Neil on Open Offices

Research now indicates that open offices hurt collaboration, which has caused the tech industry to freeze in stunned disbelief. There have been no reports of Apple or Facebook scraping their spacious floorplans in favor of individual private offices. Office spaces for new or expanding tech companies are all still built with open floor plans, seemingly ignorant to data demonstrating their harm. It would seem that the leaders of tech companies are far more interested in maintaining the status quo than encouraging their employees to work together.

Humans are hard-wired to do what they have always done. We do not like change and will fight it even if it is in our best interest. When we have established a way of doing things, we doggedly stick to the way we know and ignore ideas that challenge our beliefs. The stubbornness of the general population in resisting change is a well-understood phenomenon, but the tech industry should hold itself to a higher standard. Surely, if any industry were to embrace research that challenged their preconceived notions, it would be the tech industry. The sad reality is that the tech industry, despite its relative youth, is just as susceptible to the inertia of bad ideas as industries that have been around for centuries.

The path out of our open-offices-are-good confirmation bias may be merely acknowledging that a bias exists. If we can admit that we have done something a certain way for so long that we no longer question its efficacy, perhaps an alternative would present itself. The strategy of tech leaders burying their heads in the sand, and pretending that they are ignorant of the open-offices-are-bad research benefits no one. Successful tech companies must abide by a simple truth: less collaboration means less innovation, and innovation is the life-blood of a tech company. In hampering collaboration by ignoring open-offices-are-bad research, a tech company practically guarantees its long, slow decline.

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