Regardless of how you view the politics of billionaire CEO Mike Bloomberg, he just tweeted an idea so woefully stupid that it's almost unbelievable--converting the a huge chunk of the White House into an open plan office. Here's the text of his tweet:
"As president, I'll turn the East Room into an open office plan, where I'll sit with our team. I'll use the Oval Office for some official functions -- never for tweeting -- but the rest of the time, I'll be where a leader should be: with the team."
This idea is abysmally stupid because open plan offices, as I've repeatedly pointed out, are a management fad that's failed badly. But don't just believe me, believe the numerous psychological and neuroscientific studies. Here's the effect that an open plan office has on a workforce:
- A whopping 70 percent reduction in collaboration. A study at Harvard University showed that the introduction of an open-plan environment in two Fortune 500 companies reduced face-to-face interaction by 70 percent. Collaboration dropped because rather than communicate face-to-face, workers in such an environment used email and texting more frequently.
- An immediate 66 percent reduction in productivity due to increased noise pollution. Exeter University used measured workers' brainwaves and discovered that "open plan office noise reduces the productivity of knowledge workers (people trying to manipulate words or numbers in their brains, for example to write a report or plan) by a staggering 66%."
- A sharp increase in sick employees due to easier germ transmission. A study from Canada Life Group Insurance found that employees who work in open plan offices become sick nearly twice as often as employees who work from home. How come? The University of Arizona found that when a worker attends work when ill, "half of the commonly touched surfaces in the office will become infected with the virus by lunchtime."
- Major increases in heart disease and work related stress. A study conducted at Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation found that open plan offices "cause high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure, and a high staff turnover."
- An increased risk of brain damage due to forced multitasking. Because open plan offices are full of visual and auditory distractions, including overheard conversations, they force everybody to multitask. Brainscans conducted at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London found that multitaskers "had reductions in their brains' grey matter--specifically, in areas related to cognitive control and the regulation of motivation and emotion." (Psychology Today)
That Bloomberg would float such a horrible idea--including the notion that the most powerful person in the world should be sitting in the midst of workplace chaos--pretty much disqualifies him for the Presidency, IMHO. The same is true, frankly, for other CEOs, especially in high tech, some of whom might make reasonably functional despots but good POTUSes, not so much.
It's difficult to imagine what the presidency would be like with an open plan office. The White House would probably end up being full of people who were secretive, unproductive, sick, stressed, brain damaged... no, wait...