Open offices are as bad as they seem葉hey reduce face-to-face time by 70%

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  07 July 2018
Open offices are as bad as they seem葉hey reduce face-to-face time by 70%

Tearing down walls and cubicles in offices may actually build up more barriers to productivity and collaboration, according toa new study.Employees at two Fortune 500 multinational companies saw face-to-face interaction time drop by about 70 percent, the use of email increase between 22 percent and 56 percent, and productivity slip after their traditional office spaces were converted to open floor plans葉hat is, ones without walls or cubicles that ostensibly create barriers to interaction. The findings, published recently in thePhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggest that removing physical dividers may, in fact, make it harder for employers to foster collaboration and collective intelligence among their employees.in-open-offices-workers-chat-70-less-are-less-productive-and-email-more
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  07 July 2018
I can understand that. Remember when you were in class at school, all those "what you looking at" moments?
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  07 July 2018
Quote: Before the study it was clear from employee surveys and media reports that workers arenot fansofthe open architecture trend. Employees complain of noise, distractions, lowered productivity, a loss of privacy, and a feeling of being 努atched. On top of that, studies have suggested that open officescan be bad for workers health.

That quote makes me feel like it's less of an issue with the open plan, and more the fact that these people are working for bad companies. Same theme was repeated in the comments section - IE "I hate being watched", "I feel like I'm being spied on" etc etc. If your first reaction to moving to an open plan is akin to a "big brother" type feeling of being observed, there's a much larger problem at play and you should probably either seek employment at a better company, or (assuming you just have an attitude problem) fix your own attitude.

I get the noise complaints to a certain extent, but guess what - cubicles won't fix that particular complaint, and you can't give everyone in the company four solid walls and a door in most cases.

I think there are a couple issues at play here - first, I'd like to see the average age of the people in those two companies from the study. Where I work, we have an open floor plan in all offices as well as a large amount of telecommuting. According to the most recent internal survey, pretty much everyone under 40 enjoys the open environment, as well as the remote work arrangements. Those over 40 appear to swing firmly in the other direction.

Since I work in the company's studio environment, I really enjoy the open plan. We collaborate quite a bit, and at times have to actually set limits on face time as we can get carried away. My last art department was largely cubicles and I can tell you that to get someone to leave one for a "face to face" practically required bribery.

At my current job we also have what they call "privacy enclaves", so if you need to be isolated for a bit, or need to hold a loud meeting/event, you can go to one of those and actually have a proper closed door. Most of us tend to work remotely a lot of the time too, so that may also enhance the face time when we're all in the office. I will say this - IMO the open plan generally works for creatives, but I don't know if I'd want to be a finance manager or something like that in an open plan.
 
  07 July 2018
I think it depends on where you work. Creative studios have all been 'open' where I've worked. But each tend to have their own 'culture trends'.
-If I need to talk to a single person i will just go over there and ask them.
-If I need to request something from several people and/or want to keep a 'paper trail' i will use email to keep a record.
-If it gets too back and forth that interaction may evolve into a meeting.

But thats me. And I also I think 'messenger usage' is a big factor too. I've been to one studio where a lot of people wanted to use messenger for *everything*.
I never was crazy about that. The studio I am in now this is hardly ever used and usually by particular individuals who particularly like it.

Financial institutions were mentioned above. And I agree that if your everyday job is to have one-on-one meetings with clients for private discussions
you will always have a private office as your clients will not tolerate anything else. Same with a doctor -Unless they working in a war zone - but that is pretty different example
from an 'open office' being discussed here.

Last edited by circusboy : 07 July 2018 at 02:52 PM.
 
  07 July 2018
Once the machines take over.
All of this office space stuff will be moot.

-ScottA
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  4 Weeks Ago
>these people are working for bad companies

As a victim of this stupidity : emphatically not the case. Open floors are really just a dumb idea : it is much harder tofocus on a complex task when there is constantly something moving in your field of view or someone talking nearby. This is actively trying to fight evolutionary survival mechanisms.
 
  4 Weeks Ago
Open Offices were invented around the idea that if everyone can see everyone else's desk/workspace all the time, employees will become really paranoid about "being caught doing things their own way" and thus more likely follow management orders to the dot.

Open offices thus were not really about increasing collaboration, communication and creativity as was advertised, and more about paid employees being afraid of being caught doing anything "their own way".

Some popular and influential management gurus at the time thought that this "fear of taking personal initiative" or "fear of appearing to do things in personal and idiosyncratic ways" would create perfectly streamlined companies where everyone does things the same "standard company-way" all the time and follows management orders perfectly all the time. This was supposed to lead to ultimate levels of productivity and vastly increased profits for the company, because these "gurus" actually believed that management always knows perfectly what it is doing, and paid employees - in stark contrast - are rarely if ever capable of making any day-to-day decisions that are good for the company as a whole.

