Saturday, March 01, 2014

Open Office Environments

Studies have shown that rather than increasing collaboration, open office environments actually decrease productivity.  And after Susan Cain's TED talk on The Power of Introverts, it seems as if the trend is finally shifting away from the emphasis on collaboration and more towards contemplation. 

That being said, the CEO of the company where I'm currently working is a huge fan of Google.  Never mind the fact that we are not an innovative technology company. But in the past few months, he's actually been doubling down on the open office environment.  So, the new video conferencing rooms that were recently built out don't have doors.  Just imagine how disruptive that would be for the poor folks who sit in cubicles next to those conference rooms.  For someone like me, who has to do a lot of reading, writing and critical thinking, that would be sheer torture.

Nevertheless, this week, I was reminded that as in every situation, there are both pros and cons to an open office environment. On Monday morning, I squeezed some honey into my mug and immediately heard a coworker say 'Ewww!' before she realized that what she thought she heard wasn't what actually happened. Sigh.  But later that day, I had a nice conversation with my manager and two other guys with whom I share a cubicle wall.  And then Thursday, I overheard an older coworker use the term 'shag' repeatedly during a conference call.  I kept cringing every time he said it because I kept thinking about the movie 'Austin Powers' (as in 'shag, baby').  Yesterday, I overhead him use the term again. So, I finally walked over and asked if he know what the word 'shag' really means. He said he thought it meant 'to chase something down'.  And technically he's correct. But then I showed him the definition of the word from  He turned beet read and thanked me profusely for letting him know. Apparently, two of the guys on his conference call made snide remarks the first time he said the word, and everyone laughed, but the jokes went straight over his head. All this to say, he agreed that he should probably use a different word in the future.

So, on balance, I still hate the lack of privacy and the amount of noise and distractions that are inherent in any open office environments. But there are some redeeming moments that come from being in close contact with coworkers.

No comments: