Are open floor office plans good for business?

Apparently, when Mark Zuckerberg asked esteemed architect, Frank Gehry, to design Facebook’s new offices, he wanted the world’s largest open floor plan. That’s a 400,000 square foot warehouse type space housing 2,800 engineers. It’s cool, but it may not work for the people who have to work in them.

Collaboration is supposed to be enhanced by open floor plans and they are supposed to make workers creative. But, there is a tide of pushback that says, nope, I don’t like working in this giant vacuum. 

These types of spaces are, often felt to be impersonal, and the lack of privacy is not welcome by anyone. Not everyone likes to be sitting in full view of the rest of the world as they work. Especially, geezers who tend to be less casual then millenials, who like to work in places that look like park play areas.

“Though multitasking millennials seem to be more open to distraction as a workplace norm, the wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of underperformance in their generation: they enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run.”

In a New Yorker story, the author goes as for as to call an open office “devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell.” 

And, it is quite clear that cubicle life deserves the enmity that it gets from everyone but corporate HR departments. According to research in the Harvard Business Review, as almost everywhere else, it is the lack of privacy that is damaging productivity.

It seems that the best approach is not to give everyone a corner office, but to try and figure out ways of providing privacy, or spaces where workers can go to find privacy, to enable creativity, and even better collaboration.