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Don Cunningham: Cubicle or Open Floors? That is the Question

By Don Cunningham on February 27, 2019

This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in The Morning Call and on the newspaper’s website on February 26, 2019. (Click here to read Cunningham’s previous columns.)

Don Cunningham

Don Cunningham

The office, the cubicle or open floors: That is the question.

Shakespeare’s actual question in “Hamlet” — to be or not to be — is more profound but the next line in his famous soliloquy is quite relevant in today’s office space debates.

“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them?”

I’m not sure what Shakespeare meant by all this. I’m too lazy and not smart enough to find the deeper meaning in the beautiful words.

But, the second bit about “slings and arrows” and taking up “arms against a sea of troubles” with the intent of “ending them,” that, my friends, is clear to anyone who’s ever had to work in an open space office to enhance “collaboration.”

In the era of Google and Facebook, the open concept office is hip. It’s meant to foster creativity, energy, and innovation. Companies and building owners have adopted it as a great way to improve business.

It’s easy to understand why they like it. More people in less space, lower fit-out costs and reduced rents or building expenses.

It’s more confusing as to why the young workers would like it. Recent surveys and data are showing that many don’t.

The business magazine Fast Company last month reported that open space layouts lower in-person interactions by 70 percent. Emailing and other electronic messaging actually increase by 50 percent when people are close to one another. Workers in open spaces report more stress and 65 percent of creative people say they can’t do their best work without quiet.

I worked in an open-floor office during my early 20s. It was a newsroom.

It was a big space with desks jammed together. There was constant noise. You smelled both your neighbors and their lunches.

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