Open Offices: Hotbeds of Collaboration or Breeding Grounds of Resentment?

Open Offices: Hotbeds of Collaboration or Breeding Grounds of Resentment?

There’s been a lot of controversy recently, regarding the trend of open-space offices.

In an effort to cut down on emails, increase face-to-face engagements, and open up the lines of communication between employees, many companies have traded their cubicles and doors for an open floor plan. Formerly a practice favored by tech start-ups and ad agencies, the International Management Facility Association estimates that now 70% of workplaces have embraced the open-concept office.

But does this actually foster creativity and collaboration?

For instance, today I’m sitting at my desk in the open office portion of our agency. Amongst me are 8 programmers yelling back and forth about a site launch that doesn’t seem ready to go live.

Further, like a sunburn on my neck, I can feel the glare from the content manager across the room who keeps looking over at my screen to see if I’m working on tomorrow’s project. And I made the mistake of making guacamole for lunch so two other co-workers keep pigeoning over my desk to steal a quick chip and dip.

This open-office space may seem like a deterrent to some. A new study, called the Coding War Games, followed more than 600 employees at 92 computer programming firms and discovered a massive performance gap. Privacy, personal workspace, and freedom from interruption were directly correlated to higher performing programmers.

But as an Art Director, I’m perpetually seeking inspiration. And some days, it comes in the form of a joke that my neighbor just cracked, or a video that my colleague came over to my desk to show me.

It’s sometimes easier to have someone walk into my open space and stand over my computer to give me edits or share ideas. There is truly some collaboration that happens at my desk because it’s out on the floor, and people feel more comfortable and relaxed coming into my space to ideate.

What do you think? Do you work in a more traditional office setting with walls and doors and cubicles and offices? Or are you in a big room with all your co-workers, silently wishing the woman from Accounting had a mute button, and the guy in the next desk had time for a shower after his lunch trip to the gym?

Share your thoughts on open offices with us.

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Gillian Lynch