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Old 11-15-2019, 07:51 PM
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The open office hate thread


I know there's probably hardly anyone here who feels the same, but I loathe open offices with every fiber of my being.

I sit in an open space where we're ostensibly expected to write computer code. It's table-style open office. Without moving my head I can make eye contact with 10 people. If I stand up it's 30. People conduct maximum-volume conference calls on speakerphone, they do boisterous loud socializing. Meeting space and quiet space are a premium, so people just hold meetings in the work space. As well as eating lunch there. Oh and the big 40-person auditorium space is contiguous with the office space with no walls.

There is no acoustic tiling. There is a sound masking system; nobody seems to understand it's for masking normal background noise. It was briefly cranked up to the loudness of a small jet engine in an apparent effort to drown out the noise of blasting the world cup and playing foosball; we then concluded that noise management doesn't work for us and we may as well give up. I have a sound meter app on my phone; it's always at 60dB and often up to 70db.

I spend a good bit of my workday grinding my teeth and asking myself why this persists and who could possibly think this is a good idea. But of course... bring this up to management, and of course the line they tell you is that it's great for collaboration. From within the confines of their private office, of course. And of course collaboration works so great when everyone is wearing dinner-plate sized headphones to drown out the mouthy extraverts, when everyone is working home 4 days a week to avoid the zoo, when everybody sends Slack messages to the person sitting next to them so as to fight the noise level in vain.

It's not just a bad management idea, something is wrong with workers in general these days. We do have a "quiet room" in our office with a small futon and a couple of beanbags. It's always occupied of course, as people are desperate to escape the endless talkey-jokey hell of endless extraversion. I'm in there one day, and someone opens the door to come in. Okay, I feel it man, have a seat. But even here in the sanctity of the quiet room, this stranger I don't even know plops his ass on the futon not even 18 inches away from me. Why even come to the private room? Why sit next to a hostile geezer striving his best to emanate a "fuck off" vibe?

In summary I hate everything and I don't understand anything and I'm about to embark on a career selling essential oils to housewives who believe in astrology.
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Old 11-15-2019, 07:54 PM
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Sounds like a nightmare. Makes me feel okay about my cubicle.
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Old 11-15-2019, 08:04 PM
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Sounds like a nightmare. Makes me feel okay about my cubicle.
A cubicle? Where do you work? What do you do? I want to do that and work there.
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Old 11-15-2019, 09:18 PM
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Open offices are horrid. Terrible. Soul-destroying. I rise in solidarity to your cause.
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Old 11-15-2019, 09:24 PM
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They SUUUUCK!
I took my current job 25% because I got my own damn office back
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Old 11-15-2019, 10:03 PM
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Our offices were switched to an open plan and I loathe it.

As you say, there is massive noise pollution. I wear noise cancelling headphones 100% of the time just to get anything done. Unfortunately, I know that some people are intimidated or unwilling to ask me things because I'm wearing them. But I don't have an alternative here.

The visual distractions are also bad. There is no direction I can look in where there isn't movement. Every person that walks by, every rotation of a chair, etc.

We have these phone pod things, which of course are attractive since they're the only place to get any quiet at all. So of course they're always occupied. Some people eat lunch in them, which is unfortunate.

I hoped I would get used to it, but it hasn't happened. I really did give it a shot, but it's just become worse over time. To be an even remotely decent officemate requires a kind of super politeness that no one can sustain indefinitely. So eventually the politeness wears off and people don't bother with trying to be quiet and non-distracting.

It's wearing. I'm going to have to work from home eventually. I'm not a big fan of working from home but to maintain a semblance of concentration I don't think I'll have a choice.

Oh, and they decided to shrink the workspaces by 25% when they switched. Without bothering to upgrade the parking situation. You can imagine how that has turned out.
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Old 11-15-2019, 10:25 PM
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I hoped I would get used to it, but it hasn't happened. I really did give it a shot, but it's just become worse over time. To be an even remotely decent officemate requires a kind of super politeness that no one can sustain indefinitely. So eventually the politeness wears off and people don't bother with trying to be quiet and non-distracting.

