For all the positive lip service (collaboration! efficiency!) paid to the open office setup, the hidden truth is that it's really not the best, most efficient way to set up an office. That, at least, is according to copywriter Lindsay Kaufman, who describes the open office movement as feeling "like my boss had ripped off my clothes and left me standing in my skivvies."
Now it's one thing to have negative feelings about open office space scenarios but that would be yet another pointless, opinionated rant. No, Kaufman has facts! Figures! Data! She cites a 2013 Journal of Environmental Psychology study and writes: "Many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance. Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy. Meanwhile, “ease of interaction” with colleagues -- the problem that open offices profess to fix -- was cited as a problem by fewer than 10 percent of workers in any type of office setting. In fact, those with private offices were least likely to identify their ability to communicate with colleagues as an issue. In a previous study, researchers concluded that “the loss of productivity due to noise distraction … was doubled in open-plan offices compared to private offices.”
It really doesn't take a study to prove the fact that when you throw a bunch of people in a room together and ask them to concentrate on getting individual, albeit, related, work projects done, it will turn into an unproductive gabfest. Just look at the disaster that occurred in 1970's classrooms when they tore the walls down. No, open office concepts might look cool and yield lower person per square foot cost -- and super awesome SuperDesks -- but they're hardly a means for a person to put their head down and get any actual work done. According to the study, of course.
If that weren't enough to convince you to put the walls back up, consider Kaufman's daily grind -- which she describes, saying: "Each day, my associates and I are seated at a table staring at each other, having an ongoing 12-person conversation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s like being in middle school with a bunch of adults." Oh, now it all makes sense! So that's why most ad agency types act like spoiled children fighting in a sandbox during recess.