While open offices have their benefits over cubicles and closed office spaces, there are things about open office spaces that simply irritate the hell out of introverts.
In open workspaces, you don’t have divisions or blocks between desks. So you can see the person sitting opposite to you and the back of the person behind that person and so on. These spaces save on furniture, eliminate the feeling of isolation, bring in more light, and in my opinion — make you want to smack the people around you.
A few years back, I used to work at a company with an open office workspace. There was a developer who used to puff his cheeks for minutes on the go, just staring at the screen. He used to review code before deployment. And, he used to sit diagonally on my right in the next row of seating in my line of vision. I owe noticing his habit of puffing cheeks to open office spaces.
While writing this, I am also reminded of the strategic spots people chose to pick. Like someone higher up the org would not choose a spot that exposes their laptop screen to others. Instead, theirs would be a place that has a window or a wall behind them with no room for passage.
On the employee behavior front, the lack of personal space in open office setup made some people use their cell phones keeping them close to their chests. They wouldn’t want others to peep upon chats private to them. The other trick people used to deploy on laptops was to reduce the brightness of the screen. Say, while checking bank account balance or browsing through social media.
At a personal level, I don’t prefer open workspaces for very specific reasons. Here they are:
- When you’re contemplating or lost in thought all you see around are faces. There comes a time when you just don’t want to look at other people and their faces. However beautiful or ugly they might be.
- You can’t have a much needed heated argument with a colleague sans the explanation it warrants to the people around you.
- For similar reason as the above, you become part of conversations you don’t want to be part of. Like when two people close to you are discussing current affairs and look at you for your unworthy two cents on the topic.
- Someone in ‘the zone’ with earphones plugged in completely misses her ringing phone, disturbing others.
- The person next to you listening to music unknowingly starts humming. You point it to them and it ends with awkward smiles.
- Peeping toms – Open offices compromise privacy to the extent that it is not only about your mac’s 13-inch screen but also you texting on the phone that requires special skills.
- You’re lost in thought while staring in the nothingness of the reflection in the side glass. Suddenly, someone walks past the slide glass looking at you and you unwillingly acknowledge. Not just this, but a hundred other things that you would like to avoid but can’t thanks to open office spaces.
At the moment, I am liking the cubicles that allow me to focus by minimizing distractions. But who knows some time in the future I might write about how depressing it can get to sit and work surrounded by 52” divisions.
Let’s see if that happens.