Living with Less: Ditching The Cubicle For the Open Office


Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

In this season's Mad Men, Duck Phillips described Grey Advertising's offices as "a Penn Station toilet with Venetian blinds." Even their chief creative officer describes it in the New York Times as "a symbol of what advertising used to be: very slow and not very nimble." But employees are going to have to be nimble now, just to avoid running into each other; they have ditched the cubicles and condensed their operations from 26 floors to just six, from almost everyone having an office to just three in the entire operation.

edison bulb conference area image grey advertising

Studios Architecture

As an architect who always worked in open plans, I never enjoyed my days in a private office, and now that I work at home often miss the opportunity to exchange ideas face to face. Packing people into open plans, particularly in the creative professions, not only saves space, energy and money but can produce better work. I am not sure about Studios Architecture's use of "Edison bulbs hanging naked from the ceiling, and long butcher-block tables provide ad hoc collaborative spaces."

Employees were nervous about the transition. According to the Times:

"I think it was more fear of the unknown," said Alex Lubar, vice president for new business at Grey New York. "Fear of the implications of an open space. No more affairs and siestas. Or at least if you're going to do them you have to be more theatrical about it."


Mad Men

I have spent quite a few years now working from home, and can be just as depressed and lonely in my home office there as Don Draper can be in his corner office on Madison. But if I had to work at an office, I would want to do it in a dynamic, open office with people I can interact with, bounce ideas off of and create work that is better than I can do alone. What about you?

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