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Open Concept Offices
2

Open Concept Offices

Open Concept Offices

(OP)
Does anyone actually like working in an open office environment? Every place I have worked at that has an open engineering office is usually a daily mosh pit of noise and commotion and it is difficult to even hear, much less think. in my opinion, more engineering mistakes happen in open offices due to distractions and noise.

RE: Open Concept Offices

I doubt you'll find anyone who likes it at a working level. I find it hard to believe that our little section of 4 computer droids are collaborating in any social sense when we are all wearing noise cancelling headphones.

I suspect you can find sources to support either side of the argument, here's one

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/07/18...

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Open Concept Offices

50+ years ago when I got my first summer job while in college, working as a draftsman, our entire office was 'open', about 50 drawing boards, in three rows. The department heads had glass walled offices with the side facing the drafting office open so that when they looked-up from their desks, all they wanted to see were 'assholes and elbows'. Of course, this was before desktop computers. There were only four phones mounted on a row of pillars that went down the middle of the room. And there was one desk dedicated to calculators, in this case, a pair of hand-cranked Friden calculators.

Here's a shot showing some of the department head's offices and an idea of how drawing boards were arranged (that's one of my co-workers, Erwin. He was a WWII vet, served as an officer in the Wehrmacht).


August 1970 (Minolta SRT-101)

As for how it worked . . . it worked just fine. Of course, that was how virtually ALL engineering offices were like back then.

But back to your original point, I've worked in so-called 'open offices' (and I mean the newer types) and I agree, it's pretty bad unless the cube walls are at least five feet high. Where they have the low, three foot high cube walls, those environments are totally worthless, period!

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Open Concept Offices

25 years ago those were our CAD/drafting offices.

BUT.

Any conversations louder than quiet discussion were greeted with a barrage of SSSSHHH from everybody else. Certainly no nonsense with speaker phones.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Open Concept Offices

No most engineers do not benefit or like open office concepts. Phone calls and conversations between two members of the office districts the remainder of the engineers, so you will find more headphones being used. With that you will see more isolation and lack of collaboration which was the intent of the open concept.

RE: Open Concept Offices

Hey guys: Yes they maybe were noisy, but the overhead was a lot less than with walls, etc. especially for an office early on in the business. One of my first employers had a closed office for himself, but with a window to be able to "see the gang?" It didn't take long before a consulting business guy told him to put a curtain over it. Made life a little easier out there maybe.

RE: Open Concept Offices

(OP)
The "modern" offices I have worked in over mostly the past ten years normally involve throwing various departments into the same large room for "improved communication". I am talking about a 30' x 40' room with nine desks swedged in like sardines. In one corner were two purchasers, one of which was exceptionally loud and foul-mouthed on her no less than twenty calls to vendors a day. In the opposite corner were two production schedulers who liked to joke loudly with the purchasers on the other side of the room. In between were myself and three other engineers struggling to keep our minds focused on the tasks at hand. Talk about a complete zoo. Not a single partition either. I would sit in there some days with foam ear plugs in, protective ear muffs over those, and still hear everything loud and clear. After about eight months of that, one day I walked. No two week notice or anything. I simply could not take the stress and commotion any longer.

RE: Open Concept Offices

(OP)
I should also state that I am old enough to have worked in rooms full of drafting boards like JohnRBaker talks about. Those were normally peaceful and quiet because everyone respected the other guy and the need to be able to think clearly. Those are not the open concept offices I am talking about here.

RE: Open Concept Offices

I worked in that type of open office in my second job, mid-70’s to mid 80’s. Our set up was engineer, drafter, aisle, engineer, drafter, drafter with about five rows like that. As engineers we had a drafting board, a side desk, and a rear reference table. The drafters had the drawing board and side desk.

We had one architect, one civil engineer and eight to ten structural engineers. Boss was a Structural Engineer in an office with windows to “supervise” us. You primarily worked with the drafter right in front of you. As the project schedule required you would have junior engineers and other drafters when needed. The electrical and mechanical departments were laid out in a similar fashion.

There were some noise issues, but most of us respected those concerns. What did happen very often, especially when you were totally focused on your project, was getting hit with rubber bands and/or the little eraser bags we all had as “drafting tools”.

gjc

RE: Open Concept Offices

I hate to say it I like the general office noise, people talking, copier noise, people ranting, subconsciously listening in on calls, etc... it occupies that part of my brain that is easily distracted and helps me focus on day to day stuff. Only time it doesn't work for me is when someone is talking directly at me and I'm trying to concentrate on something in particular that requires a lot of thought, but background noise is fine by me. I guess I'm the only one?

I used to study with Scooter blaring through my stereo though at home. Other half is complete opposite, when shes working at home with me, one must be absolutely silent or there is trouble. It drives me nuts some days.

I can see how sometimes particular coworkers habits/voice/face can grind people gears though, worked with a few of those types in the past.

Last job I had in a cube farm, they used to have a radio going full time when I first started (until it broke and wasn't replaced), it was good at drowning out some of the noise and creating some predictable background noise.

