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Open offices? September 18, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

The Planet Money podcast discussed the invention of the open plan office. This was meant to be a successor from cubicle style offices.

It’s odd, there’s all this talk about 1994 and that being the date of the invention of the ‘open office’. Which strikes me as curious, because in 1990 I was working with London Underground in Acton in an open plan office. And the history of same as wiki notes dates back a century or more.
The same was true with regards to a much hated international media giant I would wind up working for an arm of in that same city shortly after. Nor does the ‘paperless’ tag really resonate. Again, there was much talk of that from the 1960s onwards.

Of course such office formats are all very popular with a certain brand of conservative politician, we saw the calls for same in our own PS across the last five or ten years – and quite deliberate comparisons with call centres in some instances.

Wiki does note one further evolution in more recent times, or rather two, hotdesking and hoteling. Got to wonder. The wiki page offers no advantages to open plan offices and a raft of disadvantages.

What do others think?


1. LeftAtTheCross - September 18, 2016

My own experience, up to the point that I became a teleworker 15 years ago, was that the privacy of cubicles was more conducive to productive work. But in most workplaces it was semi open plan, those multi person pods with head night partitions. More sociable but the lack of tranquillity was quite distracting from the actual work. Having said that, it depended on how the work was organised. For multi person projects the openness, even with distraction, was a useful tool for keeping everyone’s activity aligned to the teams objectives. It’s that usual dilemma between the needs of the individual to go to the office and somewhat autonomously and the needs of the management to most efficiently harness the collective effort. But these days I work alone from home so it’s all quite alien, the workplace thing, except for onsite days, which are sort of hot desked, albeit always at the same desk.


2. Jim Monaghan - September 18, 2016

In my first state job, you could tell the rank by the office. A corner office with a full wall was the top person per floor. People promoted, who were not given a “proper” office, would have heart attacks at the insult. Those in the open plan area, far from windows were the lowest clerical stuff. Really feudal. Oh when PCs came in, the first to get them were senior people, even if they could not switch them on. All about status. Of course, various mechanism crept in to give a non pen plan buzz, plants, cabinets etc. Oh and unofficial demarcations about the status of different types of work.


3. Gewerkschaftler - September 20, 2016

I hate open plan orifices with a passion – I’m happy now to share an office with one other – it’s far more conducive to getting things done.

Being forced to eavesdrop on other people’s telephone conversations is a nightmare.


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