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I'm still with your original stance on office spaces. I work out of my house with a door that closes and that's when I feel most productive.


At the Lean Enterprise Insitute (LEI), we live in an open environment. Overall, it has worked well and has taken us a few years to develop our norms. Even folks who used to live in offices now believe that open is the best. Anyone intersted in seeing how it all works is invited to visit us in Cambridge, MA.


The problem with the open office approach for many companies is they do not have the right culture and leadership as you clearly pointed out. They may a greater focus on service in customer contact departments than they have in the accounts payable department. Companies that have individual departments or groups within their orgaizations where the culture and leadership does exist have an open office approach in those departments. I think having a different open office approach by department within a comapany mixes the 2 office types and works well. In a service industry where it is vaulable for a manager to observe customer service, the open office approach works the best.


The problem with the open office approach for many companies is they do not have the right culture and leadership as you clearly point out. Developing the right culture does not happen overnight. Some companies may have individual departments or groups within their organization where the culture and leadership does exists. I think there is value in allowing a different open office approach by department within a company. In a service industry where it is valuable for a manager to observe customer service, the open office approach works the best.


NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg has turned the working area in City Hall into a trading floor, an open bullpen as they call it there, with him right in the middle. The level of engagement among the people who make things happen in the city is unparalleled. Moving from an office to open space can be unsettling, but habit forming. Moving back to an office feels both pretentious and isolating.

Stephanie Cowan

Thank you for the insight on the advantages of an open office. I had the experience yesterday of eating lunch with my boss in his open office and watching the atmosphere become energized--though borderline chaotic--as several people interupted us with various small crises. I joked with him that if I was him, I would lock that door, and he just laughed. Now I have a new perspective as to why he doesn't--his finger is never off the pulse and he is always accessible to the team.

Charles Robinson

I work in a space that's about 100' x 60' with 50 people in it. There no walls except the exterior ones and no windows.

If there was any sense of courtesy it might make it bearable. There isn't, though, so the noise level makes productivity impossible.

Distractions are nonstop, from everyone's cell phones to people calling each other on speakerphone to people walking up and interrupting whenever it's convenient for them. Several people have no concept of an "inside voice", others get combative when asked to not use their speakerphone to call the person sitting 10 feet away.

Our CEO and a few other people have offices in another building and are sequestered out of sight. They say they couldn't work in our open environment and joke about some of the more obnoxious disruptive people. The rest of us don't find it very funny.

Stu Stein

I have worked in both open and closed offices, and when a company has both a flat hierarchy and collaborative culture , I found it much more powerful to be open than closed. To come into work everyday and see the CEO working alongside me was inspiring.

I have also been at companies where open offices would never work. On the one hand, people clung to their status symbols, and on the other, the work was more individualistic. I personally preferred the open environment, but I recognize it does not work for all companies.

John Lilly

For me, at Mozilla, I have a very similar perspective to Tim's. I try to put my desk in the open in a high traffic area -- in general, I find that getting information to flow freely throughout the organization, and to the CEO in particular, is tough -- so making it as easy as possible for someone to drop by, make a passing comment, or just see me available and working.

In fact, I've recently added a standing desk that I try to work at for good parts of the day -- has increased the flow of people coming by to talk.

For our own situation, information flow is about the most important thing, and I view dealing with interruptions *as* the basic CEO job, not *from* the job.

Jarie Bolander

I agree with Tim about open offices . If you have to innovate with a group of people, then open offices is the way to go since collaboration is most efficient when people are co-located.

Group creativity also takes flight in the open not behind office doors. Offices just closes down communication channels.

This does not mean you don't need quite time but that's what conference rooms and working from home is for.

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