Close

Working environment chaos

Postby wireframinghammer » August 30th, 2016, 11:00 pm


wireframinghammer
 
Posts: 2
Joined: August 30th, 2016, 10:41 pm
I work at a medium sized consultancy. It is fast paced, good range of ID and UX, and I love everything about it. Except the open office layout.

I really do like all of my co-workers but what was exciting and fresh a year ago is making me crazy. There is also a lot of constant noise as you might expect, and anything that requires a lot of focus (like building a complicated tech pack or some involved UI in Illustrator) is slowed down a LOT. The zero privacy also makes you feel like you are in a fish tank. Sadly enough, I do prefer the drab cubicle that I had at a previous job to this, although this job is better in every other way.

Sometimes I try to take my laptop into a meeting room, but I don't want to work the majority of my time there, as that wouldn't be seen as being a "team player." Wearing headphones 90% of the day would be bad for the same reason too. Besides these meeting rooms, we only have solo offices for our founders, so I don't think it would be as simple as finding an empty room to make my own. I do get to travel about 10-20% of the time for research and client presentations but that is not enough to fully rejuvenate.

I've looked up dozens of articles about how the open office was supposed to promote creativity and collaboration, but has failed at that and caused resentment ... and I can attest (as I am sure many of you have also!). It seems like the ideal space would have open areas for people to work together, but individual areas that you can focus in. I read C77 quite a bit but thought I would join and ask if anyone else has had this problem, and how they approached it.

Thank you.

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby Jboogie941 » August 31st, 2016, 9:58 am

User avatar

Jboogie941
step four
step four
 
Posts: 315
Joined: November 22nd, 2014, 11:05 pm
Location: Florida Bay Area
We have an open layout also and deal with the same frustrations as you. Hopefully we will be changing offices soon. Not really much I can offer you as a reprieve maybe say a few Woosahhh's. :D As far as our group dealing with it, we tend to move around the office in different parts. We have couches, conference room, bean bag chill area and of course a good old stroll outside. Other helpful tips: We have a stereo for entire area with everyone getting an hr or so on their favorite channel. We also went out and bought quite a number of plants to bring life and greenery inside. I suggested a cat for the office but that didn't go over... :lol:

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby singletrack » September 1st, 2016, 1:02 pm


singletrack
step three
step three
 
Posts: 185
Joined: August 25th, 2009, 11:52 pm
I have worked in a few open floor plans. I currently work in one. They can be very difficult. One in particular was almost impossible to work in because of the mix of jobs they had and amount of people. I have always resorted to head phones for the times I need to focus a lot. I would talk with your co-workers and find out if it really would be a problem to use head phones. I have not found anyone having a problem with it. If it helps you do your job and does not bother anyone else most companies don't have a problem with it. I would also bring something up to your manger to help find a solution that works for the company and you. I would be shocked if the rest of the office is not suffering in the same way to.

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby yo » September 1st, 2016, 2:02 pm

User avatar

yo
Administration
Administration
 
Posts: 15540
Joined: January 5th, 2004, 6:57 pm
Location: SoCal
Get some nice noise canceling headphones. I'm sure the company will be fine with it. Everyone needs to focus in from time to time. I've worked in both cube farms and open offices and much much more prefer the open offices. When I had the opportunity to design our space I made it open, even the conference area is open. This way everyone can hear everything if they want to. No secrets. I think the key to making it work are:

1) music for everyone (we have 5 speakers wirelessly networked and a tablet to DJ)
2) people are able to wear headphones to focus in
3) allow people to work in conference rooms or from home when needed, I do it as well when I really need to focus
4) have some phone booths, we also have easy access to the outside which is quiet here so lots of people take calls or do one on one meetings outside

That said, it is not for everyone. some people can adapt to it, others can't.

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby bcpid » September 1st, 2016, 3:10 pm


bcpid
step four
step four
 
Posts: 389
Joined: March 20th, 2004, 8:26 pm
When I worked in that kind of environment, I frequently (most of the time) found myself migrating to an isolated conference room in order to focus. It's also really hard to get anything done when you're on edge because you feel like you're being watched, whether true or not. Having meetings in the open would be super distracting too - I like to meet in private to both manage the flow of project information, and also to not distract coworkers that are busy working on their own projects. I find it hard to tune out conversation if I know the subject.

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby wireframinghammer » September 1st, 2016, 8:46 pm


wireframinghammer
 
Posts: 2
Joined: August 30th, 2016, 10:41 pm
Thanks all for the responses!

bcpid wrote:When I worked in that kind of environment, I frequently (most of the time) found myself migrating to an isolated conference room in order to focus. It's also really hard to get anything done when you're on edge because you feel like you're being watched, whether true or not. Having meetings in the open would be super distracting too - I like to meet in private to both manage the flow of project information, and also to not distract coworkers that are busy working on their own projects. I find it hard to tune out conversation if I know the subject.


