Why I'm Not A Big Fan of the Open Office Plan

I'll be honest. It sucks. 

When I was the Creative Director at my last post, we moved to a new building. It was a big deal. After 30+ years in downtown Charleston, SC, we moved to a really cool area up Charleston's peninsula. 

Not my former office space.*

Not my former office space.*

The office was an old 1960s office building, several stories high with polished concrete floors. A blank canvas. And then it happened. Someone mentioned having an open office plan. Sounded like a good idea. We had a good group of folks. They still do.

However, after a few months, I could tell it wasn't quite working. 

Now, I'm not against collaboration, but I feel everyone needs their space to work on their discipline and do their jobs. And while a random idea has been known to start a brand revolution, they are rare and even further between. Plus, not everyone is schooled in the discipline of creating campaigns that have the legs to run for a year or two. 

As stated recently by an article in the Harvard Business Review, the open floor actually did the opposite of what it was heralded to do.

Funny how that works out. 

Instead of fostering an open idea forum where people freely shared ideas, it made people more dependent on private messaging and email. Sure, you can say, "well, work from home." While you can, it's not conducive to face-to-face interaction, not unless you want your living room table to double as your boardroom during the day. 

Within the right environment, I'm sure the open space works. Libraries do it. Of course, they also make sure it's kept quiet. Hard to do in an office where you have different people from different departments with different personalities doing different things. 

So, if you're thinking about doing an open office just to save money, think again. It's better to pay for the extra floor space than it is to waste time engaging and re-engaging on projects. Especially when we're billing by the hour.