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Tear Down that Wall: the Open-Concept Office

Midnight, August 13, 1961. East Berlin, Germany. Bathed in improvised floodlights, East German workers scurry to erect a shoddy barrier encircling West Berlin. As West Berliners rose on that fated Sunday morning, so stood one of history’s most infamous barricades, a marker of the iciest era in cold-war relations: The Berlin Wall.

10:24 A.M., June 9, 2015. Toronto, Canada. Bathed in flickering fluorescents, office workers languish at their cubicle-surrounded desks as their eyes glaze over. Desperate for open avenues of communication, these workers can only dream of shouting: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” They sit in a marker of the boring-est era of office organization: the cubicle.

It may be in the name of democracy, or it may be in the name of a more efficient and pleasant work environment, but here are some reasons for your office to ditch the cubicles and go for an open-concept space.

 Spy Communiqués vs. Free Communication

Businesses are collaborative. In virtually any field, at virtually any step in the work process, intra-office communication is vital. The cubicle design may not expressly forbid communication in and of itself, but there’s no doubt that, by its very physical layout, it reduces your ability to exchange ideas with your colleagues. On the other hand, the open-concept, with its shared desk space and open sightlines, encourages communication among employees.

 Closed Borders vs. Open Environment

We spend more time in our office than anywhere else. It’s only fair, then, that we should aim for a pleasing office environment—and your typical cubicle farm is anything but. Cubicles are the bane of natural light, they offer a brilliant vista of the 4 square feet immediately surrounding you, and their noise dampening walls leave acoustics akin to a solitary confinement room. Open-concept offices eliminate all these problems—leaving employees with a space they don’t dread arriving at every morning.

Comrades vs. Camaraderie

Perhaps the most overlooked benefit of open-concept offices is the camaraderie they create. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a space where people can see one another and freely talk is conducive to building strong intra-office relationships. Now, just follow the bouncing ball: employees that work with people they like are happy employees, happy employees are productive employees, and productive employees make for good business.

Open-Concept: Defeating Communism One Office at a Time

Nearly 70 percent of offices in the United States are designed with open-concept in mind. This is no accident. If you’re moving office spaces, or just thinking about a redesign, don’t be an Eastern Bloc-head: go with the open-concept office.

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