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Poll: Would you be willing to sign a petition ending open-plan offices?
2 points by mlthoughts2018 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 5 comments
With mounting research that open-plan offices reduce productivity, foster poor workplace health, damage employee moral, increase transmission of communicable diseases, and generally don’t end up actually saving much money compared with either cubicles or fully private offices, it is a very important yet contentious issue for knowledge workers.

Given that there are examples of workplace safety and ergonomic health regulations relating to things like break times, adequate equipment, making feasible changes in working conditions rather than relying on personal protective equipment like earplugs (e.g. such as OSHA in the US), could there be a similarly enforced OSHA standard for providing adequately quiet and private working conditions for knowledge workers?

There would be many complicating factors to work out, such as providing options for the minority of workers who enjoy open-plan offices, but overall what degree of support would there be for these poll options?

I support some notion of formalized (e.g. OSHA-based) standards requiring employers to provide knowledge workers with adequate privacy and quiet working conditions.
2 points
I would *not* support formalized regulations requiring employers to provide quiet and private conditions for knowledge workers.
1 point

Why do knowledge workers outrank finance or helpdesk or half one hundred other workers? Why should seamstresses in rows of clothes manufactories have to work in flow mode in desks in open noisy offices?

Sure, I get this. I get that the digerati want to be back in their offices, but the answer is not to objectify all other workers as deserving contempt and condemn them to open plan: the answer is to make fundamental worker health and safe working environment equal for all.

Don't make this about knowledge workers. Make this about workers.

Knowledge workers would encompass things like finance or helpdesk generally, along with many totally non-tech office workers like staff attorneys or product managers:

< https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_worker >

My point stands. Do not stand up for finance desk jobs and ignore cleaners. If you believe people are entitled to better working conditions, then show some solidarity around workers who are in blue collar and manual trades, because reciprocity is the key: stand together.

I support those things too, but clearly it would only thwart progress to try to lump everything together. Some topics require specialized focus, and because open-plan offices negatively affect me, that drives my interest in them.

Additionally, many blue collar jobs already have formalized protections and workplace health standards through OSHA. Similar enforced standards for the wholly distinct set of workplace health issues faced by office workers don’t exist yet in terms of health factors related to things we are only just discovering, like the dangers of prolonged sitting or being embedded in open plan spaces.

I reject your premise that progress for better working conditions can only proceed in ways that apply to all workers at once.

I simultaneously have great solidarity and support for improving the working conditions of blue collar workers while also focusing my own efforts on the specialized topic of open-plan offices because that topic is underserved.

“Stand together” does not imply we must make senseless and unpragmatic choices, like never advocating for a specialized type of workplace improvement and foolishly requiring all efforts on this topic to always be scoped to apply to all possible workers. That would only hurt all workers by making progress impossible and ignoring obvious benefits of specialized efforts for different worker subgroups.

Totally agree. But, remember when you do this, that the moment of advantage in working conditions vests with knowledge workers, and defending the right to a non-open plan office, against OSHA in manual labour, or the division between amazon ICT workers and amazon warehouse workers, or the google cleaners and food prep and gardeners who are on contract hire, vs the brilliant minds: that difference stands.

I believe in solidarity. If these people came back and said "where were you, when we got urine tested and shouted at for 6 minute toilet breaks" I would want to have a good story, because open-plan won't end quickly, and if you don't have the balls to go on strike it might not end at all.

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