Several Apple employees have reportedly called 911 after running into glass walls or doors at the new Apple Park facility. Here are some relevant quotes from the calls, as reported in Ars Technica:

  • "I walked into a glass door on the first floor of Apple Park when I was trying to go outside."
  • "We had an employee, he was on campus and he walked into a glass window, hitting his head."
  • "We had an individual who ran into a glass wall pane and they hit their head. They have a small cut on their head and they are bleeding, slightly disoriented."

Considering that many Apple employees did not want to move into the gargantuan open plan office, it's hard not to see the face-planting as a metaphor for employees who are frantic to escape the open plan environment.  Like this little guy:

Seriously, though, it appears that Apple Park is a perfect example of form over function--which would make it par for the course when it comes to open plan offices in general. As I explained in a previous column, open plan offices:

  • Result in lower-quality work and more missed deadlines.
  • Increase absenteeism and average number of sick days.
  • Create a larger number of meetings that lack agendas.
  • Decrease the overall level of employee communication.
  • Spread contagious illnesses like the flu more quickly.
  • Can be so noisy that they can over time cause deafness.
  • Cause increases in stress-related chronic illnesses.
  • Make it more difficult for employees to concentrate.
  • Are a prime cause of employee disengagement/dissatisfaction.
  • Decrease employee loyalty while increasing employee turnover.

As the Journal of Environmental Psychology recently put it:

"Enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts... benefits of enhanced 'ease of interaction' were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration."

In short, open plan offices are a management fad and a productivity disaster, even inside companies like Apple. So maybe a little frantic need for escape is to be expected.

Published on: Mar 5, 2018
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