It's wearing. I'm going to have to work from home eventually. I'm not a big fan of working from home but to maintain a semblance of concentration I don't think I'll have a choice.
This is so true. When I had a cubicle or private office, I would actually come in early and stay late. Check emails, cup of coffee, have a leisurely dump, work, let people waste my time, waste other people's time, go to meetings, buckle down and crank out some serious work from about 1-4:50pm.

Nowadays, everyone rolls in at about 10:40 and leaves about 3:59 because the office is such a shithole of distractions. Supposedly we are all "online and working" outside those hours but nobody really does. It's like a labor union where we all agree to work shit conditions for 5 hours a day. I know, I shouldn't complain, but I actually like working and accomplishing stuff.
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Old 11-15-2019, 10:35 PM
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Different strokes for different people. Most Europeans prefer open floor to farm stalls, but then, if you're part of a culture where that's preferable you're probably also good at things such as "moving to one of the side rooms if you're going to be talking on the phone" (attending one of those conference calls where you say your name at the beginning, or not even, is ok).

From what I can see, and I've been working for 30 years in multiple countries on both sides of the Atlantic, one of the worst management mistakes is the belief that "if it works well in one place, it will work well everywhere". This applies to organization of physical spaces, to organizational charts, to company processes, to advertising campaigns... It's just fucking stupid, that's what it is.
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Old 11-15-2019, 10:50 PM
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Different strokes for different people. Most Europeans prefer open floor to farm stalls, but then, if you're part of a culture where that's preferable you're probably also good at things such as "moving to one of the side rooms if you're going to be talking on the phone" (attending one of those conference calls where you say your name at the beginning, or not even, is ok).
See that's the weird thing about open office culture. If you ask people about cubicles, they say they are conformist or dehumanizing or ugly or some other horrible thing. To me, this seems like... and I hate to deploy this term, but in this case it's apt... virtue signaling. We are signaling that we are always on, always available, have no private thoughts or mental space.

I have never worked in Europe. I did work in Japan in an open office and by God these people understood that if we share a workspace, then we are as silent as corpses in the grave until the monthly happy hour. Then we get wrecked, we do our gossip, and it's back to business as usual on Monday morning. Maybe Taro takes the gossip to heart and stops microwaving fish in the breakroom. Probably not, but at least we have levers to work with.
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Old 11-15-2019, 11:20 PM
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Of course the ultimate in modern office de-motivational techniques is the implementation of open plan offices and hot-desking, although you can disguise it by calling it activity based working.
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Old 11-16-2019, 12:45 AM
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heh i remember when they tried "open classrooms" .. yeah that went well ...
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Old 11-16-2019, 01:24 AM
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It took my longer than I care to admit to realize this wasn't about the Microsoft knock-off software, OpenOffice.
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Old 11-16-2019, 04:15 AM
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Most Europeans prefer open floor to farm stalls, but then, if you're part of a culture where that's preferable you're probably also good at things such as "moving to one of the side rooms if you're going to be talking on the phone" (attending one of those conference calls where you say your name at the beginning, or not even, is ok).
...... It's just fucking stupid, that's what it is.
My coworkers did not get the memo about going to another room for talking on the phone. And one wears hearing aids, so the resulting volume means that lots of people only hear him. Noise cancelling headphones do nothing for individual voices.

And whoever that it is a good idea to have the ENTIRE outer part of the building to be one huge room, so that someone who can't even see me can hear me sneeze (yes, 30 m away, she Skyped me "bless you"), should sit at my desk. And listen to the 3 different conversions in 3 different languages, punctuated by the crash of metal as the recycling collection point is outside my office. Joy.

And did I mention, that since I'm on the north side of the building, and the thermostat seems to be on the south side, I often wear fingerless gloves throughout the entire winter while my coworkers broil?
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Old 11-16-2019, 08:56 AM
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OTOH, we have an open office at our computer helpdesk and it's by far the best way to go. Someone calls with a new issue and you can put him on hold and ask if anyone's come across it before. If someone needs to go out and about, they can ask if someone else has to leave, so we can make sure someone's there to answer the phones. We always know if someone is in, if they're the one familiar with the problem. You can overhear someone talking to a particular person who you've dealt with before and give advice. You immediately know if someone's at their desk when a call comes in for them.

