to overhear what goes on at neighboring desks helps the employee do their job. That really only makes sense is the company has no other means of communication or if the employee’s primary responsibility is to eavesdrop on coworkers. It’s obvious that the employee would prefer to have more privacy and NOT be forced to listen in on every passing conversation between others.
One response to the question highlights the logical disconnect created by today’s emphasis on open office environments. The advice giver discusses how “cubicle walls seem to be getting lower and lower to encourage communication and information sharing. This is all in line with flatter organizations and a focus on openness and collaboration…The idea is that collaboration leads to innovation and better ideas.”
The problem is that this idea isn’t necessarily based in reality. If an employee is saying, “I need more privacy and less distraction so I can do my job better”, that’s probably what they really do need (and they might appreciate some panel extenders). You can’t force innovation or collaboration. Unless the workers in question are actually tasked with innovating as part of their job duties, there’s no reason to design an entire work environment around this mythical goal. Have we really reached the point where employees are warned against seeking out the kind of environment where they can actually focus on getting work done because they fear being labeled as aloof?