Spaces where privacy is truly fostered are where we can bare ourselves intensely for peak performance.

Collectively, an accommodation is torn between the polarity to oblige both selfness and community. Think of the home where personal humiliations must nestle outside the reach of unwanted eyes, then the compulsions of invited guests; think of workspaces where going full throttle occurs at ease but are besotted by opposing demands to manifest professionally. At once, an ideal space obliges both instances when the world dwells in its expanse and when it is unconcerned with the duties of the world – thus ever have we desired so much for such concurrence did the Germans labour to conceive the grand plan of an open floor.

“The term refers to a house or office whose common spaces have no walls or partial walls between them. Structurally, heavy-duty beams carry the weight of the floor above, not walls; aesthetically, a sense of openness and greater traffic flow is promoted by an open floor plan.”

Guided by collaboration-minded upgrades, the open floor plan was constructed during the 50’s amidst stillness in the corporate-interior landscape. By no means inconsequential, the idea caught on post-haste with the rest of the world like a virulent plague; a feverish onslaught that was met with little resistance by the folks of financial authority, owing to emphases on greatly diminishing overhead and a means to oversee everyone with a cursory glance.

The conventional wisdom behind this lack of boundary was to curtail the rigidity of solemn atmospheres deemed unduly necessitated by virtue of being a workplace; it nevertheless retains the seriousness, but not solemnity. It also enforces the subscription to a sense of shared responsibility by removing physical barriers to spur familiarity, which is designed to fabricate a sense of belonging for camaraderie purposes. The gestalt of this configuration, in essence, ruled that the removal of partitions would cohere members of staff to a spirit of communion ad hominem. It is a precept whose verity is lent by the scientific understanding that togetherness amongst colleagues boosts productivity, and in its pioneering years indeed overstepped most known measures of success for its newfound ergonomics and ultra-sleek appeal.

But, as with all infant creations, it would come to be mired by the foremost tribulation of an untried design: It was soon to run into an ongoing sequence of ironies, and its existence would become so fundamentally ugly that nobody dared look close at this intricate mess.

Open communication, with its promise to accelerate information, paradoxically led to a slower immersion of knowledge. The primordial concept to hasten transmission of information was a toil on the aural surrounds as it yields more from our social environment: As we occupy more aural space from the environment, the less it has to contain existing sounds. The culmination is an uncontrolled conglomeration of noises – be it collaborative or mindless – and are predetermined to overload our senses by overstimulation; it is imperative to understand that sensory overloads provoke our most primitive cognition of fight-or-flight response.

“It is a phenomenon that exhibits the traits and behaviour also found in autism spectrum disorders, expressions of anxiety, and chronic fatigue.”



At heart, rapid communication equates noise pollution, and it is only the least of many: Unsurprisingly, the most destructive aspects are the lack of privacy, and visual noise.

In myriad feedback to extensive international research from Ipsos and the Workspace Futures Team of Steelcase, 85% of 10,000 respondents employed in open offices transpired that they cannot concentrate in their workplace due to a lack of privacy, citing chaos from the environment. In a world brimming with assorted elements of every kind, pattern interruption manifests in the form of aural and visual distractions that fulfill only a self-serving purpose to disrupt the attention of its dwellers; the bareness of boundaries within an office correlates inversely to the attention power of its employees. When a pattern is interrupted, so does the employee’s train of thought. Imagine being tasked to read a book, but forced to stop every fifteen minutes: It is evident the completion demands a significantly lengthier time.

From the same survey, approximately 3000 respondents confessed to bringing their work outside of office due to a profound amalgamation of paranoia from being micromanaged at a moment’s notice and the visual noise that take away up to 86 minutes of work-time per employee.

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“All of this social engineering has created endless distractions that draw employees’ eyes away from their own screens. Visual noise, the activity or movement around the edges of an employee’s field of vision, can erode concentration and disrupt analytical thinking or creativity.””

Further substantiated by a study of over 40,000 employees across myriad industries, published in the Journal of Environmental Study no less, concluded that ‘enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality), particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues. Benefits of enhanced ‘ease of interaction’ were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration.’ Moreover, according to renowned neuroscientist Anthony Wagner from Stanford University, multi-taskers are not only ‘more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli but also worse at switching between unrelated tasks’; simply, it demands a greater deal of effort to recoup from interruptions, be it by a colleague or environmental stimuli. This is agreed by psychologists Alena Maher and Courtney von Hippel, asserting that ‘filtering out distractions is key to being efficient in an open office, but being efficient makes you worse at combating distractions’.

Then consider the convergence toward a one-all, be-all work-nest where everyone shares the same breathing space. It demands a groupthink process, but it also calls for living in union; ideas and thoughts would come to intermingle, but not as quickly as bacteria can. So, what then, does it all lead up to?

Mindfully, a largely open space is ritualised to render you twice as likely to fall ill. More sick leaves to come, experts reckon.

Posted by:Debonnaire

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