The Officeless Office

In this gushing article, lauds moves from Sun, HP and Cisco to do away with cubicles and personal space in offices. By moving to an “open” office, these companies can save money on their real-estate costs and supposedly up worker productivity.

They obviously have not read this article at Wired. It covers most of my objections to this office model. While it may serve well for a few certain job types, the open office has a lot of drawbacks. Wired’s piece covers the issue quite well.

What I found interesting in’s article was the complete lack of feedback about how workers were reacting to the new office structure. It’s almost entirely filled with quotes about how much money they are saving. The only mention about how employees were reacting placed failure to adapt squarely on the shoulders of the workers. Ignoring that some personality types, who are often the most productive in an office, need personal, private space to be productive.

Encore Technical Staffing, a headhunting firm, closed its Redwood City office about three years ago to avoid a rent increase and asked its 40-or-so employees to be mobile. But some proved unproductive and were fired.

“The downside is finding people who can work independently,” said Dan Wooldridge, part owner of the company. “It’s just a matter of self-discipline, and a lot of people don’t have that.”

It’s not just a matter of self discipline. Psychology and most serious studies of workplace ergonomics bear this out. Some personality types simply need to nest and have uninterrupted time to focus and complete their projects. These types work best alone, and do not benefit from team environments.

I found the following two quotes from the article very interesting

“Over the next three to five years, he added, the company could cut 15 percent to 20 percent from its real estate costs.”

Nonetheless, if the trend catches on — as many workplace specialists predict it will — it could be bad news for Bay Area landlords. They already are struggling to fill their buildings, which are 20 percent empty on average.

Now, while I am not a CEO, it seems to stand to reason, that instead of disrupting your office environment, and firing workers that cannot adapt, you could instead simply find better deals on expansion locations due to the real-estate market sucking wind. Bay area real estate prices are fucking ridiculous, there can be no doubt, but they are finally starting to go down, years after the mass exodus after the tech bubble burst. I’m sure these large companies could save a lot of money by taking advantage of this fact.