Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is an open-office plan the best plan? Sometimes.

I've worked in open-plan offices and I've worked in standard cubicle / private office offices and at one time I had a private office all to myself. So I think I can address the issues brought up in Drake Bennet's recent piece "Why We Can't Get Anything Done in an Open-Plan Office." I think it purely depends on the true office culture.

In the past I worked in an office that went from a regular cubicle farm set-up to open-plan and in that case I think in the end it didn't work. The fact that senior leadership that championed the set-up eventually took over conference rooms and converted them into their private offices was pretty telling. And it might be as simple as admitting that such a drastic shift in office culture simply isn't for everyone. I've been in situations where sobbing ensued once people found out they were losing their office. 

My current job has an open-office plan, and they're expanding onto a new floor where that plan will be further refined with the addition of some "quiet rooms" for folks that need to get away for a bit. And it 100% works here, but I think it's important to note that this place has always had an open-office plan. And even more importantly NO one, outside the company's owner, has an office. And even the owner's office has no door. Literally.

Often these open-office plans are implemented to encourage collaboration, but if you're company isn't really dedicated to that mind-set—and many simply pay lip service to it and think that rearranging some chairs and desks will solve all their problems—then it's pointless. And in order to be dedicated to the mind-set a company needs to support it's staff and actually proactively encourage collaboration and creativity. I don't think many places are actually suited to do so, and while "collaboration" and "creativity" are lovely buzzwords C-suite people love to throw around, they need to be more than simply words.

I'm lucky to have found a place when the open-office plan actually accomplishes what it's purported to do, but I don't think it's for everyone. 

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