The open-plan workspace: Pros and cons (free PDF)

Companies have embraced the trendy concept of the open-plan office environment for the past several years, citing cost savings and better collaboration among workers as benefits. However, the open-plan model has backfired for some organizations, and it has drawn its share of critics. This ebook looks at both sides of the coin, examining studies that point to open office flaws, as well as companies that have found ways around them.

From the ebook:

For better or worse, the open office space has become commonplace, replacing many offices or private cubicles with open work areas entailing little privacy or personal space. Some companies are even eschewing assigned workstations and having employees rotate their work area based on a first-come, first-served concept, meaning a potentially different seat, view, and set of nearby coworkers on a daily or weekly basis.

Touted by businesses as a way to improve communication and collaboration, it’s no secret that the open office space also represents cost-cutting measures designed to seat as many employees as possible for the lowest expenditure possible.

In my experience, the open office concept is rife with potential problems. Close proximity to coworkers even considered close friends can lead to lack of focus and distractions if not properly managed. Worse, small frustrations with coworkers can escalate or inflate into larger problems.

Some articles, such as by Harvard Business Review and Gallup, advise how to best design these environments. But here are my tips on how to thrive—or at least survive—in them, based on courtesies you and your neighbors should extend to one another.

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