The Future of the Open Office Means Saying Goodbye to Your Desk
As offices continue to break down barriers, workplace boundaries will be a thing of the past
Once advertised as the perfect intersection between workplace privacy and economy, by the end of the 1990s, cubicles had become a parody of the productivity they were supposed to stand for. The movie Office Space, which came out in 1999, cemented the cubicle as the visual stand-in for mind-numbing administrative work and the crushing monotony of the 9-to-5 job.
So workplace designers began to think outside the box. Cubicle walls came down, and personal offices became scarce. The modern open office plan, born sometime around the early 2000s, was marked by low or no walls between groups of desks, few private offices, and wide, open rooms. According to CEOs and designers, open offices promised collaboration, innovation, and a more egalitarian workplace. For the following decade and a half, the open office plan became the office design of forward-thinking corporations.
But in recent years, the open office has gained a bad reputation. Critics argue that instead of fostering easygoing creativity, the lack of privacy creates stress. Without walls and doors to dampen noise, distractions chip away at concentration, so less work gets done. Because of all this, research shows that job satisfaction decreases after a transition to an open office from a more traditional office. Even the phrase “open office” sounds cavernous and soulless. “Invariably every project we start, someone shows up with an article from some publication that says the open office has ruined any kind of innovation,” says David Galullo, CEO of the design and architecture firm Rapt Studio. At its worst, the open office represents the culmination of corporations’ worst impulses to save money and space, at the expense of their employees.
The worker will be free to move to the room or zone that fits the mood they’re looking for.
Now, designers and architects are pushing beyond open office plans toward the next generation of barrierless office design: something we might call “zoned offices.” These spaces will feature hot desking, where assigned seating…