Is Open Office Setup A Fail? My View & Discussions

I recently wrote a Facebook post sharing a sentiment that open office setup / modern work stations is a fail.  At Pricebaba we have always had an open setup and I always considered it to be a good thing in the initial days. However as the team grew we started seeing occasional complaints of ‘too much noise’ but the underlining problem escaped my mind because most of us were on desktops. As we grew and moved to a larger space with most people shifting to laptops overtime, we realised that this setup is a big problem! Many people (including me) started to escape into meeting rooms with their laptops. One of our advisors even commented that finding a closed room / section for developers will up their productivity by 50% or more.

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Here is what my post read:

I am leaning towards agreeing 100% with this.

“The open office plan is a tyrant of interruption, a deep loss of privacy, and the death of productivity.”

The above quote is from a post by Yan on Quartz. He covers the Open Office topic and that sparked my search for more comments from friends about what they feel. Here are a few responses to this.

Hamad Jowher: A major challenge that we’re seeing is lot of disturbance resulting in low productivity.. but an advantage is we have reduced the no. of meetings we do.. decisions are being taken on the go.

Rohan Dighe: Have more conference rooms! Low chatter on the floor. Noise Cancellation Headphones?

Deep Ganatra: I have same setup. Loved earlier but started hating now. Going to get a cabin for myself soon. In open office, people just keep coming and stand near you to ask things. You just don’t get time for yourself. With cabin, I used to ask people to ping me before entering.

Kranti Agarwal: I agree. Too much of distraction all around all the time. Focus is lost. I have to sit at terrace or some empty meeting room (hard to find empty) most of the times to cut through distraction. Top of it if you have to attend phone calls (official) it’s just impossible in this open arrangement.

My followup comment in the thread: Privacy does matter. A lot of time I have to take my laptop and head over to meeting room when replying to some emails or working on certain proposals. Also privacy more in context of people looking over your shoulders and commenting on something you are doing or start a conversation around it. Even if it is not private it does break the flow. Or someone coming to talk to the person next to you. So focussing / working uninterrupted becomes difficult.

I have previously written about setting up and growing office space. One of the idea I shared there was using IMs over personal conversation and not breaking the concentration of someone sitting next to you. But that discipline is hard to maintain and increasingly I am starting to respect the physical boundaries created by walls and doors.

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