The ramblings of a giant squid…

Stop With These Open Concept Office Spaces

Friends-Romans-Countrymen, Math and Science, Technology

I’m wondering when we can all stop with these open concept, bullshit office spaces… cubicles with low walls, no privacy, limited space for personalization.

Here’s some facts…

  • Open slave pits, er collaborative work areas, do NOT foster collaboration, largely because most people’s work isn’t collaborative. The overwhelming majority of office workers work on their stack of papers, assigned tasks, etc. without any requirement to collaborate except on occasion…
  • … when they need a comfortable, properly equipped conference room where they can get together, hash out what needs to be hashed, and go back to their workspace. Open slave pits are not a substitute for ample meeting spaces.
  • If you have to install white noise generators to mask the office noise so people can work, then your office design has failed.
  • Nobody wants to listen to the nasal congestion, work phone calls, squeaky furniture, frustrated swearing (if you work near programmers, web designers, engineers, etc.) and Dog forbid, the music, of their nearby co-workers. Sometimes, we all want to listen to their personal calls, but only for voyeuristic reasons, and even then not all the time.
  • If people don’t have a work space they can call their own, they will hate working there, even if they don’t speak it openly.

So, office designers, it’s time to stand up and be honest. Open concept offices serve only one purpose: to save the company money at the expense of employees. That’s it. Be honest about it! People will likely be more accepting, because at least workers can respect honesty.

Companies, it’s past time you come out and say it too: Yeah, we’re too miserly to build comfortable, effective workspaces for our employees, and if you work here you’ll just have to suck that up, fuck you very much, get in the slave pit and get to work.

Best of all, there’s actually research to back this up!  A report from the National Research Council (Canada) “Workstation Design for the Open-Plan Office”, published by the Institute for Research in Construction concludes:

There are many factors to consider in designing a suitable open-plan office environment. Designers, sensitive to varying needs, must weigh the options for each project, taking into account the individual and organizational needs and the practical possibilities in the space. Some design guidelines are as follows:

  • Avoid generic solutions:

    • Design and furnish for specific job requirements
    • Enable adjustability and control
    • Provide status markers suited to rankand occupation
    • Allow personalization
  • Consider the boundaries:

    • Avoid large unbounded groups of workstations
    • Keep workstation area in the range of 2.4 m x 2.4 m to 3.6 m x 3.6 m
    • Keep panels above 1.37 m where visual privacy is important
    • Maximize access to windows and daylight
  • Clean regularly and perform ongoing maintenance.

This is backed up by another research report: Workstation design for organizational productivity: practical advice based on scientific research findings for the design and management of open-plan offices, published 2004.

Related Posts

Search the Squidzone

The Happy Squid Store

Squid Tweets