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I got to thinking about the atrocity that is the open office plan, and it led me to tweet this.
After this is over can we go back to offices instead of open office plans? I don’t want to sit in a petri dish. I want a fucking office with doors to keep the germs out, thanks
— Kidsleepy (@kidsleepys) April 7, 2020
I've actually been working from home since the first week of March, for various reasons. What it's made me appreciate is just how much I miss having an office with a door. There are several reasons for this.
1. In addition to being petri dishes, open office plans never afford you a moment of peace. It's as if because someone can see you all the time, they feel no obligation to leave you alone. Not when you are eating, or when you have headphones on, or when you are typing or art directing. There is never a "Are you busy?" It's always "Sorry not sorry. I will not even wait for you to finish whatever it was you were doing because clearly it isn't as important as what I have to tell you.
2. Open office plans were designed around a lie called collaboration. I don't mean to hurt the feelings of the Stanford grads with a whopping thirteen months in the business, but your low six figure salary doesn't give your opinion any more weight than it does your inflated title.
In addition, collaboration does not give anyone and everyone license to change the idea just because their culture permits it. The world in general needs less instances of design by committee, not more. I have yet to see a great idea keep its shape with the addition of more greasy hands massaging it. The opposite always happens, and in the spirit of collaboration, we are supposed to keep our mouth's shut instead of fighting to keep the essence of the idea. The hell with that.
3. Offices exist for a reason: To shut out the noise, shut out the people who want to have endless meetings which could have easily been sorted in an email, and shut out the barking dogs, epic music battles, basketball courts, PlayStation 4's and any other distraction that arises when you don't have four walls and a door.
I feel bad for anyone with Asperger's who has the misfortune to work in such a shitty environment. One of the greatest writers I ever knew had Asperger's. We worked in a place that still had offices. I would go into his, or book a closed off conference room, and he would riff headline after amazing headline. If he had to work in this kind of open office environment, it would have been hell on Earth.
4. There is a satisfaction in writing an idea n a piece of paper and hanging it up where you can see it. Not in a "war room," accessible to the public like it's an interactive museum, but a proper fortress of solitude where you can determine whether or not the idea is fully formed as you see it. I can't speak for the rest of you, but I do not want my creative teams bringing me half-baked ideas. I want them to have the time they need to work on them,. And the space, as well.
5. If open floor plans are so great, how come it is that in every agency I've ever worked for, the head honchos all have offices? Even if they don't have doors, they have enclosures of some sorts. One of my ECDs used a giant piece of bristol board left over from the 90's as his "door." You could still see him between the cracks, but the message was clear. When the bristol board goes up, the room is shut.
So too with all glass offices. It's nice I can see you in there like a goldfish in an aquarium. But one understands if four important people are sitting in a room with the glass door closed, then one doesn't go in to disturb them unless it's a life or death situation. See: point number one.
If the CCO, President, Head of Accounts and Planning don't abide by the rules then it shows that this whole spirit of collaboration thing is b.s.
6. Another reason some higher ups want open office plans is that they don't trust you to get your work done unless you are always within eyesight and earshot. These are the "If you aren't here on Sunday, don't bother coming in on Monday," types. Sadists who enjoy the thought of you chained to your desk. I'm sure it's driving them up the wall right now that people are at home, enjoying freedom they surely don't deserve. And there's no way they could possibly be productive.
7. The support of open office plans shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how people like to work. Yes there are moments when we come together and brainstorm. But then the rest of the time, after you share ideas, you go in your corner, buckle down, and work on your craft. This is true for all disciplines, from developer to planner to art director to designer and beyond.
What's more, no one works in a linear pattern. Okay maybe the developers do more than others, but beyond them, no one else does. You take breaks. Fall down rabbit holes. Get your attention diverted purposefully. Let the ideas do laps in the back of your head until they swim back to the front again. A lot of this looks like non-work, but of course it's vital. None of us needs side-eye from a person making seven figures whose name goes on our work whether they had anything to do with it or not.
We've got a window of opportunity here to show people that life is better with walls. So if you are still employed, prove that you're more productive now. I can guarantee you a bunch of LinkedIn influencers are salivating to share all the data. If we tip it in our scales, we just might be able to burn down the open floor plan offices once and for all.