We’re about to sign a lease on a new office space for 42Floors. The architect suggested this floor plan (see below). It looks great… unless you code.
Our current office is a 3,000 sqft 2-story townhouse with an open layout. The first floor is engineering with customer service and ops on the second floor. Even though everybody tries their best to take phone calls outside and move conversations to a conference room, it’s gotten so busy around here that the flow of ”Going to WFH today so I can get shit done” emails has become almost daily — myself included.
I’ve installed a white noise machine under my desk and a lot of us wear active noise-canceling over-the-ear headphones, but it’s still hard to focus. It’s not just the noise… there’s the steady stream of office commotion happening just over the top of every monitor.
Given that context, when I saw this open layout, my gut reaction was…
So I sent this back…
I know big vistas are visually pleasing and they feel egalitarian, but my last three open-plan offices sucked. Unequivocally. No amount of white noise can tame the sounds of an active customer service and sales floor.
Furthermore, out of sight = out of mind. Not being able to see someone makes casual chats less likely — that’s a good thing for people whose peak productivity happens during multi-hour uninterrupted sessions.
Imagine how little thoughtful work the poor people who sit here are going to get done.
What I want are caves — caves for 3-4 people that you have to walk around some sort of obstacle to get to. I want to be visually walled off so that conversations happen intentionally not casually — much like our rationale for not laying out snacks at lunch (they exist but you have to go to the closet to get them).
I’m cognizant that this recommendation flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which says that open layouts lead to better organizations because communication is more free-flowing. I simply believe the benefits to productivity and happiness outweigh the costs (and I’m willing to knock down some drywall if I’m proven wrong).
Is my introvert showing? Discuss on Hacker News…
PS – Do you work in an office like this (with caves)? Does it work?