27 May 2015

The Obstreperous Environment Of An Open-Plan Office

I think that a couple of my colleagues were still in a bit of a playful mood after their weekend away. Don't get me wrong, they are great people, but tend to get a bit carried away when thinking of ways to improve things... Suddenly, they had a brilliant idea. Why not take away all of the dividers between the desks and make the office truly open-plan? Wouldn't that be great?

My heart sank.

My office can be such a noisy place at best of times. Can you imagine what work could be like without these dividers, designed to reduce the sound levels? These dividers give each individual a little bit of precious privacy, a chance for a break from distractions - and each can be 'personalised' somehow so that staff can get their own special workspace.

It doesn't bode well.

Open-plan offices are great for extroverts, people who thrive in more lively environments. These are the ones who say this will lead to better camaraderie, better communication. They love the buzz - even a radio in the background on certain days.

However, open-plan is not so good for introverts like myself. We need to be able to focus, and an open-plan layout simply means constant distraction - and yet another blow for privacy in the workplace.

There's already been some talk of talking it one step further, and of introducing 'hot-desking' - that's where employees don't actually have a fixed desk, but use a different one each day. (Incidentally, I understand the method now used for this practice in the US is "hotelling").

And there's even talk in our office of allowing more staff a chance to work from home one day a week - perhaps allowing more employees to be employed at fewer desks. That could well be the only positive in the whole idea...

I shall see how this progresses. 

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