Why Private Offices Should Be Banned and Open Environments Should Rule the Workplace

Kulzer: Ban all offices, even for the CEO.

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Do you remember a time in your career when you had to have “a talk with the boss?” You likely walked into what felt like the principal’s office then sat down in front of his/her desk feeling intrusive or unworthy. While some of us may be more at ease than others, most people never feel truly comfortable being in the boss’ office.

Why should they? Private offices are closed off and separated from the rest — and they breed an environment of “us” versus “them.”

I propose we ban them all. CEOs, directors, managers, etc.: It’s time to come out, come out wherever you are. And before you give me all the reasons this shouldn’t happen, consider this possibility: Offices with open floor plans actually provide more benefits than you may think.

They breed transparency. When managers and senior leaders are tucked away in their private offices with the doors shut and shades down, others are bound to wonder what they’re doing. Is your manager getting any work done in there or is he just shopping online or catching on a Netflix series? The truth is that most team members are likely to be working hard, but it helps for Joe from accounting to actually see his higher-ups. When people see their managers working hard, out in the open, it inspires them to be team players and work just as hard. It also extinguishes any doubt and puts the breaks on the rumor mill.

Having an open office helps makes everyone accessible. When you’re side-by-side with co-workers from every level, you’ll know everyone is equal and working towards a common goal. What’s more, everyone needs to feel included and (most importantly) empowered to engage in company discussions. Offices with drawn shades and locks on the doors don’t exactly promote a welcoming, communicative vibe. Wouldn’t it be nice to just walk over to your manager’s desk to ask a quick question? You wouldn’t have to feel like an intruder or a bother, and you certainly wouldn’t have to schedule an unnecessary meeting for a mere 30-second conversation.

Team members won’t take themselves too seriously. Whether you’re the CEO or the new intern, everyone is a valuable player and no one should be taking themselves too seriously. C-level managers know how important their roles are so there’s no reason they can’t produce the same quality of work whether they’re barricaded in an office or seated in an open area with the rest of their team. No one should feel closed off from others or intimidated by titles and offices. Having the ability to engage in conversations with all team members at any given time will help to make sure this doesn’t happen. An open environment is a more relaxed environment.

Open offices are just more fun. And they make the workday more enjoyable. Surrounding yourself with like-minded team members, rather than being secluded in an office all day, will make the workday more productive. A business should be all about working together while having a good time. Yes, having a good time at work (as long as you work hard, too) should be a given.

So give it a try. Come out from behind the shadows of your corner office and get active with the rest of your team. Meeting rooms make great spaces for an hour or two of alone time when you feel like you need laser-like focus and concentration. With an open office, you’ll end up getting to know a few of your co-workers on a deeper level, leading to more collaborative projects or even just a new friend to share common interests.

Tom Kulzer is the founder and CEO at AWeber, an email marketing service provider located in Chalfont, Pa. Over the company’s 17-year history, Tom has nurtured it from a small start-up to an organization with 100 team members serving more than 100,000 customers worldwide.

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