The words office space conjure up the iconic 1999 movie of the same name. The phrase has become shorthand for a dystopia of uninspiring work, firings (or “downsizing” as we were saying back then), and cubicles.
The history behind Peter and the gang's work environment has many twists and contradictions. Office spaces have at different times been symbols of hierarchy, liberation, and soul-crushing uniformity. Today, most space design is driven far more by cost and wow factor than anything else. In fact, a recent executive survey revealed that minimizing distractions was the lowest consideration when designing office space.1
Those executives might change their minds if they knew that, according to one study, only 7 percent of workers say they're most productive at the office.2
It's high time to change that. We can start by considering the pros and cons of each work setting.
Open offices emerged when Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects in the early twentieth century dismissed walls and rooms as fascist and confining.3 They wanted to liberate employees. The idea was a rejection of corporate hierarchy that was patterned after the military (put in your time, get your corner office). Companies altered this vision of liberated workers by packing in as many as they could. The open office, with its extended rows of desks, was born.
The open office has come back with a vengeance in the twenty-first century. Perhaps most famously, Facebook ...