It was really only a few years ago open floor plan offices were sold to us as being The Future Of Work Efficiency. Break down those walls and join us in our airy revolution, where all are free to cohabitate in harmony. This commune will promote camaraderie and efficiency, they told us.
People gripe a lot about open floor plan offices, but the truth is, open floor plan offices are fantastic. You see, no one ever wants to work in one, so they leave me to work at an unoccupied desk that can easily accommodate fifteen people on each side. It’s like sleeping in an extra king sized bed.
Oh sure, people come in and mill around for a few hours in the morning, getting their coffee and eating their cereal at their desks, dribbling milk down their chin and chomping over and over again. And that’s quite entertaining and not distracting at all. Sadly, this only lasts for the morning before people disperse go get work done in more closed spaces or go to meetings that for some reason always take place in rooms with four walls. That’s not very transparent.
But thankfully, the spirit of the open floor plan continues even in their absence. The spirit of camaraderie, and cultural exchange is alive and well even in those moments when a lot of people are at meetings, because someone will always be generous enough to share their playlist on the office speakers.There is no better part of my day spent watching people to crank up the in-office speakers, filling the office with music that is hilariously bad at best or questionable at worst before they leave to work somewhere else.
Once, someone played pro-America country music because they thought it was funny and kept shouting "'Merica," during the first song to anyone within ear shot. Another time, someone added Akinyele’s “Put it in your mouth,” to a playlist that consisted of nothing else but Kanye. To give you an indication of the true spirit of camaraderie I am talking about, I once put on a song by Devo and someone came over and turned it off halfway through. I guess because it wasn’t about blowjobs, or Kanye rhyming about how great he is.
What I’ve noticed about music in open office floor plans is this: the people with the worst taste in music continually hog the speakers. And yet they make no effort with it. Their playlists are usually ten songs long. Have you ever listened to the same 40 minutes worth of music 13 times in one nine hour day? Did you know that if you play Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song “Home,” that many times in one day you are completely able to be brainwashed because you are fully open to any and all suggestions? Do you know what happens to your frontal lobe when you hear Kanye say “this is a God Dream,” for the one thousandth time before you’ve even hit five pm? Thankfully no one ever sits in open office plans, so when I go full postal they’ll have nothing to worry about. I’ll most likely end up shooting the speakers and then working in silence.
Before you ask, I am tired of wearing noise-cancelling headphones at work. Because when you wear headphones and get fully immersed in your own music and your own work is the exact same moment someone will sneak up and scare the bejeezus out of you by tapping you on the back with something obvious or inane to say.
Example of the former: “I just wanted to tell you that I just sent you a meeting request for Friday. It should be in your inbox.”
Example of the latter: “Hey it’s Julie in Business Affairs birthday, could you sign this card?”
Never mind the fact offices with open floor plans are generally the size of small cities and the chances I know Julie are slim to none because I don’t even know the people who are supposed to sit next to me since they’re never there let alone anyone in business affairs. What really bugs me about the interruption is it always happens when I’m actually in the thick of work that I get interrupted and never at any other time of day.
It's the same thing as being in a restaurant, taking a giant bite of salad, only to have the server appear asking how everything is, and then you have to choose between talking with your mouth full or giving the thumbs up like you’re the village idiot.
Speaking of food, lunches are generally scarfed at the open floor plan tables, too. No one ever has time to go out to eat, so they’ll bring their homemade or take out food to their computers where they will sit and watch Youtube videos or catch up on their Netflix because everyone is so busy working they have to eat at their desks. And of course they wear headphones because they don’t want to hear the playlists either. The only thing better than watching someone eat cereal at their desk is watching someone eat a salad or cheese quesadilla or pizza at their desk.
Once lunch is over, everyone leaves because why would you work at a desk with no walls where you can’t even hang up photos of your significant other and instead settle for putting copies of the photo on your laptop until they get so creased you have to replace them and why wouldn’t you want to concept with your partner in a space that doesn’t sound like a wind tunnel sponsored by Edward Sharpe or Kanye and most importantly, how can you discuss the drama going down at the agency when people might be there?
By the way, have you very seen people discuss agency drama whilst sitting at an open floor plan? It’s hilarious. It makes me wish I could read lips or that I could turn the speakers down. Because there’s this thing you notice about people in open floor plans and that is their body language, and you know for sure something is going down.
If they are sitting hunched together like two people who decided to take a crap whilst facing each other, than you know some shit’s going down. If they are sitting up straight but look shell shocked, you know something is going down. If you absolutely are one hundred percent sure something is going down, but your bosses are laughing loudly to pretend nothing is going down then you have just confirmed everything is going down.
Open floor plans don’t lie because there is nowhere to hide. They promise transparency and it’s there in abundance if you know how to look. I highly recommend them.
Also: screw open floor plans. I hate them.