It may not work in other environments, but it's far too useful in ours to go any other way.
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Old 11-16-2019, 09:07 AM
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The place I retired from had open FLOOR concept! I'm surprised the restrooms didn't end up being bare toilets in the middle of everywhere.

They had cubicles, but that's a joke. Watching people prairie-dogging is entertaining for only a brief time.

The WORST part of "open office syndrome" (OOS) is the fact that the place is impossible to heat or cool efficiently. People along the South and West windows wanted to come to work in cut-offs and flip flops. The rest of us FROZE. Almost everyone had a "work sweater" that stayed at your desk. I saw knitted caps, mufflers, gloves. I myself brought a Cuddle-Up blanket that I plugged in. Tour groups from other parts of the building would come to see for themselves.

Open offices suck, majorly!


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Old 11-18-2019, 06:16 PM
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We just went open office, about five weeks ago. We were bribed with an upgrade to our free coffee (before: Folgers from concentrate, current: three types of beans that it will grind and serve on demand). The coffee is excellent, and that's not sarcasm. The lines waiting for it kind of suck now, because it's really slow, like a Starbucks.

Aside from that, if I want to participate in a Webex at the same time as someone else wants to participate in a different Webex, I'm better off going to my car or a conference room. It's even worse when a neighbor is in the same Webex, because I get to hear him speak live, followed by the audio delay in the conference call.

The open office is supposed to invite collaboration. With my cube, someone could come in, and I'd invite him or her to sit in my guest chair, and we'd work through the problem. With the open office, there is no chair, and such a conversation just pisses off my neighbors, particularly if they're in the same Webex together.

Right now we have the same number of people that we did pre-densification, so a lot of the new desks are empty. Obviously, they're for someone, though. The coffee lines are going to get longer, and the refurb didn't add any urinals or shitters, so I'm sure that when Land wants to clean the toilets 10 minutes before lunch, it's going to be just that much more inconvenient when we're fully densified.

I can't put my bicycle in my cube now, and I can only hang my smelly cycling shorts from a communal coat rack. Luckily cycling season doesn't overlap much with wearing coat season, lest the people sharing the communal coat rack complain about my sweaty, crotch-smelling bib.

Actually, I can't put my bicycle anywhere now, and given that my office is on the Dearborn-Detroit border of a questionable Detroit neighborhood, I don't really want to leave my bicycle outside (I've got nice bikes).

The thing is, we're not a call center, and we don't do the type of work where managers have to walk by and see what's on our screens. We're working professionals, and most of us are engineers (natural introverts), so there's nothing to be gained in the way of supervision.

So far, the only advantage to the change is the truly awesome (give credit where it's due!) coffee, but I tend to think that they could have given us the coffee without taking away our cubes.

There've been a lot more plant visits, supplier off-sites, and working from home days lately.
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:30 PM
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Open offices are the worst. I'm sure there is some group or age demographic they work for, but for middle-age programmers, they don't work at all.

I was stuck in one for several months the size of a gymnasium. Customer Service was halfway across the cavernous space and still so loud I couldn't do my job. Ended up costing me my job in fact I'm pretty sure.

Please give me a cube or part of an office.
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:46 PM
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Management and bean counters love open offices/floors because you can squeeze more people in for the same, or less, money than is spent on real rooms, or even cubicles.

A lot of American-based companies are also on the "the Japanese do it and look at how great their products, etc., are, so we should do it too" train, without realizing that a lot of what makes it work in Japan is the culture, not the floorplan.

