Get rid of open offices and instant messaging
Can we now admit two things?
1. Instant messaging systems are intrusive
2. Open office systems are terrible
Neither system is conducive to productivity or proper communication.
As I sit here working now on my laptop, Teams chat boxes are incessantly pinging on a meeting which I don’t even have to attend. This is even worse if you are using a work cell phone.
Teams works really well as an online meeting system. But its intra-company chat system is intrusive. I worked at a multinational company for a decade during which Microsoft Office introduced the precursor to Teams with an intra-company chat mechanism. I kept it shut off. A quality director who literally sat 50 feet from me in his office would send me an email asking for information and then he would complain to me he could not reach me on chat.
By intruding into someone’s workflow because YOU want information immediately eliminates the ability of staff to budget their time and manage their priorities. Most of the information he needed wasn’t urgent. Frankly, if it was so urgent he could have walked fifty feet and seen me at my desk!
Much like social media, another problem with messaging in a work environment is short messaging, lack of detail, lack of a well thought out communication.
Another problem with chat modes or instant messaging is the inability to have a record of conversations and flow of information. You have this ability when questions and information is exchanged via email, but saving instructions or concerns expressed in chats and texts is cumbersome if not impossible. Using these methods for communication allows people to avoid accountability.
If you don’t know what an open office is, see image. No cubicles, no walls between workers. UGH!
First, we spend too much time at work to not be able to personalize our space. Open office doesn’t allow this. You’re at your desk like a galley slave chained to an oar.
One article says the system breaks down barriers and improves communication, and “reduces boundaries between staff . Having worked in an open office for a year, I can attest that reducing boundaries, improving communication is NOT a feature of seating design, but rather by CORPORATE CULTURE!
What the linked article does state, and which I consider THE driving force, is expense. Open office is cheaper. The other feature is “centralized supervision.’ Namely, managers have eyesight visibility on their staff. Both of these features are NOT benefits to productivity or communication, but de-humanizing facilities with prison-like controls for supervisors who don’t know how to manage their staff.
There’s no privacy, conversations across the room mingle making discussions on the phone or even between you and the person next to you difficult with all the background noise and distractions. Add to that the covid pandemic, in which keeping separate was a key element of preventing the spread of the virus. Companies resorted to half measures like installing a plexiglas window between seat-mates.
Let’s go back to cubicles and eliminate instant messaging from the business world.