Transition from Private Office to Open Plan...

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Great article in the New York Times today about what happens when a company eliminates their private offices. 41 years after the introduction of the first cubicle, (Herman Miller's Action Office), there are very few subjects that cause as much "corporate" anxiety as when a company switches to an "open office" environment.

I've been involved in countless transitions to an open office environment over the last 19 years, and here is what I've learned:

  1. It only works if Management lives it. (It defeats the purpose if everyone except for top management moves out of the private office).
  2. Call it a workstation - not a cube. The term "cube" is a throwback to the Dilbert era, when floor plates were filled with a maze of high panel walled "cubes". Open plan work environments today are nothing like the distant past...
  3. Mid-level panel heights (50"H) actually promote a quieter environment than taller panel heights (69"H). (People in shorter cubes naturally speak softer because they know they can be heard, people in taller cubes speak in a normal voice, because they think they have acoustical privacy, when they really don't).
  4. Almost any organization can do it. If Mayor Bloomberg can move into a cube, just about any top executive can also.
  5. Productivity will go up. If you can't close your door to update your facebook, you probably won't update your facebook at the office.
To read the New York Times article, Learning to Live Without Walls, click (HERE). To download an article about the process Deloitte & Touche underwent to transform their work environment: follow this (LINK) to the Resources Page at, and look under the Industry White Paper section.