Frankly, while I find even cubicles to be too noisy (we have a number of people who speak at volume), I find myself missing my cube while the renovations in my office are going on because right now I'm in sitting at a desk with no place to put my references and at least two people within 10 feet of me who have voices that project. A lot. And they're on the phone constantly because they provide tech support on our products.
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:47 PM
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Agree with the Op wholeheartedly. Sucky and soul-destroying, as already mentioned. Collaboration is lessened since most people WFH 2-3 days each week anyway to avoid the horrid environment.

Here is my personal situation. I moved from one office about 12 mi from home where I had a normal cubicle with 5 ft high walls, into a different office 6 miles in the other direction to be closer to my team (yes, the team where everyone WFH several days each week). My "workspace" or desk is in a wide "u" shape with 3.5 ft walls where the person sharing this space and I each face a corner, so we are generally looking away from one another. On the end of some of the rows is a taller cube for a managerial type or someone who has been around long enough or butt-snorkeled enough to get one of those.

OK, here is where I get irritated: the guy sitting behind me in this U shape talks on the phone very loudly and irritatingly, and sometimes stands-up in order to make sure the people on the phone can hear better. He also turns away from his computer screen and faces directly at me while jabbering loudly over my shoulder. I have turned around a couple times while this is happening and made the "whisper" signal with my finger over my lips followed by the "turn-around" symbol with the same finger. I probably give off the similar "fuck off" vibe mentioned above, so we have not yet collaborated on this issue.

These open concept designs are just cheaper so companies are all into them telling employees they are for better collaboration - we all know this is not true, but as long as they have a generous WFH policy I will just grin and bare it.
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:06 PM
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Yes agree with the OP.

An open office is supposed to create an environment of communication. It's total bullshit. Buzzword bingo to make excuses.

I'm a programmer as well. Others are analysts. When we need to confer, plan, or share information, we talk to each other and not involve everyone else. Yes, it's cubes, but tall ones. We all have extra chairs in our cubes so a co-worker can take a seat.

Sheesss. Even in as good as an environment I work in, if I need to make a personal phone call, I make it somewhere else so as to not disturb the few others.

I used to work in an area with smaller cubes and more people. The impromptu meetings outside my cube drove me nuts.
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:07 PM
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It took my longer than I care to admit to realize this wasn't about the Microsoft knock-off software, OpenOffice.
I thought it was either going to be about OpenOffice or an "open" thread about "office hate".
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:13 PM
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The place I retired from had open FLOOR concept! I'm surprised the restrooms didn't end up being bare toilets in the middle of everywhere.
You havenít really lived until youíve had a face to face conversation with someone while sitting on the toilet.
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:24 PM
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I almost thought this would be about OpenOffice.org.

If I close my office door, I feel less embarrassed when patients walk by because they can't see my piles and piles of paperwork. But on the flip-side I can't keep eyes on my staff and after a while they are sure to find some reason to barge in. At which point the door doesn't close itself, and I would have to get up...

also the scan machine is outside my office...

Yeah, I guess my office has nothing in common with HMS Irruncible's. I do get up and close the door if kids are screaming, or if women wear strong perfume, or if I need to make a sensitive phone call.

ETA: for some reason this thread reminded me of race horse blinders.

~Max

Last edited by Max S.; 11-18-2019 at 07:26 PM.
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:41 PM
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We have an open office plan. It's okay, though it was better before - when it was *still* an open office plan, but we all had our backs to one another, essentially all ten of us in one giant cubicle with all our desks around the edges of it facing the wall and a little table in the middle that would occasionally sprout donuts. This setup was great - we could (and did) spin our chairs when somebody needed to talk to somebody else, and if things got complicated then at which point people could roll over if needed. This was optimal in a lot of ways - way better for communication than the cubes were.

It also wasn't particularly noisy, because most of us are computer programmers and can work in complete silence for days at a time. When conversations happened they were sparse, rarely more than one at a time, and you kept half an ear open in case it was something you should know or could help with. We did have a pair of testers who would have non-work conversations now and then, but they tended to be interesting and could be listened to or tuned out if necessary.

Or to put it succinctly: It worked well because we're mostly quiet and don't have any loudmouthed assholes.