I will try to get more conference room time. I couldn't put it in words, but you exactly described how being on edge from being in the open feels.

yo wrote:Get some nice noise canceling headphones. I'm sure the company will be fine with it. Everyone needs to focus in from time to time. I've worked in both cube farms and open offices and much much more prefer the open offices. When I had the opportunity to design our space I made it open, even the conference area is open. This way everyone can hear everything if they want to. No secrets. I think the key to making it work are:

1) music for everyone (we have 5 speakers wirelessly networked and a tablet to DJ)
2) people are able to wear headphones to focus in
3) allow people to work in conference rooms or from home when needed, I do it as well when I really need to focus
4) have some phone booths, we also have easy access to the outside which is quiet here so lots of people take calls or do one on one meetings outside

That said, it is not for everyone. some people can adapt to it, others can't.


It is good to hear someone else's side of it too. Have you heard any complaints, especially from the more reserved types of people? These all sound like good ways to compromise with an open space. All the more reason for a combination of open / private spaces also.

singletrack wrote:I have worked in a few open floor plans. I currently work in one. They can be very difficult. One in particular was almost impossible to work in because of the mix of jobs they had and amount of people. I have always resorted to head phones for the times I need to focus a lot. I would talk with your co-workers and find out if it really would be a problem to use head phones. I have not found anyone having a problem with it. If it helps you do your job and does not bother anyone else most companies don't have a problem with it. I would also bring something up to your manger to help find a solution that works for the company and you. I would be shocked if the rest of the office is not suffering in the same way to.


Headphones seem popular! I notice when I wear them that people seem even more likely to start chatting about non-design related things ... but that is probably my imagination. Good suggestion to bring it up to my manager.

Jboogie941 wrote:We have an open layout also and deal with the same frustrations as you. Hopefully we will be changing offices soon. Not really much I can offer you as a reprieve maybe say a few Woosahhh's. :D As far as our group dealing with it, we tend to move around the office in different parts. We have couches, conference room, bean bag chill area and of course a good old stroll outside. Other helpful tips: We have a stereo for entire area with everyone getting an hr or so on their favorite channel. We also went out and bought quite a number of plants to bring life and greenery inside. I suggested a cat for the office but that didn't go over... :lol:


I had to google Woosah but I like that idea :)

Thanks again.

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby yo » September 2nd, 2016, 8:10 am

User avatar

yo
Administration
Administration
 
Posts: 15540
Joined: January 5th, 2004, 6:57 pm
Location: SoCal
The reality is hat someone will always complain. When I worked at Nike in a cube type set up, people complained, when we moved from a high wall to a low wall cube in Converse, people complained, when I was at frog and we had an open studio, people complained. Heck, in all three cases I was in with the complainers! Now that I'm in a leadership position and I happen to be in charge of the space planning, we have three different set ups. In design and marketing we have open studio, in finance we have traditional cubes, in operations we have a mix... In all three cases people complain. I've gone back and talked to former bosses to get advice and try to do my best to solve these issues. At the end of the day it seems that there is a percentage of people who will always complain. So what I've had to do is pull back and decide what kind of work place do I want to have. How do I want it to function? At the end of the day an employee might be there for a period of years but the company will be constant, so deciding how we want to set it up as a living organism, as a lasting microcosm, is more important that ensuring every single individual is 100% satisfied. The most important thing is that the overall system is intact and suits he long term cultural goals.

I'll use an anecdote to put it more bluntly, as a speaker company we have music playing always, usually loudly. When people interview in design and marketing it is typically in the open studio conference area with music going. We want to test to make sure they can handle the environment. We had someone new start and he kept turning down the music... Not cool. So I let him know the music had to stay on. He told me he preferred it quiet to which I had to tell him that working here might not be the best idea then. We were not going to change the culture and character of the entire studio to satisfy a single person, and I asked him to try to adapt if he would like to stay on. 2 years later he is totally fine. He wears noise cancelling headphones a lot, but so do I and a lot of the team. It is a bit of an unspoken rule that when someone has a big pair of vans on you try not to disturb them. I make a point to practice what I preach. I'm out in the open studio too (I hate offices) with a connected speaker literally right next to my desk (I like the music loud, it is like a screen for me)

Conclusion, no system is perfect, individuals will always complain because it is impossible to satisfy everyone and make a cohesive culture (and stay in budget). The most important thing is to have the right system for the long term culture of the company and really only the long term leadership can steward that. I recommend not complaining and instead seeking to find personal solutions. Communicate them. Tell your boss you have a hard time concentrating so you would like to wear noise cancelling headphones, that you are not being rude, just productive. As if you can work from home 2 days a month or something. Find and propose solutions that don't disrupt the larger culture. Make a point of having time where you joke and mix with the team. It sounds like having a dynamic and social culture is important there. Be a part of that.

