POOP

cio3.jpgThat’s People Opposed to Open Plan.  It’s a movement I’ve started.

I’ve always been a bit suspicious of open plan offices.  As far as I can tell, they’re simply a way of packing more people into limited and very expensive office space.  It also drives the culture of “presenteeism” that I’ve mentioned before.

OK, so you might say that open plan offices encourage more collaborative working amongst employees, that they foster more communication and improve a company’s culture.  But what you really mean is that they allow people to muck around, flirt and gossip.  Anything, in fact, other than do their job.  Which, being honest, I’ve been more in favour of than against during my career (I’m talking myself out of my argument here, aren’t I?).  Yes, it’s true.  I’ve always quite liked office distractions.  Hell, I even married one of ‘em!

But with my serious head on, Aunt Sally, I’ve always felt that open plan hinders rather than helps productivity.  But I’m like King Canute against the tide of open plan office solutions.  Until now, that is.

Reading this week’s Economist last night, I find a comrade in the battle against workplaces without walls.  It’s only Jim Goodnight, co-founder and boss of SAS, the world’s biggest privately-owned software company.  And what a brilliant name too!  The only other Goodnight I know is Britt Ekland’s character in The Man with the Golden Gun.

(Pause while Mark finds video clip of Britt Ekland in Get Carter.  But can’t.)

In his profile, Jim says: “You are so much more productive in your own office than when you are being distracted by the people either side.”  Right on, Jim.

And how about this for a knock-on effect of Jim’s decision to give almost everyone of his employees their own office?  All that additional wallspace needs filling, so Jim started buying pieces of art and the company now boasts a collection of more than 5,000 pieces!  What a smart cookie.

SAS is clearly a company that treats its people very well indeed.  For me, it’s partly a function of being a company that has remained privately-owned, some of the advantages of which Jim sums up rather neatly:  “We don’t have to deal with Sarbanes-Oxley or minority shareholders suing us every time we turn around, or 25-year-old Wall Street analysts telling us how to run our business.”  Rock on, Jim.

Anyway.  Who else wants to join me in POOP?

24 thoughts on “POOP

  1. pr-otagonist says:

    I’m with you! Although I’ve always thought that open plan spaces were beautiful light and airy, they’re so bloody impractical.

    What you need is a cocoon, a working womb – somewhere where you can shut yourself off from the outside world and more importantly from that muppet in accounts who laughs like an orgasmic seal pup. God I hate other people!

  2. pr-otagonist says:

    Just a thought, the whole Open Plan Office situation isn’t much of an issue for you really is it Mark?

    It’s a weak analogy but its much like MPs from Scottish constituencies suggesting policies which will only get implemented in England.

  3. Mark says:

    Ah, but you see that’s why I’m in a perfect position to pontificate. I used to be in an open plan workplace, but now I have my own office – and I’m far, far more productive than I ever was before.

    Not as distracted, you see. Just me, my PC and the Internet. What could possibly keep me from my work?

  4. pr-otagonist says:

    Guinness? Vintage cycling clothing lust?

  5. Mark says:

    Fair point.

  6. Chris Wright says:

    Mark,

    I’d like to join you in Poops. I’d like to chair the Historic sub-committee. Many cottages and historic houses have had their guts ripped out to produce large open-plan living spaces. This is a kick in the face for those who came before us. Aesthetics are ruined, historic fabric emptied into landfill and, perhaps more importantly, energy is wasted heating empty space. We call it ‘walk through’ rural.

    Anyone else want to join me in consigning this to the naff bin, along with stripped pine and vegetable soup knitting?

  7. Matt Ravden says:

    Nah, bollocks. You wait ’til SAS’s performance plummets because the staff are spending all day in their little hideaways piddling around on Facebook. It’ll be Goodnight for them. They are an interesting company though – he has a penchant for buying stately homes, chateaus and Schlosses (that’d be in Germany), so I think eccentric is the word …

    The serious answer, of course, is it depends what you’re doing. We both know about PR. In the old days we used to try to recreate a dealing room buzz, with the phones ringing and an atmosphere of controlled mayhem. But nowadays the phones are quiet and most people are pretty ‘head down’, which probably plays into your POOPy hands. However, the other intangible in successful business is team spirit, and I don’t think locking people away does much for that.

    So no. You can stick POOP in your pipe and smoke it ….

  8. I agree with you, working in an open plan office can be a lot of fun, but when you really need to concentrate and get some work done it can be impossible with all the noise, distractions and general tomfoolery going on. A bit of space to yourself can make a huge difference.

    More importantly though, what sort of art was it that SAS bought for the office? Was it some of those paintings of the dogs playing billiards? I hope so.

  9. Mark says:

    It’s a good question Tim. I’m sure in the background of The Economist pic I can just make out a tennis player scratching her backside. Classy stuff, like.

  10. Matt Ravden says:

    I just think goofing around with your work colleagues is massively underrated. It is much more productive then furtive Facebooking or, say, porn, which closed doors obviously facilitates. I remember in the early days at Bite, we would throw stuff at each other, including the famous ‘Vortex’. Granted, it upset the few who were trying to ‘get some work done’ – miserable girlie swats – and granted, it was mostly the blokes who let off steam in this way – oh, I mustn’t forget games of cricket using a ball constructed out of tightly wound elastic bands; boy did it take spin …. but we had fantastic team spirit, hardly lost any pitches, etc.

