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An Open Letter to Proponents of Open Offices

by Jia 6 months ago in fact or fiction

(Open offices are terrible)

Dear proponents of open offices:

Give me a wall. Three walls as it were. (I’d rather have four quite

honestly. Four with a door: an office really). But clearly we cannot

all have offices. But if I do get an office, please make sure it is

four walls and not three walls and one glass window. I do not need to

see anyone for the type of administrative office work I do (or for

most types of office work for that matter). In fact, this work can be

done at home. I do not need to commute into an office (commute=huddled

in between strangers in a slow moving subway car) to then huddle next

to strangers (ie coworkers) whose faces I accidentally peer into far

too often when looking up from my work machine (ie computer screen).

Oh and to accidentally look into those faces! The horror. There’s no

escaping it. And because of this, I request: Please bring back the

Cubicle. The once detested and now horribly estranged cubicle. Who

knew that there could be something worse than those previously

eschewed three walls: no walls at all.

Everyone knows the motivation behind the horrible open office design:

Open offices foster collaboration and promote the development of

harmonious relationships among fellow coworkers. Sure, but it also

fosters my familiarity with the abominable noises coming from pod

neighbor Susan’s body while she focuses on her work a mere foot away

from me. Furthermore, it promotes my understanding of the perversely

focused face Tom makes as he concentrates on writing an email to his

boss (or apparently an email to anyone). My point being: the design

doesn’t work.

Relationships at work cannot be forced. Please stop trying. It makes

no sense. The ones who naturally want to play ping pong together in

the modern office nook will. They will find each other. Please have

faith that they will. Your insistence on placing people in close

proximity to one another is not only insufferable but also

aesthetically displeasing (yes, beige walls can be more pleasant to

the eye than the faces of fellow human beings who have managed to find

employment doing the same drudgery as yourself).

Moreover, this popular and ever present open office design favors

extroverts. As it is, as an introvert, I would take any short cut – or

rather long cut – to avoid human interaction during the workday.

Cubicle walls facilitate this. But you’ve taken away the walls. And

now I have to pretend to be very comfortable working very closely with

aggressively sociopathic people. People who type furiously and sweat

profusely while they work. People who glare at you as you type and

sweat profusely yourself as you work. And there is no room for a

reaction to the previously mentioned sociopathy. To react to a fellow

coworker’s noise, grunts, coughs, or under the breath comments is

blasphemy. We are to sit in close proximity to each other and also act

as if we cannot hear every little noise that the bodies of coworkers

are emitting throughout the day. Worse yet, not everyone needs to be

aware of my overactive bladder. My fifth walk to the bathroom before

noon even is visible to the entire office. And walks to the kitchen

are also altogether too visible. (Yes, this is my third cup of coffee

before 10 am).

So, please, let me bring in some plywood. I will create the walls that

you have taken away from me. From us. The entire workforce is now

forced into staring at each other’s faces while slugging away at

emails to Andy in IT. Or whatever the work is (most likely at one

point it involved an email to Andy in IT).

You quite literally tore down walls to bring people together, but this

plan of yours has mostly just set people more apart (but perhaps

together in communal hatred of Sara in HR’s incessant humming). So

let’s come together and build some walls. Thick sound-proof walls if

possible. To drown out and do away with the humming and bodily noises

and furious typing. And most importantly: the faces.



fact or fiction
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