Things are a bit worse now because somebody in upper management wandered by and saw us all sitting silently at work - how could we be communicating! Our backs were to each other! It's not like our chairs are on swivels or anything oh wait they are! So it came to pass that A Change Was Made. And that change was to move four of the people off of the walls into freestanding desks in the middle, so that they (at least) would be looking at each other.

In theory.

So, to make a short story short, I now have a small desk and no walls to pin anything to, and when I stare ahead of me I see...computer monitors. A wall of computer monitors blocking me from being able to see half of the people in my section. So yeah, things are worse - because they're less open. But again, I only pine for the good old more-open days because we're a quiet bunch anyway.
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Old 11-18-2019, 09:20 PM
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Things are a bit worse now because somebody in upper management wandered by and saw us all sitting silently at work - how could we be communicating! Our backs were to each other! It's not like our chairs are on swivels or anything oh wait they are! So it came to pass that A Change Was Made. And that change was to move four of the people off of the walls into freestanding desks in the middle, so that they (at least) would be looking at each other.
Cool thing about these arrangements, the folks who are most convinced in their effectiveness will do everything possible to avoid sitting in them.

UNLESS they are the types who spend all their times in meetings, then it's no great shakes to sit around the worker bees making sure they feel relaxed and unmonitored.
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Old 11-18-2019, 09:50 PM
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A lot of American-based companies are also on the "the Japanese do it and look at how great their products, etc., are, so we should do it too" train, without realizing that a lot of what makes it work in Japan is the culture, not the floorplan.
Is it 1985 where you work? Who follows the "Japanese way of doing business" in this day and age?

Of course it works for Japan's "salaryman" culture of mindless obedience to corporate tradition and authority.
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Old 11-18-2019, 09:53 PM
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Yes agree with the OP.

An open office is supposed to create an environment of communication. It's total bullshit. Buzzword bingo to make excuses.
Now, something like advertising or marketing where you do a lot of brainstorming might do well to have an open office. Computer programming? I'm not so sure. Maybe during the initial phase when you're working with flow charts and big ideas, but that's what meeting rooms are for, right?

~Max
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Old 11-19-2019, 02:21 AM
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Is it 1985 where you work? Who follows the "Japanese way of doing business" in this day and age?
Pretty much anyone using Agile or Scrum. Both are intertwined with Japanese business concepts like kanzen, kanban, and obeya. And none of them are thought to work well with people hidden away in nice quiet offices. Quite the contrary! You need frequent huddles, story meetings, standups, and other face to face activities best done in open spaces.
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Old 11-19-2019, 05:15 AM
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It took my longer than I care to admit to realize this wasn't about the Microsoft knock-off software, OpenOffice.
Me too. I was going to tell everyone to migrate to LibreOffice.

But I'm behind the OP. Cubes were bad enough the 15 months I was stuck in one. An open plan would be a nightmare. Give me an office with a door which I can close when I'm working or on the phone any time.
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Old 11-19-2019, 05:20 AM
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Is it 1985 where you work? Who follows the "Japanese way of doing business" in this day and age?

Of course it works for Japan's "salaryman" culture of mindless obedience to corporate tradition and authority.
About 30 years ago I knew a senior engineer who refused a rotation in his companies - Fujitsu - main office because the place was open and he'd have to share a workstation. I visited the main office of a trading company who was partnering with us, and the work environment was like the middle seat in the back of an old DC-10 but not as roomy. No thanks.
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Old 11-19-2019, 07:12 AM
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A lot of employees don't feel like they can be fully open/honest with their managers, which means a lot of managers may not realize how miserable their employees are with various office layouts. I hope there are managers out there who are reading this thread and getting some fresh perspective on what does/doesn't stimulate office morale and employee productivity.
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Old 11-19-2019, 07:45 AM
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Pretty much anyone using Agile or Scrum. Both are intertwined with Japanese business concepts like kanzen, kanban, and obeya. And none of them are thought to work well with people hidden away in nice quiet offices. Quite the contrary! You need frequent huddles, story meetings, standups, and other face to face activities best done in open spaces.
All of this stuff was conceived for use on a factory floor where there are distinct roles and responsibilities and lines of production, and you can see the physical movement of work items. When that's the case it's good. When you thoughtlessly warehouse random people together expecting that new interactions will randomly emerge, that's magical thinking and it's garbage.