    ‘Getting work done’ is, frankly, overrated. Sure, there’s the odd proposal, or white paper, but that’s what home working is for. You go into the office to ‘interact’ with people. I’d like to say, at Bite, we had a quiet room. Well that was the idea behind a room called the Think Tank, but unfortunately it got taken over by Konami ISS Soccer on the PlayStation.

    Jimbob will back me up …

  11. Matt says:

    Totally agree with Mr Ravden….I work in Bromley ffs and being in an open plan office is about the only thing that keeps me sane…being in a closed box in Bromely would probably signal the end…. Also, thanks to the fact that I sit with 3 women, I joined weight watchers last week and lost nearly half a stone…in my own office I’d have kept troughing away rather than getting in shape for a cycle ride to France (still no bike tho, btw). Say no to POOP.

    Parp.

  12. James Warren says:

    It’s true. What Mr Ravden said. Every word.

    Got iiiimmmmm!

  13. Mark says:

    So what I think we really need is a fundamental re-think of the whole office environment.

    Rather than have an open plan workspace – with one or two small “chill-out” areas for relaxation – we need one big fuck off playroom with a some small, quiet offices where those who fancy getting stuff done can go off and do it.

    I think it’s coming together.

  14. Matt Ravden says:

    SPOT ON! Need a new acronym though.

    How about PHWOAR (Play Hard Work Only As Required)

  15. Mark says:

    My God. I think we’ve cracked it.

  16. Simon Marks says:

    I miss my office in Redmond… could sneak into work late and no-one would know, could pull the blinds down and pretend to be on an important conference call while taking a bit of a siesta.

    Most of all I just miss having that personal space – more than just a single poxy photo frame. To put up my own art on the walls, bring in a plant, maybe a little sofa. And hoping to finally get upgraded to a window office with a view of the Cascade Mountains.

    Meeting rooms – we don’t need no stinking meeting rooms… we’ve got corridors!

    Now… I’m in a ‘pod’ off Chancery Lane – ho hum.

  17. grantie says:

    I’ve always wanted an office. Nothing to do with working you understand, just the feeling of power… if you have an office, you must be important. All i get is a corner – now THAT is status in an open plan world!

    I think i’d get bored though. I mean, it’s all very well to be away from everyone, but suuuurely the culture of an agency is based on its interaction? Productivity is one thing, but creativity and dealing with the pressures of PR are a communal exercise, not a solitary one. You go home when you need to be properly productive. And then spend the first hour tidying the house, to avoid the work thing… allegedly.

  18. grantie says:

    and Ravden is right – happiest days? At Bite, playing vortex outside, basketball inside (christ Wilks used to get *furious*!) and afterwork ISS tournaments. Ah, halcyon days, chaps, halcyon days… we bought a Wii for the office here and *nobody* plays it – what’s that all about?? Oh yeah, we’re all too busy on the table tennis.

  19. Mark says:

    In a quick and dirty survey of Inferno’s employees, a staggering 97% said that they too wished that you had an office.

    Read into this what you will.

  20. Mark says:

    A Wii? Nice one. Those Xbox things are crap, aren’t they?

  21. jastca says:

    POOP. That’s what old folks in button down shirts do. Whilst sucking on Werthers Originals and doing experiments with Newton’s cradles.
    Which is all fine btw.
    The problem with your own office is that you get people popping in for 3/4 hour for ‘a private word’. No, best to stay out in the open, where if anyone really wants to talk serious with you, they have to email you or book a meeting. Think Wilderbeest. Safety in numbers.

  22. Mark says:

    You’re thinking of those people that have an office and an “open door” policy.

    That’s a halfway house of the worst kind (actually, looking at the Wikipedia definition of a halfway house as “where drug users, sex offenders, the mentally ill, or convicted felons are let out” I could be accused of exaggeration).

    I’d have an office with a “closed door and big friggin’ lock” policy.

  23. Matt Ravden says:

    What’s your record on responses to a post? Shall we try to break it?

    I think we all know offices are poncy and POOP has lost the battle. Offices are divisive and elitist, all about one-up-man-ship (mine’s bigger than yours) and, frankly WRONG, tempting as it always is to keep the chattering classes at arm’s length.

    However, advantages, I would imagine, would be:

    *porn/Facebook without anyone looking over your shoulder
    *flirting madly with the gorgeous admin girl, occasionally peeking over the window, catching her eye and making her blush
    * saying “You, IN MY OFFICE, NOW” in a loud voice, when someone has screwed up
    * elicit, dangerous sex on the mahogany desk, sending in-trays flying …

    Other than that … blimey can I change my mind?!

  24. Simon Marks says:

    * saying “You, IN MY OFFICE, NOW” in a loud voice, when someone has screwed up

    Actually that still sends shivers along my spine when someone who HAS an office summons me into it. I’m always racking my brain trying to remember what it was I did wrong… or at least what they might have found out I did wrong.

    Guilty conscience I know…

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