Let’s Talk: Open Office Floor Plans

There’s been some discussion in the news lately  about open office floor plans. By removing walls and private offices, an open floor plan encourages collaboration and interaction amongst coworkers, something that has been known to boost overall company morale. This set up has been championed by many top tier companies, most of whom are headquartered in Silicon Valley. However, what open floor plans haven’t been successful at is increasing productivity. In fact, it’s practically killing it.

Working around other people is all well and good when you’re in a collaborative environment. For creative thinkers, being around a team of people with whom you can share ideas helps inspire innovative and impressive work. For most people though, their coworkers are nothing but a distraction.

Before giving my opinion on this subject, let me preface this statement by letting you know that I genuinely like my coworkers. They’re great people and they’ve been extremely helpful in teaching me the ins and outs of my job. No question was too dumb or too unimportant for them to help me and I really appreciate all that they’ve done for me these past few months. Nonetheless, they are a distraction.

Growing up I did a lot of my homework late at night. I shut the door to my bedroom and wrote papers on my laptop in the absolute silence that was 11:00pm – 2:00am in my house. My brother, who usually passed out to the white noise of his TV somewhere around 11:30pm, could be counted on to turn down the volume by 10:00pm when my dad went to sleep, and my mom settled in for some late night HGTV around the same time. To this day, I still get my best work done in that still, late night quiet.

The way my office is currently set up, I share a bay of cubicles with seven other people. I have walls high enough to allow for some privacy (you can only see the top of my head if I’m sitting), but there’s absolutely no sound barrier. If someone’s phone rings, we’re all eavesdropping. For someone who’s most productive in absolute silence, this type of working environment has been a huge adjustment.

Three of my coworkers wear headphones pretty routinely. They’ve invested in Spotify premium and it seems to work well for them. I, however, cannot listen to music while I work. I can’t process what I’m reading or writing while jamming to the latest Taylor Swift album and so I’m left to the mercy of the open office noise. It’s not ideal, and more than once I’ve had to stop what I’m doing and wait for someone to finish their conversation before starting my work over again.

With open office space, you’re putting your employees at the mercy of others’ working habits. Someone who routinely chews gum might drive someone else crazy, while slightly too loud music might bother a third person; you never know what will set someone off. For me, it’s not the routine typing noises that get to me, but rather hearing other people’s phone conversations. It makes it difficult for me to focus on my own work and more than once, I’ve wished for a door.

I know that I need to get used to working with and around others. An office is not forthcoming, no matter how many years I work here. This is the setup of the office and it will probably always be this way since any open office space goes to newly hired attorneys and not those of us lower down the office hierarchy. That doesn’t mean I can’t still wish for a door, though, right? I’m still allowed to hope.

So what do you think? Are you in favor of open office floor plans or do you prefer private office space like myself? Let  me know in the comments down below!


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