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Across the nation, the burgeoning startup culture is drastically changing the office landscape. In cities like San Francisco, Atlanta, and Austin, offices are now pre-manufactured by Ikea. Many graphic designers, marketers, and digital media types are a black polo away from working in an Apple store. Yes, young professionals everywhere are throwing out the bulky metal desks in favor or stand-up desks and communal tables where everyone sits together. The reasoning behind this shift in layout is that all that open space will help creative teams collaborate more; the lack of physical barriers will translate to less mental blocks. Also, cool, cubicle-less offices can be a lot of fun and a whole lot less depressing. However, there are some downsides to working in an open, modern office.
The Sounds Of The Modern Office
Today’s office is not Facebook–it doesn’t have privacy settings. Everyone knows when you go to the bathroom and how long you stay in there. Those sitting closest to the bathroom can hear exactly what you’re doing in there and how many times you had to flush. Any time I go to the bathroom at work, I’m convinced that my coworkers all pull out stopwatches to time how long I’m in there. You want my advice? You might want to cut back on the coffee in the morning. If you can’t go without your caffeine fix, I suggest finding a nearby gas station bathroom that hasn’t had someone murdered in it in more than a year.
It’s impossible to have a private conversation at work. This can be a great thing when you do something right because everyone gets to hear how much the boss liked your presentation. On the other hand, it’s the absolute worst when you accidentally sent all your drunk tweets to a client’s Twitter account the night before. The acoustics are also not ideal if the person with a Pit Bull Pandora station decides he or she is going to be the official office DJ. Your first paycheck should go toward some noise canceling headphones–and a flask, if you don’t already have one–for these days.
The Sights Of The Modern Office
The acoustics of an open office can make for some embarrassing moments at work, but there’s also the visual side of things: everyone sees everything that happens. It’s almost impossible to get away with taking a selfie. Even if you have your phone on silent to avoid the shameful-shutter noise, there’s a good chance at least one of your coworkers is going to catch you sending a “work sucks” Snapchat. The entire office (read: your boss) knows when you show up to work late, as well as when you leave early. And good luck trying to hide the fact that you’ve already given up on your New Year’s resolution to lose weight, because your coworkers saw you go into the break room five times before 10 a.m.
An open office can present you with a myriad of awkward situations–maybe you’ve looked up to see five strangers on the sidewalk watching through your office’s floor to ceiling windows as you slide across the wood floors of the office, in your socks, to Billy Joel. If you end up having the office to yourself one day, make sure to slide-dance away from the windows. Not that I would know–that was totally a hypothetical scenario.