Scrum and Agile are also garbage dumps that exist to be circled-around by certification-seeking middle managers who are always out to preside over new and exciting meetings.
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Old 11-19-2019, 07:49 AM
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Now, something like advertising or marketing where you do a lot of brainstorming might do well to have an open office. Computer programming? I'm not so sure. Maybe during the initial phase when you're working with flow charts and big ideas, but that's what meeting rooms are for, right?
There is a time where it can be valuable. I would say a small cross-functional team can benefit from maybe 2 hours a day "together time" including lunch, 1 hour a day meeting time without laptops, and 2 hours a day "do your own work in your own cubicle and ask for help if you need it" time, the remainder of 8 hours to be filled by "work quietly at your home to catch up or work on overhead".
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Old 11-19-2019, 08:30 AM
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Software developer here for 18 years, I've had private offices, cubes, and open offices, although I mostly work from home now. Cubes are hands down the worst, coming in every day and staring at the same 3.5 gray felted walls -- I'm sorry, it is soul crushing. It was nice when I had my (shared) office but I found it hard to switch between that development environment and "working on my laptop wherever I am" when I traveled. I've slowly converted only to laptop development, no extra monitor -- in fact I'm doing that right now at home right next to a 24" 4k monitor that I'm not using.

Long story short -- I like my company's current open office layout. I sit down at a nice clean desk, a different one every time, flip open my laptops, and I feel like I can breath. Yeah, there's noise, but most days I'm not calculating missile trajectories or anything that requires deep concentration.

So there are some of us , and we're not all kids.
  #35  
Old 11-19-2019, 08:49 AM
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A lot of employees don't feel like they can be fully open/honest with their managers, which means a lot of managers may not realize how miserable their employees are with various office layouts. I hope there are managers out there who are reading this thread and getting some fresh perspective on what does/doesn't stimulate office morale and employee productivity.
Even if the managers agree with this, the bean counters will still point at the cost difference between real room offices and cubicles or <shudder> open floors and say "No!"

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Long story short -- I like my company's current open office layout. I sit down at a nice clean desk, a different one every time, flip open my laptops, and I feel like I can breath. Yeah, there's noise, but most days I'm not calculating missile trajectories or anything that requires deep concentration.
Glad it works for you, but I'm a technical writer with a lot of reference books that I use on the regular, and they are physical objects. I am not hauling 40+ lbs of books in and out of an office every day and I do need quiet to concentrate on what I'm doing. My coworker likes the open office situation we're in right now; it works for him. It does not work for me.
  #36  
Old 11-19-2019, 09:03 AM
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Even if the managers agree with this, the bean counters will still point at the cost difference between real room offices and cubicles or <shudder> open floors and say "No!"
I wonder how the math works out when employee productivity and turnover rates are considered.
  #37  
Old 11-19-2019, 09:26 AM
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I wonder how the math works out when employee productivity and turnover rates are considered.
I might be just very cynical but I don't think anybody is doing any math on this. I've been hearing complaints about open office layouts since the beginning, so what... ten years now? And they've only become more common. Combine this with the interesting threads on reddit about how many people do little to no work all day every day at their butts-in-seats offices, and I really am convinced that employers just can't see/measure productivity.
  #38  
Old 11-19-2019, 09:45 AM
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I have a friend who owns an office furniture company. According to him a ton of companies ripped out their cubicles starting around 10 years ago and now 1/2 of them are putting them back at considerable expense. The only trend that seems to be continuous is stand up desks. He sells almost exclusively those electronic adjustable sit/stand desks.
  #39  
Old 11-19-2019, 09:56 AM
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But people have been complaining about cubicles since they were invented. It's a boomer trope. What's the alternative?
  #40  
Old 11-19-2019, 09:58 AM
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Am I the only one who thought this thread was going to be about the open-source alternative to Microsoft Office?
  #41  
Old 11-19-2019, 10:05 AM
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But people have been complaining about cubicles since they were invented. It's a boomer trope. What's the alternative?
Would have to see if someone conducted a scientific poll, but I would think small shared offices > cubicles > open offices. It seems like high walled cubes were the best compromise between cost and employee tolerance.