RE: Open Concept Offices

A couple of years before I retired, they installed a so-called ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) system out in the cube space (I had a traditional hard-walled office, so it was not an issue with me, if I needed privacy, all I had to do was shut my door). Not sure how effective it was, but people seemed to think it helped a bit, so who knows...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Open Concept Offices

Fortunately, I have spent 36 of my 39 years in engineering working in a traditional single-person office. I started my career in an office, then took a transfer and spent my second year in a room with four board drafters, two other young EITs, and one young PE, before getting back into an office. I spent years 15 and 16 (at another firm) in a room with one cad drafter, three EITs, and a bunch of field techs of various sorts (fortunately, the field techs were gone most of the time). Both rooms were noisy, but not out of control noisy.

However, I have better than average hearing (both level and frequency range; this is offset by worse than average eyesight) and the noise bothered me more than it did the other people in the cubicles, at least for certain tasks. I learned very quickly during my first stint in a cubicle that I could handle the mathematics/technical side of my job (preparing or reviewing calculations, designs, drawings and details, etc.) in a noisy room, but not the language side of my job (reading, writing, and editing). So, during my first stint in a cubicle, I usually did the language side of my job in a conference room or the office library. During my second stint in a cubicle I was tied to a computer so I spent about $250 on one of the early Sony Walkman disk players and got a 12-disk set of lyric-less classical music. This worked pretty well, but I was sure glad to get back into an office at the first opportunity.

==========
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Open Concept Offices

In the last 15 years, I've experienced a few different iterations of the open office plan. I believe the acceptability of an open office plan is a function of the following factors:

1. Coworkers and company culture
2. Acoustics
3. Level of privacy
4. Amount of space provided to each person

The best open office environment I ever worked in provided each employee with their own cubicle. The cubicles themselves were very spacious, and the cubicle walls were solid and about 5 feet tall. All of the floors were carpeted, and there was an acoustical ceiling tile system throughout. It was extremely quiet, overall, and I rarely found myself distracted.

The worst open office environment I ever worked in provided each employee with their own cubicle, however, the cubicle walls were solid only up to about 3 feet. The remainder consisted of a glass panel. The noise level was absolutely terrible. There was no finished ceiling system, many portions of the floors were not carpeted, and the HVAC system sounded like a jet engine. The office was loud, even at times when I was the only one there.

The worst open office environment that I've ever observed was at an A/E firm in New York City. People were packed in there like sardines - elbow to elbow. It was loud, as well, but the lack of privacy and adequate working space were unusually bad.

A friend (and former coworker) of mine likes to joke that the rationale behind this shift towards the open office plan is that people keep parroting this idea that Millennials love it. Trust me - we don't.

RE: Open Concept Offices

Construction job site trailers. Too much variety to consider commenting.

RE: Open Concept Offices

Our last shuffle at the beginning of the year took 90% of the staff out of offices that had doors to smaller cubes w/ 5' walls and no doors. Storage went from basically unlimited to one two drawer file cabinet. Everyone did get standing desks though. Massive amount of space dedicated to 'collaboration zones' that look like Starbucks. Supposed to appeal to millennials. Old timers had an issue at first but have settled in - they may not like it but they can make it work

RE: Open Concept Offices

I don't like open offices. It gets to be too loud. It is nice when you are new to something to be able to quickly ask a question but when you are up to speed, silence is better.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.

RE: Open Concept Offices

One other major advantage of private offices over cubicles, especially for project managers and above, is the ability to close the door to have a private conversation or a private phone call. If you are working on a project with confidentiality requirements, this is doubly important.

==========
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Open Concept Offices

Phone booths make a big difference in an open office.

RE: Open Concept Offices

Why not go to the source of your problems, that coworker, you know the one, place soundproof bag over coworkers head, cinch tight at neck for maximum sound dampening effectiveness.....

RE: Open Concept Offices

We moved into an open office in 2017, nothing new to me. When I started working in the 70's it was the John Baker thing until the late 90's . Then cubicles and offices. The company hypes how the open office increases collaboration and productivity, and all that BS. Truth be told they have 4x the staff in 1/2 the space. I don't see any change in productivity or collaboration. The people who used to hide in their cubicles texting and goofing off do it in the open.

The new place is OK, nothing fantastic, at least the paint and carpets are still clean; the guy who sits across from me is annoying - loud on the phone (I know more than I want to about his life), sneezes and burps loudly - but he's not the only one; that's life.

The one interesting thing about the new place, the idiot architects (in-house staff) didn't make the rest rooms handicapped accessible. Fortunately, we don't have any wheelchair bound people, yet.

RE: Open Concept Offices

I switched jobs 5 years ago and didn't even think to ask what the office situation was like. Where I had worked before, they had a lot of respect for the engineers and each had an office larger then what the directors have at the new place. It was a BIG adjustment. I couldn't get anything done. There was one, rather large guy, who would cut through my cubical several times a day and bump my chair as he went by. I even put boxes in front of one of the entrances so he would be discouraged from using that route and he still would squeeze through. I can say one thing though, in an open office environment, you know what is going on. If you hear someone about to make a technical mistake, you can butt in and head it off a lot quicker before it becomes your problem.

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

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