Open plan offices – flexible working solutions or pure hell?


It seems to be the way of the future. In the past few years, five of the government agencies I work with have moved to open plan solutions.

The biggest one probably has about 400 people on a single floor. No cubicles, no assigned desks, no assigned lockers. Each evening you put everything from your desk (well it is actually a table – no drawers) into any free locker and every morning you take everything out and sit at an available desk. The morning rush to get to the tables near the windows has to be seen to be believed!

They tend to range from too noisy to too quiet. Management (who usually do not work in the open plan office themselves) tend to like them due to the vast financial savings because many people work from home or in the field and were never at their desks anyway. Staff (particularly those with autism spectrum disorders, concentration difficulties, allergies or hearing aids) tend to find it quite stressful but many others don’t seem to mind. My guess is that most people would still prefer to have their own office.

I am not sure I could work like that, though many people would say my situation is worse because I work in other peoples’ workplaces. My office is my handbag, my meeting room is their sofa, for example.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. This new interpretation of an open floor layout seems to me like a total dismissal of the employees’ identities. Is it a new style of management I see in the the last decade? “Squeeze out the most you can of an employee at the least possible cost, and when we’re done we’ll have a lot of availabe people willing to take the vacant post”.

    I’ll ask myself the same question I always do: when will the mentality that the Manager is someone more important (a god really) than the rest of the employess, seize to exist?

    Why are they deemed worthy of keeping a private space and the rest is not?

  2. OMG l could never work like that! I would get too much stress from the noise, lack of privacy and lack of space.

    I am lucky to work in large and open places at university where, when l’m not in the amphitheater l am in my own roomy office.
    The only moment l am on a very small room is when l am interpreting. In that case we are two translators sitting in a tiny translating booth. Fortunately it only happens two or three days a week unless there is a major international event!

    But office plan offices? No, thank you!!!

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