Offices are evolving

Open offices aren’t for everyone. Apple has been the most recent company to have problems with this kind of office configuration: “According to John Gruber, an Apple podcaster and blogger, it has everything to do with the lack of privacy integrated into the open floor plan.”

How do people feel about open offices?

Why Your Open Office Workspace Doesn’t Work  (Forbes)

Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace.  (Washington Post)

Why open office are bad for us  (BBC)

9 Reasons That Open-Space Offices Are Insanely Stupid  (Fast Company)

The 10 Worst Things About Working In An Open-Office–In Your Words  (Fast Company)

What are the pros and cons of the open office?

Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of an Open-Office Floor Plan  (Culture IQ)

What are the pros and cons of an open-office floorplan?  (Fortune via Quora)

Pros and Cons Of An Open Office  (creator)

What are the origins of the open office environment? 

The pleasures and perils of the open-plan office” article by the BBC is a good place to start. This Scientific American piece is a good follow-up: “The Origin of Cubicles and the Open-Plan Office“.

“In the early 20th century modernist architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright saw walls and rooms as downright fascist. The spaciousness and flexibility of an open plan, they thought, would liberate homeowners and office dwellers from the confines of boxes. But companies took up their idea less out of a democratic ideology than a desire to pack in as many workers as they could. The typical open-plan office of the first half of the 20th century contained long rows of desks occupied by clerks in a white-collar assembly line.”

— George Musser, “The Origin of Cubicles and the Open-Plan Office”, August 17, 2009, Scientific American

The problem that most people to seem to have with open offices is noise. It affects our levels of concentration and the extent to which people are engaged in the office. I find flexible workspaces to be a big improvement on completely open office environments because it gives people options for the types of space that they would like to inhabit.

What is the future of office design?

Gensler and HOK are both good places to take a look.

Here are key words or considerations that I have been seeing:  activity-based, employee engagement, acoustics, lighting, data-informed design, transformative space, the nature of a headquarters, catalyst and accelerant, and freedom.

I believe that additional clues for the future of workplaces can be found in our relationship with technology. The more mobile and flexible our computing devices become, the more it affects how we relate to each other and our environment. As people become more mobile, old or existing power structures dissolve, and new relationships are made.

How people choose to relate to one another will inform how our work environment will evolve over time.

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