The growing open floor plan trend has taken root in offices everywhere, but what was once thought as the solution to increased collaboration, many believe is slowly destroying the workplace.
“Invented in 1950s Germany, the idea of creating a workspace free of dividing walls only took off in the U.S. within the last decade, spreading from tech startups to more established industries such as advertising, media and architecture. By tearing down literal barriers, the thought was the creativity and productivity would skyrocket.”
Approximately 70% of U.S. offices have some form of an open floor plan, according to the International Facility Management Association, and believe the design promotes transparency and fairness. Many companies have also embraced the concept for a more discernible reason – money. Open floor plans maximize space while minimizing per person costs – and with the increasing number of employees preferring their home office over HQ – employers don’t have to eat the cost of those empty desks. The door however, swings both ways. Open floor plan offices have been whole-heartedly adopted by the tech community, so much so that the few brave souls who choose to retreat to the traditional, private office landscape are seeing significantly lower rents.
While collaborative creativity and saving money are certainly benefits, many CEOs are realizing that it is not worth it. Morale and focus have taken a hit, and employees are simply too distracted by loud habits and sitting at a long table staring at the same co-workers – reminiscent of a high-school lunch table. In such close quarters, germs spread faster than ever – and nothing kills productivity like having half your staff out with the flu.
There is also the issue of visibility – seeing your co-worker walk into a glass walled “collaboration room” is often distracting, because the first assumption is that someone is in trouble. When it comes down to it, it’s not about status or a vision of success, it’s more that people are eager for their privacy back. “[The] open-office revolt is…is less about reclaiming the corner office than about needing a quiet place to think. People will say it’s cool to have the CEO right next to you, but at the end of the day your team sometimes needs their space and you need yours.”
Excerpts taken from The Wall Street Journal and Fortune.com