(Image from The Independent)As Ana said,
I find the interior space of the new Facebook office neither aesthetically appealing nor engaging for working or collaborating. It just looks cluttered, messy and noisy. The fact that no one is given any storage space nor are they encouraged to have personal items on their desk seem to only make it more disheartening and cluttered. The overly high, unfinished ceilings with cables descending down are even worse!More to the point,
...I don’t believe that this much openness is genuinely conducive to non-distracted working and thinking. I believe it leads people to seek out other places to work, or they choose to come into work either early or stay late in an attempt to avoid distrations. I think the myth of multi-tacking needs to stop. It makes people sloppy and tired. We can multi-task for a little while but, in the end, I don’t think its effective, efficient or healthy. I don’t think we, as idea workers, can come up with our best ideas when we are constantly distracted by co-workers, bleeps, or other disturbances. Yes, its nice to have a way to bounce ideas off other people, but we need to find a better way to do it other than forcing people to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with headphones on while they madly type into their laptops and mobile devices. That’s not really collaborating, is it?I’ve read elsewhere that there’s a generation gap in how employees perceive open workspaces. Older employees are horrified, while younger ones enjoy the camaraderie. Perhaps so. I’ve always found working in a noisy environment to be difficult, and listening to music through headphones doesn’t really help the problem. I’ve been very lucky at my organization: some years prior to my arrival, younger employees shared offices, and today younger employees are again sharing offices. When I started, we had enough space that the professional staff all had individual offices - mine was an interior private office, on a corner, with hand-me-down furniture that consisted of the leftovers after the more senior staff had picked through everything they wanted, but the key word in that was “private.” I’m now in a much nicer office, albeit next to a conference room, and the difference in my ability to concentrate between when the conference room is and is not occupied is profound. Still, I can’t complain: it’s a private office. I can stare at the screen when writing is not coming easily. I can pace around the office. I can stretch, or stare out the window, or yawn, with no sense of embarrassment. When I need to talk to someone, I can walk to another office, use the phone, or make arrangements for a meeting room. I’ve never found that collaboration is difficult. Indeed, after a few hours of solitude, it’s nice to occasionally talk to another human.
We’re supposed to believe that the open space is fine because the CEO uses it as well - the original article notes that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg just have desks in the open space. But a guy like Zuckerberg likely isn’t around much - he travels to visit parts of his empire, and I’m willing to be that, when it comes to booking the meeting rooms, all employees are equal, but Sheryl Sandberg is more equal than others.
Of course, whether this system works or not depends on a whole range of factors, from the type of employees to the nature of the work. And no doubt it’s a lot cheaper than having private offices. But, like Ana, I hope this fad fades away sooner rather than later.