I was listening to Cortex yesterday and Myke and CGP Grey were mentioning the new Menlo Park headquarters for Facebook and the large, open-plan work space. This space is not a trend unique to Facebook. Many companies and office spaces are transitioning to open-plan work spaces for more “open communication” and collaborating. But is this type of space really the solution to that? Do people really collaborate more and do critical thinking in a space like this or do they end up trying to drown out all the distractions with headphones or go hide away in a closet somewhere to get some actual work done?
I find the interior space of the new Facebook office neither aesthetically appealing nor engaging for working or collaborating. It just looks cluttered, messy and noisy. The fact that no one is given any storage space nor are they encouraged to have personal items on their desk seem to only make it more disheartening and cluttered. The overly high, unfinished ceilings with cables descending down are even worse! I think of something Trevor Noah said about not moving into Jon Stewart’s office after he left the Daily Show… he talked about how the whole point of moving up in the worked and getting out of poverty meant he didn’t want to have to live in a space with exposed brick walls again and what was it with white people and exposed brick? I feel the same way about wealthy tech companies and exposed wiring? You can afford to have that sh*t covered up! This whole space gives me a case of the hibby jibbies!
For a more in-depth view of the new Facebook work space, there is a 3+ minute video tour on YouTube.
I really hope that the pendulum of the open floor plan office starts to swing back the other way because I don’t believe that this much openness is genuinely conducive to non-distracted working and thinking. I believe it leads people to seek out other places to work, or they choose to come into work either early or stay late in an attempt to avoid distrations. I think the myth of multi-tacking needs to stop. It makes people sloppy and tired. We can multi-task for a little while but, in the end, I don’t think its effective, efficient or healthy. I don’t think we, as idea workers, can come up with our best ideas when we are constantly distracted by co-workers, bleeps, or other disturbances. Yes, its nice to have a way to bounce ideas off other people, but we need to find a better way to do it other than forcing people to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with headphones on while they madly type into their laptops and mobile devices. That’s not really collaborating, is it?
Thus endedth the tirade.