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I’ve been in the “real world” for a little more than a year, and I’ve already experienced the difference between the cubicle lifestyle and the open-office setting. When I first began working, I had a gray little cubicle that I loved dearly. It was quiet, I could ignore the other people around me, and it was solely my space to completely focus on my work.
Then the company started to grow, cubicles became scarce, and the only feasible option was to move my team to a conference room downstairs filled with individual desks. Nothing against my co-workers, but this has become my own personal, real-life version of hell.
Being in an open office is like being a kid in a candy store.
I’m the kind of person who needs to be alone in a quiet, cool room away from all living, breathing beings to completely focus on my work—which is definitely not possible in an open-office. Our desks are clear glass, and there are no dividers anywhere. I can see everything that my team members are doing, and that not only catches my eye when I’m trying to work, but it also makes me inherently curious about what they’re all doing. So then I ask, and then everyone is distracted. I’m kind of the instigator.
Once I become distracted, it’s nearly impossible for me to refocus in the open-office setting. Everyone is always doing something interesting, after all. Then there’s the fact that even when you’re sitting at your desk trying to not be distracted, you’re still ending up distracted by chanting “Don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t look,” in your head. So even the effort of not being distracted is distracting.
Bye bye, privacy. I barely knew you.
It’s obvious, before you even live in it, that the open-office layout doesn’t provide any form of privacy—but you don’t realize just how desperately you want it until you don’t have it. It’s not even that I need to hide the fact I scrolled through Facebook for 10 minutes, but I do want some privacy so that I can scratch the bottom of my foot in peace, and send my roommate a Snapchat of my sad face when I spill coffee on my white shirt. Can a girl not have these simple pleasures at work?
I’ve got 99 problems, and they’re all my co-workers.
Impromptu meetings are another particularly pointed issue for me. When you work in cubicles, there’s the understanding and assumption that everyone is busy, and you should send them an email if you want to pop by to discuss something. When you’re in an open layout, everyone (myself included) just assumes that they can holler at you from the comfort of their rolling desk chairs to discuss something that seems super duper important to them at the time, but in all reality, could wait five minutes. This shatters office workflow.
It seems like I’m constantly being interrupted for something that could have been discussed in a short email, or that could have at least waited until I actually had the time to think about it. When I’m working, I like to think about one thing at a time; I don’t want to think about Project A, then switch to Task B for two minutes, and then go back to Project A, only to find I can’t remember what I was doing. It leads to a lot of wasted time and frustration.
If you like stale bananas and half-eaten yogurt cups, you’ll like the open office. I don’t.
I’m a very organized, clean, Type A person. In college, I had to clean my entire room and kitchen before I was ready to do my homework. I need a clean slate to think. I don’t like having sticky notes all over my desk (although I currently do because they won’t stick to my monitor—yet another con of the open-office setting). I don’t like leaving dirty dishes sitting all over the place. Sadly, not all of my co-workers have the same obsessive tendencies that I do.
I’ve learned that it’s apparently a common thing for people to leave half-eaten candy bars, empty yogurt cups, and stale coffee cups standing guard on their desks. I’ve also learned it’s not acceptable to clean this up for them. They like the mess; it’s the setting that’s most conducive to their workflow. The truly unfair thing is that a clean desk across the room won’t bother someone who keeps a messy one, but a filthy desk will absolutely make a clean freak batty. Imagine what it’s like to work in a room where you have trouble focusing because all you really want to do it toss bleach on the desk next to you.
Here’s the moral of the story.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that no matter how much you like your co-workers (and I really do like my co-workers; most of us graduated college together), you can still end up sick and tired of them. Different personalities shouldn’t be in a tiny room with no personal privacy together for nine hours a day. When I say it’s a recipe for disaster, I mean it. There’s no walking away from the issue, there’s no real way to make it any better.
Unfortunately, not everyone loathes open layouts the way I do, and they don’t understand why I become so irritated. It’s not helpful to vent to someone who thinks you’re being a dramatic control freak who needs to get over it. I don’t like open offices. I like having my own quiet little square where I can do my job without any distractions. On the upside though, I’m feeling much better after writing this. Now I’m going to get back to cleaning.