Oh, the wide open office – that space where there are literally no walls. It’s open, free, ready for the collaboration of a lifetime. Where CEO’s rub shoulders with the masses. A magnificent Utopia of transparency, a place where everyone is truly equal and wonderful ideas bounce off of each other like superballs.
Yeah, and it’s also a total lie. It’s loud, so you need noise cancelling headphones or else you really are unable to do the work after the wonders of collaboration. And it’s also difficult to be there collaborating with your team when every other team is right up next to you. And if you’re a CEO, well, guess what? Everyone is watching you, taking their cues from you and, well, overreacting if you come in looking bummed from the night before and wondering what’s up when you don’t show up. Imagine being an A-List star and every one of your employees is a member of the paparazzo.
It’s a wonder work gets done at all.
Nearly 70% of U.S. office spaces are open-concept, according to the International Facility Management Association, compared with 64% two decades ago (Fuhrmans, 2017). Led by startups which usually had everyone around the same table, as the CEO was usually one of the engineers on the team, the idea grew; Google, Zappos and other companies started to expand until it became de riguer to be completely open. It is also cost efficient, as there is no money spent on building walls, which also makes configuration and flexibility of the space a valuable asset. Yes, communication, which is the lifeblood of a company is increased. According to Samantha Pena on WeWork.com, “Employees are more likely to communicate with one another and work as a team. Naturally, improved communication boosts collaboration efforts between various levels of employees, so even a manager can feel more approachable” (Pena, 2017).
However, many times, creativity needs a quantum of solace in order to take something from idea into reality. It is one reason why, some companies use the main open office for meeting and collaboration and working from home to hone and develop ideas. After open spaces started to catch on, many companies started to install areas for employees to “focus”, which are generally off the main open area and quieter than the rest of the office. Needless to say, these areas become the most valuable real estate in the office.
So what about the next generation of CEO’s those that have started with the open office and worked through them? Many are opting for walls and a door. But this is not about status; this is about a space to do work without having everyone around. And to point out – there is plenty of work that should not be public. Negotiating seed money and determining a company’s next steps in to the market need to be made without distractions. There are some conversations that are and should be confidential in nature. Playing your work life out in public sometimes does not do anyone any good. Leaders know that the timing of announcements can either bring a team together or split it apart. A private space and a door can be the difference.
So if you have commandeered an empty conference room to try to figure out what needs to be in your PowerPoint presentation or cursing the battery life in you headphones, remember, you are not alone.
Fuhrmans, V. (2017, May 22). CEOs Want Their Offices Back. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/ceos-want-their-offices-back-1495445400?mod=djcm_OBV1_092216&utm_source=taboola&utm_medium=referral
Pena, S. (2017, April 28). Pros and Cons Of An Open Office. Retreived from WeWork.com: https://www.wework.com/creator/how-to-guides/pros-cons-open-office/