Open-office plans like the one Mike Bloomberg adopted at City Hall have fans and skeptics. Where do you stand (sit)?
Presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg in December tweeted the picture above of the “bullpen” office he had as New York City mayor and wrote, “I’ll turn the East Room into an open-office plan, where I’ll sit with our team.”
No one can say if that will ever happen, of course. But the subject of open-office plans definitely sparked interest at a NeuGroup meeting this month when one member asked how others organize their office space.
Breaking down walls. One member surprised peers by saying that within a few months his company will move completely to open space, with no walls between people, and that arrangement will apply also to top executives, including the CEO, CFO and legal counsel.
- “If you want to exchange confidential information, there will be a room, but you won’t be allowed to sit there all day,” he said.
- Another member called his firm’s environment open, “but we do have individually assigned desks, so we’re not completely free.”
Backlash. The concept of open-space seating has been around for decades, especially among technology companies that have viewed open-space environments as conducive to exchanging ideas.
- More recently, however, there has been something of a backlash, with studies like one in 2018 by Harvard researchers showing that open-space workplaces can significantly reduce employee productivity.
Alternatives. Another meeting participant’s company had expressed interest in open space, but for now employees remain in cubicles with low walls, and managers have offices.
- Its finance arm’s building is being renovated, however, and the result will be low-wall cubicles and every manager’s office will be the same size, no matter their rank.
Still, meeting members suggested most treasury departments remain conservative on the seating front, with team members sitting in cubicles with high walls—a “legacy thing,” as one person put it.