Going too cheap (open office) leads to a lot of employees willing to look for their next job. I've seen this happen and heard it from others. But I can't provide a valid cite.

Where open offices do work, is a mobile and largely work at home work force, even in this case though some intelligence has to be used. Customer service and possibly AR should be given some isolation from other groups so they don't disturb others working.

Honestly for programming and engineering staffs, they should be in small cheap two person offices. You pay these types a lot, you want them productive. Quite probably accounting also.
  #42  
Old 11-19-2019, 10:16 AM
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Am I the only one who thought this thread was going to be about the open-source alternative to Microsoft Office?
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  #43  
Old 11-19-2019, 10:19 AM
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Am I the only one who thought this thread was going to be about the open-source alternative to Microsoft Office?
By my count in this thread, you are the fifth.

Last edited by pulykamell; 11-19-2019 at 10:20 AM.
  #44  
Old 11-19-2019, 10:43 AM
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Software developer here for 18 years, I've had private offices, cubes, and open offices, although I mostly work from home now. Cubes are hands down the worst, coming in every day and staring at the same 3.5 gray felted walls -- I'm sorry, it is soul crushing. It was nice when I had my (shared) office but I found it hard to switch between that development environment and "working on my laptop wherever I am" when I traveled. I've slowly converted only to laptop development, no extra monitor -- in fact I'm doing that right now at home right next to a 24" 4k monitor that I'm not using.

Long story short -- I like my company's current open office layout. I sit down at a nice clean desk, a different one every time, flip open my laptops, and I feel like I can breath. Yeah, there's noise, but most days I'm not calculating missile trajectories or anything that requires deep concentration.

So there are some of us , and we're not all kids.
Wow. I have a nice corner cube with windows (that open!) and beautiful mountain views. So I am luckier than most. Two co-workers share my two cube walls. We have zero problem communicating when we need to. I couldn't imagine hot desking, I want my space.
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  #45  
Old 11-19-2019, 11:01 AM
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...I really am convinced that employers just can't see/measure productivity.
Some people think they can. Microsoft recently switched to a four-day work week in Japan, and claims productivity went up 40%.
  #46  
Old 11-19-2019, 11:11 AM
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I've been hearing complaints about open office layouts since the beginning, so what... ten years now?
Well over ten times ten years! Newsrooms. Typing pools. Drafting pools. Office clerk pools. Etcetera.
  #47  
Old 11-19-2019, 01:57 PM
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By my count in this thread, you are the fifth.
I would have been the sixth but I didn't say anything.

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Cool thing about these arrangements, the folks who are most convinced in their effectiveness will do everything possible to avoid sitting in them.

UNLESS they are the types who spend all their times in meetings, then it's no great shakes to sit around the worker bees making sure they feel relaxed and unmonitored.
Er, everybody in my little section likes the open plan better than the cubicles. It really does foster communication if you can actually see the other person; having an opaque cubicle wall between you and them encourages your mind to forget they're there. Which can be good for concentration, but isn't good for communication (if only because you don't won't to end up stupidly talking to their empty chair).

Of course we preferred the version of the open plan where we all were facing walls (actually shallow open-backed cubicles) and had to turn around to actually see anybody, but this thread is all about people forced into suboptimal seating arrangements by confused/deluded upper management.

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All of this stuff was conceived for use on a factory floor where there are distinct roles and responsibilities and lines of production, and you can see the physical movement of work items. When that's the case it's good. When you thoughtlessly warehouse random people together expecting that new interactions will randomly emerge, that's magical thinking and it's garbage.

