Last week, we reviewed a laundry list of opinions about open offices vs. closed offices. This time, let’s get more specific and list some issues that can crop up in the unfettered landscape of the entirely open office. Here are a number of valid complaints that office workers have about personality conflicts in open spaces:
- The lack of privacy in an open office actually restricts honest communication because of all the eavesdropping.
- Coworkers’ manners are a huge obstacle in open environments. They talk too loudly, don’t respect the privacy of others, and have conversations on speaker phone.
- Introverts pay a “social penalty” for not engaging on the same level as their coworkers. It’s unfair to expect all personality types to work in the same way.
- Theft is more likely to occur in an open office. It’s a hassle to have to lock your purse inside the desk if you get up to go to the copier.
- HR ends up with way more work to do in smoothing ruffled feathers when everyone is in everyone else’s business in an open office.
Collaboration and Creativity
What about the perception that open offices are the best bet for keeping people connected and getting all the bright ideas flowing? Not everyone is on board with that viewpoint either. In fact, they point to a number of alternatives:
- Small shared areas work better than completely open offices. People working on the same project can be clustered together in small teams to promote collaboration.
- Closed floor plans make teamwork more productive because meetings have to be scheduled for a real purpose.
- People who work inside their heads need private space. They don’t want to be pulled into conversations or make everything a “team project” in an open office.
- Open spaces are OK for “creatives” working together on the same project, but people in operations roles need less distraction.
- The workstation isn’t the place for socialization. It should be a place to concentrate get work done. Meetings are the right environment for communication and collaboration.
Can We All Just Get Along?
There is room for common ground in this ongoing debate. Most people do agree that the right solution is industry and job dependent. Confidentiality, privacy, and ethics are important considerations. There’s also widespread agreement that an ideal workspace makes room for both private areas and collaborative areas. OBEX panel extenders and desk panels offer a solution that’s easy to retrofit into any space to achieve just the right ratio.
Do you have opinions about open offices to share? Let loose in the comments!