COMPANY CULTURE / DEC. 03, 2015
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Why Open Plan Offices Are the Worst

You’re working for one of those savvy employers who have bought into the idea of constant collaboration and a team spirit. In other words, your boss didn’t want to spring for individual offices for each of you, so he went for the open plan office concept.

While your employer might have had the best of intentions when he opted for the open office plan, it turns out it wasn’t exactly well thought-out. Sure, places like Google and Facebook might have those long stretches of desk upon which the world’s greatest ideas are born – but then again, maybe not.

Open offices might have started out as a good idea, but here’s why they really are not all that good for workers.

See Also: How to Stay Productive When Your Desk is Located Near the Break Room

1. You'll Spend a Mint on Headphones

Paris Hilton DJing
Obsev

Think of that spacious urban loft space where your employer has set up shop. With its high ceilings and industrial-chic look, it might have once been the home of a sweatshop that churned out T-shirts or other goods. It looks good in photos, but sight is not the only sense that you’ll have to contend with when you’re in an open office. There’s also a very important sense called hearing.

In case you’re not following where I’m going here, open offices can be loud. It’s not just the conversations you’ll overhear that you’ll wish you hadn’t been part of. Although that is certainly something that can be pretty annoying when you’re trying to get work done, so is the tapping of a coworker’s heels from across the a huge span of space, the deliveries being made to the open break room or kitchen, the phone calls ringing from every corner, and perhaps even the barking of a coworker’s dog – which your progressive employer has been so gracious as to allow him to bring to work.

Headphones can help – but they’ll have to be seriously noise-canceling. And that means spending a lot more money on ear coverings than you probably have ever done in your life. And guarding said headphones with your life, too.

2. You'll Have to Spend Money on Music, Too

What’s the other problem with needing to wear headphones in order to get any work done? You’ll get sick of all of your music, really fast. So, that means you’ll either have to subscribe to a music service and pay the monthly fee to avoid those annoying commercials – or spend your weekends scouring for new music at the local stores.

On the bright side, though, you may soon become a music aficionado.

3. Loud Eaters Don't Make Friends

Employers who ascribe to the open office floor plan may also be the same ones who offer free catering. It’s a perk that can save you some bucks – but it’s really meant to keep you in the workplace longer. And if it’s all a ploy to keep you busy as a bee, where are you expected to eat that food?

That’s right – your open office desk. With that comes the danger of either learning to hate the friend you once loved simply because of the loud way they eat, or flipping that scenario around and being the one other people hate simply because of the way you munch on chips. If you hate hearing other people eat, then you’re definitely not going to like the open office.

4. And Oh, the Smells!

Bringing in a hot tuna sandwich or leftover salmon was never exactly welcomed in any enclosed office environment, but now that there are no walls at all, it’s even more taboo. That’s not to say that people don’t still try it, but before you bring in that stinky lunch, prepare yourself to tarnish some relationships with your coworkers.

5. You Have to Snapchat in Secret

Back in the days when the cubicle (or, heaven forbid, a real office with walls) was in vogue, there were opportunities to mess around a little. Perhaps it was emailing that clandestine date or even trolling around on your favorite video game fan site. With the open office plan, however, that stuff is no longer.

Bosses like the open office not just for its collaborative spirit but also for the ability to watch you while you work. And underline the fact that you should be working while at work, not Snapchatting. With this type of plan, you can kiss your privacy goodbye and say hello to doing your social media business in the bathroom.

6. The Gossip Will Get You

Maybe you once were the type who avoided office gossip and stayed above the fray of office politicking. But not with the open plan! Now you’re going to be subject to every rumor, buzz, or dirty dish that comes around. Does that make you a better worker, help you get more done, or do anything else to improve your career? Nope!

7. Cold and Flu Season? Always!

Grey's Anatomy

Once upon a time, your coworkers hid their contagion behind those cubicle walls. When they sneezed, it was only the soft padded walls that absorbed the germs. But, with the open floor plan, all those germs get a chance to fly around and latch on to yet another unwilling victim.

Workers tend to report more illnesses during cold and flu season – and a longer cold and flu season – due to the open office setup.

8. Deep Thoughts? Nope!

And here now comes the main reason why employers should rethink the open office concept. Being productive at work has long been a challenge for every type of worker, but with so many additional distractions now at play, it’s becoming almost impossible. Workers who once worked in a more “traditional” cubicle or office, and who are now working in the open concept, report an inability to dig deep into complex problems or concentrate for long. There’s always someone else talking, moving, or smelling up the place.

Employers have tried to compensate for that problem by offering privacy rooms or thinking spaces, but often, they’re set up as glass-walled rooms in which people tend to feel like they’re in a fishbowl.

9. You Don't Actually Get More Done

This, my friend, is the ultimate take-home: you just won’t get as much done. When you’re distracted, it can take at least a few minutes to get back on task. If that happens over and over again throughout the workday, the result is a less productive day overall.

It’s no secret that telecommuting workers tend to get more work done since they don’t have the temptations of other workers to gossip with or the other constant interruptions that in-office workers tend to deal with. So, wouldn’t it follow that people who are in the middle of all the action all day long would actually be the least productive?

While the other reasons to hate the open office concept lean more toward the annoying side, this reason is one that can affect a company’s bottom line. If nothing else is going to convince your boss to change his thinking around open office concepts, a conversation about productivity just might.

See Also: How to Stay Productive in an Open Office Space

When all is said and done, the cubicle might have gotten a bad rap, after all. It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, but hey, at least you could hide away for a while and get real work done.

Still, no work setup – and no work situation – is ever going to be 100 percent perfect. If you’re currently working in an open office, tell us why you like it or why you don’t in the comments section below. Maybe you even have a solution to pose to your employer to help you all get more done.

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