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Open-Plan Offices

August 13th, 2016
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It's common to hate on the open-plan office as a shortsighted way for employers to save money, on paper, by packing more people in the same amount of space, but that actually ends up making employees distracted, interrupted, and miserable. Everyone hates open offices, they're a terrible fit for anyone who needs to focus on their work, and their spread is just another indication that our society is horribly broken. Except I actually like them.

At my first full-time job I had my own office. With a door! That closed! This was a 68-year-old academically influenced tech company, which believed you needed to give people private offices so they could do their best work. I hated it. I would come home each day, starved for social contact, feeling isolated and lonely. It turns out I need to be around other people during the day to be happy, and being in a room by myself just doesn't work. Since then I've worked in a series of open-plan offices, and while it can be a little harder to get heads down work done, I'm much happier.

(I think some of why I see lots of people expressing a strong preference for something I dislike is just that preferences for the status quo tend to be expressed less. But I think a bigger component is that I'm pretty much on the extreme end in terms of having a preference for other people being around. I don't need to interact with people while I'm working on things, I just want be in the same space. I've talked to lots of people who get sick of having others around, and need time alone; that's not something I've actually ever experienced.)

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