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Open-plan offices are a cost-effective panopticon: cheap, effective way to ensure that not only the boss, but other co-workers are aware of where you are and -- more or less -- what you're doing. The "other co-workers" bit is crucial because even if the boss can't find Dave himself he can ask anyone in the space "hey, have you seen Dave" and be led to a meaningful answer.

Companies will get rid of open-plan offices when they stop being such gift-wrapped boons to middle management, and not a second before. If you don't like it, adjust or exercise your right to be fired. This is America.




First, the answer to "Hey, Have you seen Dave?" should be "In his cubicle/office". If a coworker (or worse yet, the boss) does not know this, then there is a different problem. But yes, it does work well for management-by-surveillance. Whether that's a good thing is yet another different problem.

Second, not all readers of HN are American. Nor do they subscribe to the same political/ethical/social beliefs. The article was about whether open offices are productive or not, not whether we should or should not have them.

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Open plan offices are even more popular outside of America everwhere I've been. This is not an American phenomenon at all.

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There is tangentially a correct aspect to it, in that playing geolocation and SPOF games are non-productive so they fit well with an open office.

If you need to talk to Dave, first of all Dave being a SPOF is a bug or management failure to be worked around. Secondly geolocating Dave is almost certainly non-productive. If you need to converse with Dave you call/text his phone to maximize productivity.

This is an insightful observation about the core values of open office vs alternatives... an open office simply isn't interested in productive activity. Its interested in non-productive activity, which has been proven over and over in scientific studies.

Its unpleasant, perhaps even inhumane for a large segment of the population, and unproductive for everyone but in a cause and effect relationship the bug is in the core values of the organization, that productivity doesn't matter. Its not that they don't know its non-productive, its that they don't care that its non-productive.

Also note you can't fix that core value epic fail by merely generating a new, technically superior architectural fad. You merely end up with an organization that's non-productive that has really nice private offices.

In that way its kind of like a HOA... I don't want the weirdos and dirtbags to be hidden, I want to be able to glance at a companies office and tell instantly if they have screwed up values, so in a weird way I want failing companies to implement open offices, so I can identify them and avoid them.

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> Its unpleasant, perhaps even inhumane for a large segment of the population, and unproductive for everyone but in a cause and effect relationship the bug is in the core values of the organization, that productivity doesn't matter. Its not that they don't know its non-productive, its that they don't care that its non-productive.

No the problem is that most management activity, including program management, project management and the like is fundamentally unproductive. People who don't know what they're doing (ie. middle managers, project managers and program managers) can't productively contribute to real efforts.

The problem is the people judging whether this is true or not are exactly those middle managers/project managers and program managers.

Once management infects a company, it always just keeps increasing in my experience. A European bank I worked at had 3 project/program managers or architects per developer. You were lucky to get 2 hours of actual work in on a day. They were actually working to expand, not the developer team, but the management team.

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Read Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval. Its a history of office layouts. I like the Cave and Commons described in the book.

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