The open-plan office is dead, long live the plexiglass work panopticon

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The company I work for sent its employees home a week before the government started mandating it, and I went home a few days before that. Its working out so well for the company that they are looking at having a permanent remote workforce, possibly with smaller offices and people who come in to the office part time.

Personally I am counting on a return to the office saving my sanity. I hope its not too far away.


Looks like it will still be the same lack of visual or acoustic privacy, but with some token “barriers” here and there. Of course, social distancing will preclude in-person discussions, eliminating the “collaboration” that open-plan offices were supposed to facilitate (which was BS anyway).

I predict that in many workplaces, employees will be required to wear location monitoring devices for “contact tracing”. The fact that they allow management to track every movement–every coffee break, every bathroom break–is just an ancillary benefit.


A 12 week lead time on what is essentially furniture is normal for most things in larger architectural projects


I miss going into the office because I miss being around smart people. I feel like being around smart people makes me smarter. Right now I feel like I’m becoming dumberer.


Seven billion people cannot live on Solaria at the same time.

I’ve been work-from-home for various corporations for 16 years now, periodically interrupted by client visits, strategy meetings, and industry conferences (but those are less than 10% of my typical month, this not being typical at all). I don’t miss the noise of the office, the commute, the mediocre cafeterias… but I do miss having someone to use as a sounding board. The rubber duck method doesn’t quite work as a substitute.
So for white-collar introverts, this may be ideal. It’s not for everyone (and those people baffle me – I’m talking to you speakerphone-in-the-cubicle guy), but if you can roleplay being a half-elf wizard, you can roleplay being a business-suited executive while working in cargo shorts and a hawaiian shirt. Set your hours, and forget about the kitchen and TV being so accessible. Can’t step away from the office when you’re at home? Sure you can. It’s not like you’re not getting work email on your phone when you’re in the office.


Working at home takes too much discipline.

When I’m in the office, I naturally only work on company things, even if I’m not feeling particularly productive that day.

When I’m at home, and I’m kind of losing focus, I end up doing a chore or two, which means my professionalism, such as it is, dictates I need to add that time to the end of the day to make up for it. I end up “smearing” my day. It’s less intense, to be sure, but now I’m working 9-7 instead of 10-6.

Also, my only coworker was Stack Overflow for years and when I took up an office job, I was happy to bounce ideas off smarter people (as mentioned above). While it can still be done, now you can’t happen upon them in the break room, you have to interrupt them. Not nearly as comfortable.


Isn’t Apple’s spaceship based on the open office concept? I wonder if they are modifying things.

The good news, though, is that open-plan offices are dead!

I wish, as far as i know my company’s new office will be an open plan and that has not changed. The building should be ready next year and i’m not looking forward to it.


Open plan offices aren’t going anywhere, because they still serve their original true purpose- maximizing bodies per square foot in expensive cities. You wouldn’t think partitions would take up more space, but they really do. The density is substantially lower in cubicle farms than modern open plan spaces. As Rob said, they’ll do other things instead- temperature checks, disposable everything, pumping isopropyl alcohol through the sprinkler system, whatever, to appease the insurance companies. It’s important not to let employee welfare get in the way of revenue per square foot planning.


Same here. I had only a month before in mid-February started agitating for a “WFH most of the time” schedule, and suggesting the entire organization should look at the benefits of doing it. There was tons of hemming and hawing, clear resistance. Now it’s becoming something they’re taking seriously, not only for the reduction in disease vectors, but also reducing capital costs for new buildings due to our continued growth and overcrowding.


“Soul deadening nexus of liability management” Finally, a phrase that perfectly captures our modern world.


This is true only if you have a isolated space at home. Hard to forget about the kitchen being so accessible when you are IN the kitchen. Also you need family members willing to leave you (mostly) alone when you are working.


Similar situation with us. My boss was rabidly anti-work-from-home, but decided to send everyone to work from home about a week before the Governor declared everyone needed to shelter in place.

Before we left, he talked about if it went well, it may become a permanent thing, which shocked me.

Instead we are slipping toward unemployed-from-home as our clients slowly trickle away, due to their own problems staying in business.

I wonder how much of this is security theater vs actually a good idea?

Cutting out A/C sounds insane where I work. I get that reducing airflow is necessary, but at the same time it gets well above 90 degrees, which will encourage sweating, mugginess, irritability, etc. Not to mention anything coughed or sneezed into the air will hang there.


I wouldn’t. Work takes as long as it takes. If I need to work late one day, then I work late. If I have an easy day the next day, I’m not going to sit at my desk twiddling my thumbs because I think I’m supposed to. My job is about getting work done, not marking time at a desk.

My job is certainly not sitting in traffic for two hours a day, or seeing my commute jump from a half hour one way to an hour because I felt like sleeping in and, whoops, rush hour! I could do without that.


That’s my attitude. My boss has a different attitude. If he’s paying us for our time, then that time is his, and if we use it for anything else then we are stealing from him.

One of my many duties – it’s a small company, fewer than 20 people at the moment – has been keeping an eye on our overall production. The work is getting done, and getting done quickly. In my opinion, as long as that continues to be the case, we are golden. But I can’t tell him that. I tried and got chewed out.


Fine. By that logic, I get paid for 40 hours a week, so I should only work 40 hours a week, instead of the honest 50 I end up working.


Have you ever asked your boss about all the money they didn’t pay you for your work?


I never said it was my logic. But it’s also not uncommon logic. “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”

Three years back I approached my supervisor with a request for a larger-than-the-normal-cost-of-living wage increase so that I could finally make some headway toward paying off the debt I accumulated in the wake of 2008.

A supervisor who left us back in November, and some of whose responsibilities I’ve absorbed because they didn’t want to hire someone to replace him, and didn’t want to give anyone else his title of Production Manager, but that’s not the point.

I provided a long email listing the things that I’d accomplished for the company over the previous four years, including a move to integrate a different platform for tracking our client jobs that absolutely saved the company when the system we had been using had a database corruption that was unrecoverable, and explaining how I felt I deserved the raise I was requesting.

Without talking to me about it first, he forwarded it to the owner (my direct boss now) who then called me in and proceeded to chew me out, claiming that if he and the supervisor hadn’t put me in the position to be able to do those things, I couldn’t have done them, and nowhere in what I had written was I thanking them for that opportunity. He said a lot of things, but my brain started shutting down. I wish I’d recorded everything so I could refer back to it. My boss comes from a salesman background, and I do not. I don’t handle pressure tactics well, and he knew that about me.

I left feeling shook, and vowed as soon as I was financially able – or found a job that paid around the same amount – I would leave. I was getting close to clearing out my debt, finally, before this happened. I never found a job elsewhere. And now the job may end up crumbling away anyhow.

So, long answer short (too late) no, I haven’t spoken to him in years unless I have to, particularly about money.