Of course this backfired big time and practically ruined the work-culture, work-ethic, productivity, communication flow and person-to-person trust in some companies. It created millions of discontent employees who absolutely hate the open office they are made to work in daily and desperately wish that they had a little room of their own with some privacy, with some quiet and safe space to sit and think about how things should be approached, and with a door that can be closed when needed, reducing stress levels created by too many people working in close proximity, stress created by other people observing/judging you and your work methods all the time, as well as excessive person-to-person interaction with people you are not particularly compatible with.

If you feel watched all the time by co-workers and management alike, including co-workers who may not like you or may rat on how you work to further their own careers, you are going to become highly self-conscious about being present daily in this supposed "Open Office".

As a result, you are going to start toeing-the-line in terms of how you work, how you think, how your workspace looks, how you present yourself physically, how you communicate with others, creating a dangerous mono-culture (a.k.a. "groupthink") that will eventually damage or even ruin the company and its employees, especially if management does not really know what is best for the company or orders things to be done in ways that are not realistic or practical.

Very common problems like workplace mobbing also become much worse in an Open Office, because there simply is no way to put any kind of distance or barrier between yourself and co-workers who may treat you with contempt or may be inclined to mob you.

I worked in an Open Office many years ago. It was simply disturbing. You'd get an email or message from a relative or acquaintance on your work screen, and just right then some curious guy would walk past glancing at what is on your screen that you are reading.

You'd utter a few work related comments to the person at the desk next to you, and three other desks nearby would hear those comments.
 
  4 Weeks Ago
Originally Posted by skeebertus: Open Offices were invented around the idea that if everyone can see everyone else's desk/workspace all the time, employees will become really paranoid about "being caught doing things their own way" and thus more likely follow management orders to the dot.

Open offices thus were not really about increasing collaboration, communication and creativity as was advertised, and more about paid employees being afraid of being caught doing anything "their own way".

Some popular and influential management gurus at the time thought that this "fear of taking personal initiative" or "fear of appearing to do things in personal and idiosyncratic ways" would create perfectly streamlined companies where everyone does things the same "standard company-way" all the time and follows management orders perfectly all the time. This was supposed to lead to ultimate levels of productivity and vastly increased profits for the company, because these "gurus" actually believed that management always knows perfectly what it is doing, and paid employees - in stark contrast - are rarely if ever capable of making any day-to-day decisions that are good for the company as a whole.

Of course this backfired big time and practically ruined the work-culture, work-ethic, productivity, communication flow and person-to-person trust in some companies. It created millions of discontent employees who absolutely hate the open office they are made to work in daily and desperately wish that they had a little room of their own with some privacy, with some quiet and safe space to sit and think about how things should be approached, and with a door that can be closed when needed, reducing stress levels created by too many people working in close proximity, stress created by other people observing/judging you and your work methods all the time, as well as excessive person-to-person interaction with people you are not particularly compatible with.

If you feel watched all the time by co-workers and management alike, including co-workers who may not like you or may rat on how you work to further their own careers, you are going to become highly self-conscious about being present daily in this supposed "Open Office".

As a result, you are going to start toeing-the-line in terms of how you work, how you think, how your workspace looks, how you present yourself physically, how you communicate with others, creating a dangerous mono-culture (a.k.a. "groupthink") that will eventually damage or even ruin the company and its employees, especially if management does not really know what is best for the company or orders things to be done in ways that are not realistic or practical.

Very common problems like workplace mobbing also become much worse in an Open Office, because there simply is no way to put any kind of distance or barrier between yourself and co-workers who may treat you with contempt or may be inclined to mob you.

I worked in an Open Office many years ago. It was simply disturbing. You'd get an email or message from a relative or acquaintance on your work screen, and just right then some curious guy would walk past glancing at what is on your screen that you are reading.

You'd utter a few work related comments to the person at the desk next to you, and three other desks nearby would hear those comments.
Quoted for complete agreement..well said Skeebertus.
 
  4 Weeks Ago
The thing is, almost everything in Skeebertus's post is (like I said before) indicative of a bad company. "Workplace mobbing" has never been an issue at any of my jobs (even the bad ones), and I've worked in an open environment for the last 6 years. I can honestly say that I have never one time received an email and then had a co-worker try to "casually stroll by and see what I was up to". Things like "workplace mobbing" don't suddenly happen at a job because of an open plan. They may have been exacerbated by it, but they were not caused by it.

I think it's one of those situations where a lot of times there are already underlying problems, and then the change makes them more obvious, so the change to an open environment gets blamed, rather than the fact that your workplace was likely a dumpster fire all along. Also, in the modern day, if your work wants to "spy" on you that closely, they really don't need a open office plan to do it. Just a few background processes on your machine is all it takes. Some of the arguments against an open space feel very out of touch to me, or misplaced.

