We've known this for 50 years: open-plan offices do nothing good for companies except reduce rent costs, but they do a whole lot of bad. They are not "fun;" they are not "collaborative;" they are not "start-uppy." They just suck:
Over the decades, a lot of really stupid management fads have come and gone, including:
- Six Sigma, where employees wear different colored belts (like in karate) to show they've been trained in the methodology.
- Stack Ranking, where employees are encouraged to rat each other out in order to secure their own advancement and budget.
- Consensus Management, where all decisions must pass through multiple committees before being implemented.
It need hardly be said that these fads were and are (at best) a waste of time and (at worst) a set of expensive distractions. But open plan offices are worse. Much worse. Why? Because they decrease rather than increase employee collaboration.
Previous studies of open plan offices have shown that they make people less productive, but most of those studies gave lip service to the notion that open plan offices would increase collaboration, thereby offsetting the damage.
The Harvard study, by contrast, undercuts the entire premise that justifies the fad. And that leaves companies with only one justification for moving to an open plan office: less floor space, and therefore a lower rent.
As an introvert in a field that requires concentration, minimal distractions, and time to reflect and think about what I'm doing—not to mention, a field predominantly comprising introverts—it's even worse.
I wish I had at least a cubicle.