The company I work for has been migrating to the open-office concept over the past year or so, first with a new building, and then by doing floor-by-floor conversions of existing buildings on the campus. Some of the people are being migrated from offices to desks, some from cubicles to desks. Almost everyone has been very good about going along with the plan and giving it a shot. The results are a mixed bag, overall, but as time goes on, it's proving to be more a liability than an improvement.
Everyone gets new furniture, and the worse shape their old furniture was in, the better the first impression.
The lighting is MUCH better - even in areas that don't have direct sunlight; the large number of smaller light sources on the ceiling with little obstruction works well.
There's more people in the same area
- makes more efficient use of space
- don't have to walk as far to get to someone
There's more people are in the same area
- in the older buildings, this means that the number of toilets is no longer proportional to the demand
- its noisy; sometimes a little, sometimes a lot
- people sneeze and it hits their neighbors
- you can't make a phone call without annoying everyone, so now nobody uses the phone unless in a conference room; phone communication in general has dropped precipitously and now takes a back-seat to e-mail
- folks are increasingly annoyed with their neighbors and it increases stress and some talk less
There's visual distraction (things always coming in and out of your field of view)
The clever storage ideas don't make up for the overall lack of storage volume or shelf space
You can't have a conversation without annoying everyone, so you have to spend time hunting for a "huddle room" or chat in a stairwell or utility closet
Older employees (>40) especially have a hard time with the din (and the white-noise generators don't help).
It's super difficult to work on certain types of things - anything that has personnel info, or HIPPA protected info that you're not supposed to let your neighbors
Anything that really takes focus (reading a complex scientific paper, for example), is really out of the question
Lots of people try and drown out the din with headphones (which produces noises that annoy those without), and effectively the employees are being trained to tune each other out
There's lots of "unplanned interactions"
I think everyone agrees that we: are less productive, are not collaborating any more than before, and are collaborating less with the outside. HR is already noticing that people are using more sick days. However, I presume that the loss in productivity and decreasing office morale are offset by gains in energy and space efficiency (lower cost facilities).
For me, it means that my work space has shrunk by 50% and I no longer have shelf space that I used to put reference materials and manuals on (all that's not sitting in boxes in my attic). I also just walk away from my desk when the din gets to a certain level where I can't concentrate on what I'm supposed to be working on. If you call my phone extension, it automatically forwards you to a voicemail instructing the caller to e-mail me (there's not even a phone at my new desk, none of have them). I don't read papers in the office anymore, and sometimes take what the office calls "productivity days" where I work from home (no, they don't give anyone money for home office stuff or to pay for Internet service). All of our experienced job candidates that have rejected offers have cited the open-office plan as a contributing factor in their decision not to accept the offer (we lead in compensation, so it's not like they wouldn't be well compensated).