Scrum and Agile are also garbage dumps that exist to be circled-around by certification-seeking middle managers who are always out to preside over new and exciting meetings.
Scrum is the best thing that happened to our company - keeping in mind that we don't actually really follow proper scrum. (Of course as best I can tell nobody follows proper scrum 100%.) And while some of scrum most definitely exists to placate the managers, a bunch of it is about intelligent task organization and prioritization. It certainly better than waterfall by any measure.

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Now, something like advertising or marketing where you do a lot of brainstorming might do well to have an open office. Computer programming? I'm not so sure. Maybe during the initial phase when you're working with flow charts and big ideas, but that's what meeting rooms are for, right?
I'm in a programming shop. The open plan works because at least in this building it turns out that programmers are a fairly quiet lot. We only call across to one another when we actually need something - which does happen often enough to justify and show obvious benefits in the open plan.

Most actual brainstorming and flowcharting takes place in other rooms and offices, because we don't want to bother everybody.

The place I would be horrified about an open plan is if people's jobs forced them to talk all the time. Sales, support, purchasing, management - cubicles for all!
  #48  
Old 11-19-2019, 04:03 PM
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I might be just very cynical but I don't think anybody is doing any math on this. I've been hearing complaints about open office layouts since the beginning, so what... ten years now? And they've only become more common. Combine this with the interesting threads on reddit about how many people do little to no work all day every day at their butts-in-seats offices, and I really am convinced that employers just can't see/measure productivity.
I don't even know what "productivity" means in my largely service-oriented business. Number of emails or PowerPoint slides per hour?" Average head count per conference call?




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Originally Posted by tpasswords
Pretty much anyone using Agile or Scrum. Both are intertwined with Japanese business concepts like kanzen, kanban, and obeya. And none of them are thought to work well with people hidden away in nice quiet offices. Quite the contrary! You need frequent huddles, story meetings, standups, and other face to face activities best done in open spaces.
I know kanban, etc are old Japanese work concepts. But I don't think Agile or Scrum is generally considered a "Japanese" phenomenon, or do we look at Japan as a rising dominant business force anymore.

I would agree that Agile or Scrum teams are more effective when they are able to co-locate in some physical space. Except that hasn't been the reality for most of the teams I've managed for the past ten years or so. More often then not, the teams are distributed across various locations (often working from home). So our daily "standup" call might be the only time we are all in one place.

The most ridiculous example was at my last company where I had to commute 2 hours a day to hold video conferences with teams spread out across half the USA.


Fortunately I mostly work from home, as does everyone else in my company apparently. I came in today because it's near Penn Station, but there is like one other dude in an office meant to seat 50 people.
  #49  
Old 11-19-2019, 04:56 PM
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I don't even know what "productivity" means in my largely service-oriented business. Number of emails or PowerPoint slides per hour?" Average head count per conference call?
Ultimately, for any business it's "net profit per hour worked." Unfortunately this is very difficult to actually measure, and so quite a number of executives focus on minimizing the costs that they can measure without giving any thought at to whether this might be increasing costs that they can't measure.
  #50  
Old 11-19-2019, 05:10 PM
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In some jobs, an open plan really is best. Years ago, I worked in customer service at an office machine company. While others complained about the noise in our area, for us it was important. If I took a call from a customer with a rush request, I could immediately ask the tech-side person for an arrival estimate for the repair person. Sometimes, we could coax them through the problem to repair it themselves and sometimes a coworker overhearing the issue would offer to overtake the call to help. Our competition had their dispatch teams in separate rooms and didn't have twice the turnaround time we did. They were that slow.

However important collaboration is in the software world, there comes a time when you have to focus to get things done. I worked by a door where everyone would have their standup meetings. I asked my boss to put the kibosh on it because of how distracting it was. She was responsive so doorway meetings must be held in the hall instead of on our side of the door. And headphones were (are) our lifesavers. We were also allowed to work one day a week at home, initially due to a lack of parking space, but later due to increased productivity. I saved up all my review work for the "home" day because I could do a better job of spotting holes and errors when in a different environment from the one that created them.
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