I just read an article about how open offices are a "fad" and that they're the dumbest fads in business today. After I cleaned up the coffee I spit out, I decided to explain why that's not true at all. 

First, open-office environments aren't a fad. Sales organizations, stockbrokers and trading firms have utilized "bullpens" forever. Whether the reason is because of cost (what the author of the article believes it to be) or for culture is irrelevant. Open offices aren't new. Companies and executives have known they work for salespeople and traders for decades. So why not do it for everyone? 

Apparently, a Harvard study showed people working in open-office environments utilize instant messenger and email internally more than they would if they didn't work in an open-office environment. Running a company of 250+ employees, I can tell you that our staff certainly uses these forms of communication way too much, but it's going to happen regardless of office setting.   

The author writes that if companies really want to save money, they should have people work from home, which will limit the need for office space and make workers more productive.

A few problems with that theory: 

  1. If you hire a staff directly out of college, how do they learn the basics of "work"?  Little things like crafting an email, talking through a conversation when you see someone's eyes and body language, or team collaboration. One of the best things about an office is when someone who wasn't part of a meeting happens to stumble in, add value, and problems are then solved. 

  1. Great company culture comes from seeing one another. Corporate culture doesn't purely come from growing revenue (although it's on the must-have list). Great culture comes from personal sharing, getting to know someone and their life, and caring about them so much you want to help each other in the workplace. That's a team. 

  1. There's nothing wrong with companies saving money. The goal of owning and running a company is to A) provide a solution and B) make money. (In that order, because it's hard to make money if you aren't providing a solution.) 

  1. Have you ever tried to celebrate alone? It's not much fun. 

  1. The use of social media is shown to be higher by those who work from home because they substitute it for office interaction. I would say the social media-ization that so many complain about (Why is everyone looking down at their phone all the time?!) is directly tied to job hoppers, people who work from home, and freelancers. If you don't build office camaraderie, you are missing a huge part of socialization. 

People write articles poking holes at what companies do all the time. It gets eyeballs and readers and creates a buzz. However, if history has taught us one thing, it's that there are many ways to start, build, and grow a company. No one way is stupid or dumb, it's just not your way. And I always revert to the Google theory: If they are doing it, it can't be too dumb -- and they have a huge office. 

1 Major Design Tip to Maximize Workplace Productivity
Published on: Jul 24, 2018