No Joy In Open Floor Plans


Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

Proverbs 16:3

In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain points out the case against open floor plans. After sorting through lots of research (sited on page 295), she indicates the following disadvantages:

  • High staff turnover
  • Impairment of memory
  • Reduction in productivity
  • Making people sick, hostile, unmotivated and insecure.

Now I am not going to give away all the disadvantages revealed, you will just have to read the book to find out.

Not Creative

Open floor plans are not mentally or physically healthy for employees.  Creativity gets stifled because no one has a quiet place to go and work out their ideas – other than the bathroom stall. There are times where you just need peace and quiet to resolve a customer’s problem.

Plus there is one other “minor” issue –

The Federal PRIVACY Laws

None of my co-workers had the need to know the details of my conversation with a customer, other than my manager or the compliance people who periodically monitored calls for quality assurance purposes.

An open floor plan increases the risk of 3rd party information being over-heard by someone who does not need to know.  

If I am sitting in a bank and there are two desks side by side with no walls, the financial counselor and their customer at the other desk can easily hear the conversation I am having with my counselor. 

So before you decide to tear down the walls or not even build any – consider the business you are in and the type of information discussed either in person or on the phone.  You would not want anyone to hear what is going on in your life whether it pertains to career, finances or relationships so what makes your customers want snippets of their life overheard by other people?

Colds & Flu

If you think a cold spreads fast in a cubicle nation, just wait until the cubicle walls come tumbling down or never get erected.

Sneezes can travel up to 100 mph and wet spray can radiate 5 feet.

http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/sneeze.html  WordPress would not allow me to link it to the above sentence.)

Now imagine someone suddenly sneezing in an open floor plan.  We’ve all been there, suddenly caught off guard by a sneeze and no time to reach for the Kleenex or cover your nose and mouth. 

While walls will not stop the spread of germs, at least they can slow the spread down.

Cheaper but…

It might be cheaper to not erect walls but don’t be surprised if the money you save is spent on sick time.