“A woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction.”
— Virginia Woolf, 1929
Coming from a family of 7 siblings, I had to wait until my 3 older sisters flew the coup before I enjoyed a room of my own. I didn’t need one to write fiction. But having one when my girlfriend visited was pretty crucial. My time having it lasted a little over a year at which time I headed off to college and found myself once again sharing a room. This experience informs my natural distaste for open office environments — supposedly the great democratizer of business relationships where the CEO — or president or whatever title the top dog has — mixes in with the plebes who make less, usually way less, by having a desk and work station out in the open with his or her many charges. This arrangement has been a boon to the office furniture industry. For most of the rest of us, it’s yet another fad that is supposed to supercharge creativity or make people more productive or help everyone feel like their part of one big happy family with no bossy parents. It does none of those things. Often, quite the opposite.
I recently posted a story about what a ridiculous waste of productivity and effort these open spaces have proven to be. This story was no surprise to me — I always knew that having a space of one’s own, a door to close, a space to think, did more for my productivity than any harvesting that might come from life in a cubicle farm or “open” work environment. What did surprise me was the popularity of the post itself — now exceeding over a 1000 views, about 2 times as many as anything I ever posted on LinkedIn. Clearly the story touched a chord with LinkedIn members. An overwhelming majority of those views were outside my contact network — many coming from regions dominated by tech based companies, a group that, along with their ad agencies, preached the egalitarian joy such work places deliver. It was an idea clearly abrogated by the difference in apparel and accessories worn in — and cars driven to — these open environments. Pretending that the top dog is just a member of the pack is nothing but a shallow pretense. There is no fool foolish enough to believe otherwise.
If businesses truly wanted to encourage a democratized workplace, they would provide everyone with a semblance of privacy, if not actual closed-off spaces. Imagine how much love and loyalty might be generated at an agency or company where everyone had a personal space, even a room with a door? Some sharp cookie will figure this out (if they haven’t already) and easily steal the talent from all those places whose open work places are just opening doors through which their employees can leave.
©2017 John Hofmeister. All rights reserved.
When I'm not writing for clients, I write about things that interest me.