That said, I would also agree that there are definitely jobs that are NOT appropriate for it. While it works well for me (working as part of a collaborative creative team), I don't think I would feel the same if I were, for example, an investment banker, or something like that. I can certainly see where it could present issues. For me, I think it's more a case of "there's a time and place" for that type of environment. I think it's a mistake to say it's always good or always bad.

Last edited by Crotalis : 4 Weeks Ago at 02:24 PM.
 
  4 Weeks Ago
Also people who dis 'open offices' seem to be forgetting their school years.
From kinder-garden through university your learning working environment is pretty comparable to an 'open office' idea
as a classroom situation. Only a PhD is likely to have you working as an individual in a private space.

VFX and Feature animation pipelines are extremely collaborative environments. Closed offices would really slow that process down.
Instead of getting a quick answer or opinion on a 'little thing' like a Junior asking a senior for a quick tip it turns into a appointment process delaying everything.

I agree with Crotalis. A bad office culture isn't indicative of the open office. Really its much harder to hide it in fact.
 
  4 Weeks Ago
>seem to be forgetting their school years.

Because in school, the format of a lecture is laid out with everyone listening to a teacher, or performing the same activity at the same time.

Hint : any project with more than 1 person is a "collaborative environment". Since none of us information workers are pair-programming (or pair-modelling, or...) all the time, there is a substantial amount of our day being spent trying to focus on delicate tasks, alone. However, having both communal & personal space is expensive and "wasteful", so the bean counters are trying to pack the sardines tighter.

All the "collaboration" arguments are just the PR to sell this BS to employees on having to put up with shitty conditions. Today's digital worker is last century's blue collar laborer : just as gullible and exploited, just less unionized...

Skeebertus / 3DDude : well said !
 
  4 Weeks Ago
Originally Posted by shehbahn:
However, having both communal & personal space is expensive and "wasteful", so the bean counters are trying to pack the sardines tighter.

Actually most of the studios I've worked at do have both. But its the folks that need private 1-on-1 meetings everyday that get them.
So folks like HR, Directors, etc...
So yes its true a simple 'want' for a closed office isn't usually enough to get one depending on politics.

But I don't think i have ever worked some place that had no walls at all...

Last edited by circusboy : 4 Weeks Ago at 03:46 PM.
 
  4 Weeks Ago
I spent the last 7 months working in a "open office" sitting right next to a guy that would request my attention, after everything he did on his shots "hey, look at this" or would ask me what i was doing on my shots every day, everytime.

So yeah, im not a fan of open offices either and agree with that study, i would work a lot more in less time when i was working from home.
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  4 Weeks Ago
Quote: Hint : any project with more than 1 person is a "collaborative environment".

No it isn't. I can't tell you how many times I've worked with people who refused to properly collaborate in a team environment. So often, it ends up like baseball. People *think* baseball is a team sport. It really isn't. It's a bunch of individual efforts that end up in a result (win or lose). It's not a team sport in the same way hockey or football are. In a creative field, you want your team to function less like baseball and more like the other two.

For example, we have a row of three riggers sitting across the isle from a row of modelers. It's pretty cool to see a rigger have an idea, turn around in his seat and suggest to one of the modelers a different way to topo or model something so that the animation is better. In a GOOD (emphasis on the word "good") environment, this kind of collab. happens all day long. Throwing up walls, putting everyone in their own cubes tends to slow that down considerably. But again, I'm fortunate enough to be in a good company with a GREAT team ...

Quote: so the bean counters are trying to pack the sardines tighter.

Currently working in an open environment. Have about the same space as when I was in a cubicle. Open doesn't mean "tighter" or smaller in any way. Unless, like I said, you're in a bad company.

Quote: All the "collaboration" arguments are just the PR to sell this BS to employees on having to put up with shitty conditions. Today's digital worker is last century's blue collar laborer : just as gullible and exploited, just less unionized...

Ah yes, the now famous "UNIONIZE!" argument. I've been in the industry for a little less than 20 years. In that time I've been in three unions. Unless you were at the very top of the structure, all three were far more exploitative of the workers than any employer I've ever been involved with. They rewarded the lazy and the unskilled, and punished the hard working, but low-in-rank members. They also took a hell of a lot of money out of my check without ever, one time, giving me something back. Yes. Definitely we should all unionize. lol

I'm sure not all unions are bad - but I've gone 3 for 3 - that seems like pretty bad odds ...

Quote: I spent the last 7 months working in a "open office" sitting right next to a guy that would request my attention, after everything he did on his shots "hey, look at this" or would ask me what i was doing on my shots every day, everytime.

I sympathize. lol That can be an issue in the open environment. That guy is also a problem if you're in cubicles, but at least in a cube, you can pretend not to hear him. Until he comes over. And stands at the entrance to your cube. Blocking it completely. So you have nowhere to go. And can;t get out. All while he regales you with tales of his My Little Pony collectables, and his 9 cats ...

Last edited by Crotalis : 4 Weeks Ago at 09:13 PM.
 
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