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby KenoLeon » September 3rd, 2016, 12:54 am

User avatar

KenoLeon
step four
step four
 
Posts: 593
Joined: October 23rd, 2012, 12:22 pm
Location: Mexico City
To answer ops question:

Sound blocking headphones and dedicated work music playlists : my 2 favorite ones at the moment:

https://open.spotify.com/user/125937873 ... hO21TsQhBp

And

https://open.spotify.com/user/rhoward1/ ... L3h38mVaHr

Other tips:

Sketching: I sketch and work at noisy coffee shops all the time, it 's good practice, start on a table and move to the bar as you get more comfortable,( you might also wan’t to start with easy stuff) don’t work on anything sensitive obviously.

Computer Work: I also find it a little unnerving to have someone watching over my shoulder as I work,(unless they are actively involved or are a welcome spectator) it doesn’t matter if I am coding something that very few people understand or a CAD file that might be easier to get,it’s a matter of personal space and the mental energy devoted to monitoring that space. Not much you can do about it but I find it helps if you can find a spot with a wall behind you and narrow your screen ( like having blinders) and tilt your monitor.

I am currently of the idea that communal work activities should be done in a communal setting ( like a conference room or big tall table with stools) a private quiet office works better when you want to focus and having a social/work place ( A 3rd place) is also beneficial.The challenge is providing the 3 to everyone, it also would need to scale, be budget friendly, and a few other considerations, so I think it is a design problem that is yet to be resolved.
Last edited by KenoLeon on September 7th, 2016, 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Eugenio (Keno) Leon
k3no.com Linkedin Instagram

"We are surrounded with objects of desire, not objects of use.” Don Norman

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby Ed_Jones » September 7th, 2016, 1:44 pm


Ed_Jones
 
Posts: 1
Joined: September 7th, 2016, 1:23 pm
I am disabled and use speech recognition. I have been verbally assaulted multiple times because my speech is heard for 3-4 seats around. I have lost jobs because "work style is too disruptive". speech recognition systems are confused by background music. reasonable accommodation has been refused because acoustically isolated space "would send the wrong message" or "is not a good fit with company culture".

Almost all forms of disability are either visually or acoustically disruptive in an open work space. I believe the problem is not open offices but a general discomfort with disability.

Most designs I see here at core 77 are hostile to one or more types of disabilities. I can't tell if it is from ignorance, indifference or arrogance. hint, give your designs to the elderly and young children, if they can't figure it out without explaining, toss the design and start over.


P.S. "I also find it a little unnerving to have someone watching over my shoulder as I work,"

while my hands a mess, my eyes are good enough I can read most screens at 10-15 feet and ears are good enough I can follow most conversations at about the same distance. I've learned *way* too much about co-workers that way.

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby KenoLeon » September 7th, 2016, 10:09 pm

User avatar

KenoLeon
step four
step four
 
Posts: 593
Joined: October 23rd, 2012, 12:22 pm
Location: Mexico City
Hi Ed:

Ed_Jones wrote:I am disabled and use speech recognition...work style is too disruptive


Have you tried throat mics ? , not sure if they would fit your specific disability or impose further grievances to you, but that's what I thought of first.

Ed_Jones wrote:Most designs I see here at core 77 are hostile to one or more types of disabilities. I can't tell if it is from ignorance, indifference or arrogance


Your story reminded me of Michael Graves, he became an advocate of accessibility, but only after becoming paralyzed and being relegated to a wheel chair.

I don't think it is a stretch to think that every designer in this forum including myself wouldn't stop sketching or designing cars, watches and speakers to design something connected to our disabilities ( or a loved one) if we or them had one, we might even design for others disabilities.

It could also be a lack of foresight, I mean most of us have a good chance of ending up in a bed in a hospital crapping in an undignified way, even the simplest thing like the bedpan is horribly designed.

I am sure there are other external factors as well, I don't want to hijack the thread, just wanted to say I agree on the importance of what you bring up, not sure if it has been explored here before, but could be a good topic.

Best,
-K
Eugenio (Keno) Leon
k3no.com Linkedin Instagram

"We are surrounded with objects of desire, not objects of use.” Don Norman

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby MK19 » September 21st, 2016, 1:36 pm


MK19
step two
step two
 
Posts: 62
Joined: August 19th, 2016, 10:13 am
http://www.dezeen.com/2016/09/15/open-p ... echnology/
http://www.dezeen.com/2016/07/21/open-p ... s-want-uk/

Some food for thought. Open plan offices are argued, scientifically, to make employees less friendly toward one another, less creative and less productive.

Re: Working environment chaos

Postby bcpid » September 21st, 2016, 2:40 pm


bcpid
step four
step four
 
Posts: 389
Joined: March 20th, 2004, 8:26 pm
^ I'll buy that. Nothing worse for your relationships with coworkers than having to choose between needlessly blasting out your eardrums to drown them out or listening to a loud conversation you are neither interested in nor a part of. Privacy is a good thing.


Return to design employment