Thursday, October 18, 2012

Won't Miss #497 - open office plans

One of the cool things about teaching in Japan? No open office plan (usually)... though my husband's second job did have such a style. The noise was awful. This was one of the cubicles I taught in at my last job in Tokyo. Ah, luxury!

I can't speak for offices around the world because I only have experience with two countries - America and Japan. In the U.S., most people work in a private office or a cubicle with partitions on 3 sides. I can't say why this is done, but I've always believed it was to avoid distraction, control noise, and offer privacy. It's a lot harder for your coworkers to interrupt you if they have to get up from their desk and walk around your walls or through your office door than if they can just speak to you across a desk or two. You also get muted sound from their phones and work habits.

In Japan, it is most common to use what is called an "open office plan". That is when there is one big room and the whole staff for a section (or even a company) has desks next to and/or facing one another. This style is cheaper and allows companies to move employees around and cram others in at a whim. It is also a style which has a negative impact on productivity and creates more stress for employees. Most people hate this, but the overwhelming majority of Japanese companies use this style. They say it builds their team spirit, but the truth is that it's about keeping an eye on people and saving money. What was worst about my personal experiences with such plans was that they were horribly cramped. You weren't only operating in a barrage of stimuli and experiencing a plethora of interruptions, but you were crammed in like sardines.

I hated the open office plans in Japan and I absolutely will not miss them.