Solitude in Bedlam

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I have mentioned open offices here before, so regulars might know that I regard this trendy type of work environment as a living hell. I count myself lucky to have experienced an open office only briefly, once during my career. Should this befall me again, I now have some ideas for what to do about it, thanks to business columnist Allison Green's list of eight coping strategies:

Establish work processes that maximize your focus and don't be shy about asking your co-workers to follow them. For instance, rather than having colleagues call out to you from across the room when they want to talk, ask people to email you or set up a meeting. You'll need to be willing to redirect people to this method a few times in but after a few reminders, most people should get retrained. [bold in original]
Were I to summarize her advice in general, it would be along the lines of, "Attempt to replace the missing physical boundaries with psychological boundaries." This is not a perfect description, as Green's list shows. (See items about working from home and having some sort of personal, locked space.) Nevertheless, the alleged advantages for collaboration proponents of open offices like to tout are, in my opinion, far outweighed by the lack of concentration such an environment affords to the individuals who are supposed to bring something of their own to the table. I am glad to see a voice offering both opposition to this silly trend in the long term and actionable advice to its victims in the meantime.

-- CAV

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