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Office Space: TV Documentary Looks At the Dreadful Open Office 314

Posted by timothy
from the get-to-your-cube-peasant dept.
sandbagger writes "The CBC (it's like PBS only without the begging) is broadcasting a documentary about the open plan office this evening. You can hear a radio interview about the documentary here. In this documentary, the history of the open office is looked at, how it has evolved, and how the justifications for it being best for everyone else are used by those with offices. Advocates say fewer doors and walls means more collaboration. Critics say it's all driven by bottom line economics--crowding more people into smaller spaces saves money. Is it just me or do the people who want you to work in open offices sound like the nobility in Downton Abbey?"
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Office Space: TV Documentary Looks At the Dreadful Open Office

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  • Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:17AM (#46046725)

    After reading the headline I seriously expected to see a documentary about Apache OpenOffice. That would've been a justified rant!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:19AM (#46046755)

    Decent headphones make open plan offices bearable.

    I wonder if it's an extrovert/introvert thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:19AM (#46046763)

    Forcing someone to work in the same space as someone else is psychologically stressful no matter how fine you are with it.

  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:21AM (#46046791) Journal

    >And for what it's worth, in the last few places I've worked, the multimillionaire bosses have always sat right in the middle of the open plan with everybody else

    I bet they didn't write much code.

  • by Admodieus (918728) <.john. .at. .misczak.net.> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:23AM (#46046835)
    The problem with open office floor plans is that every other office accommodation is also affected, but in a negative way - at least at the companies I've seen or worked in. Conference rooms are downsized as well and are given uncomfortable chairs (such as bar tools). Quiet places or "phone booths" are moved to reservation systems. Kitchens, cafes, and cafeterias are no longer respites from work, but just another area to hold meetings. Any office implementing an open floor plan should also set aside traditional offices, cubicles, or booths that can be rented out, ad-hoc, when a serious conference call or task comes up that requires undivided attention. Moreover, these workspaces should be equipped with all of the necessary amenities (laptop dock, second monitor, etc.) so that workers can truly come and go at a whim. Having to pack up my desk and wander the halls for half an hour just so I can hear myself think over the lady having the daily conversation with her college-aged daughter or the guy slurping his coffee is not productive at all.
  • Hearing loss (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jordanjay29 (1298951) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:26AM (#46046859)
    I'm someone with a hearing loss (mildly hard of hearing, good enough for one-on-one conversation, adequate in group situations, bad in loud environments) and open office plans drive me crazy. My brain spends half the time trying to catch what people are saying, even as I'm consciously trying to block it out, and then I can't hear when someone actually needs to get my attention.

    It's worse when the folks who are used to talking at a low volume, to their computer screens, and can still be heard by the other person then have to talk to me, and can't figure out why I can't understand what they're saying. If they had to physically get up and walk over to me, instead of just talking across the open office, it would be far easier to work with.
  • by amiga3D (567632) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:29AM (#46046891)

    You know, if a boss has to peek at desks or screens to know if people are productive they've got a real problem. I can tell if people are productive by what gets accomplished. If someone is working his ass off and just spinning his wheels getting nothing real done then he might just as well be fucking off. Bosses like that are incompetent little martinets.

  • by BonThomme (239873) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:33AM (#46046943) Homepage

    perhaps I can interpret. you don't actually do any work. that's why you get sleepy when left alone. in the open plan, you keep yourself awake by bothering everyone who does do work.

  • by CubicleZombie (2590497) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:43AM (#46047065)

    Any PHB who puts developers in an open plan has no clue what we do. Which they don't. Obviously. My last job put the developers AND phone tech support in the same room.

    My current gig is so cheap that it's an open floating plan where nobody even has their own chair and we telecommute half the time. So half the time I'm in a noisy office with a shitty laptop PC and no personal space, and the other half I'm at home listening to a screaming baby from the next room.

    I'm amazed at how much money they'll pay us in salary and then cheap out on little things that kill productivity.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:55AM (#46047211)

    Open offices encourages collaboration but discourages deep thinking. This has been my experience and there are studies that back this up.

    In other words it sucks for things that require sustained concentration, like programming and engineering. If you're supposedly in one of those fields, and you don't need to concentrate, then you're probably doing no more than glorified clerical work.

    Yes, it's useful to informally hear about other things going on in the project, but continual eavesdropping (which also destroys concentration) isn't necessary. I find that the proverbial water cooler works fine. Even at times in the past when I had an office, they were kind enough not to lock me in during business hours. I could walk around to talk to other people (without disturbing everyone in the place), and could even go to the restroom without permission.

  • by operagost (62405) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:02PM (#46047321) Homepage Journal
    I'm a music lover, but I still don't want to listen to music through headphones while I'm working. And if you have to wear headphones to drown out the noise of your working environment, it means the working environment is faulty.
  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:16PM (#46047463) Homepage Journal

    Music? No problem... most of us here in our offices like music.

    But do you like all music?

    Because, see, I've got this Anal Cunt* CD I've been wanting to bring in....

    *Yes, it's a real band, and yes, they are absolutely terrible.

  • by pepty (1976012) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:16PM (#46047469)

    Open offices encourages collaboration but discourages deep thinking. This has been my experience and there are studies that back this up.

    In other words it sucks for things that require sustained concentration, .

    Absolutely. If anything it's management that should be in the open plan environment: their jobs are the definition of continual multitasking, small interruptions, and needing to keep tabs on everything going on.

  • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:58PM (#46047939)

    Fair enough!

    The only reasons the managers in my company have private offices are: to simplify the process of confidential meetings; to allow conference calls to be conducted on speaker with another member of the project team present; additional work surfaces and storage; and because they were built before we moved in.

    Better (more modern) office layouts with lots of teaming rooms (6x6' conference rooms), adequate medium and large conference rooms, and work surfaces and storage matched to job functions dramatically reduce the need for a private office. If you shrink the offices to 8x6 and get rid of the windows then most managers would prefer the cubes.

    For me, the biggest impact is a cube would make it harder for me to ride my bike to work, as I keep all my work clothing and toiletries in the office. The savings to the company would be about $2,000/year per office eliminated.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:00PM (#46048481)

    Decent headphones make open plan offices bearable.

    Unless you hate wearing headphones and find music/talk distracting. Personally having to wear headphones all day would drive me insane in short order. I like a relatively quiet office with minimal visual or auditory distractions when I'm trying to get serious work done.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:13PM (#46048679) Homepage Journal

    Precisely - they do not respect his time outside of work, care that his job requires concentration, or that he may be an introvert or blessed with ADD.

    Open plan offices work well for people who have jobs that require collaboration and not individual concentration. These jobs tend to be favored by extroverts who tend to occupy management positions because humans tend to favor the illusion of strong leaders.

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