Over the last decade, the millennial-age modernization of workplaces has created a growing trend of open-space, collaborative areas meant to promote transparency and communion between coworkers. The google-galvanized trend of comfortable spaces for workers to lie about and kitchens filled to the brim with kombucha make for indiscernible elements between home and work, and employees are reveling in these vocational play places.
Open workspaces are nothing new, but millennials have taken it upon themselves to evolve the blueprints. And while much of the world desires these collaborative spaces, not everyone likes it.
The History of the Cubicle
First, it’s necessary to dive into the history of office spaces, starting with the advent of the cubicle. This modular system, named “Action Office II,” was put in place as added privacy to those who were once used to open office environments. This was a unique addition that allowed each employee their own space to conduct their job – but what became of it was office suburbia.
A Difference in Values – The Boomers
Open offices have returned to the fold to replace stale rows of stuffy cubicles. But increasingly vocal opponents of this paradigm shift are raising their concerns, and their distaste for these utopian-like workspaces is palpable.
Nearly half of all employees in a study regarded open work environments as distracting, and more than a third said the lack of visual privacy was upsetting. Opponents of the public settings mention that these areas break apart what they were intended to do – promote collaboration – because people are instead fearful of interrupting their coworkers who are trying their best to be productive in a boisterous locale.
However, these disagreements are separated by a generational gap. The ones protesting the loudest are the baby boomers, who generally take pride in and find value in the acquisition of office space, noting it may have taken a long time and many accomplishments to earn their window-adjacent desk. Those being told that their offices are being torn down to make way for open areas are achingly displeased.
The Millennial Justification
While distractions, chatter, and lack of privacy are all equally dissatisfying for millennials, they believe the tradeoff of increased collaboration is worth the noise. As open-space workplaces biggest proponent, millennials highly value the opportunity to network and engage together in a team setting.
This on-the-fly style of working diminishes the worth of secure, private space, and encourages an egalitarian form of working. Some companies are even creating millennial-only wings, segregating this alter-ego of workplace functions.
What Happens Now?
Besides the millennial mindset propelling these new trends, newer or rebuilding offices and workspaces are open to the shifts because these open-plan areas cut costs in a variety of ways. And in moving forward, businesses will likely not stick to the seniority scale of office space – individuals will be grouped or doled out to areas based on their particular job function (a marketer may benefit from a collaborative space, while a coder or writer will need a quiet space to focus).