Open-plan offices are the sweatshops of the West

I initially worked from home as a design consultant but I always wanted to work in a full-time, on-site position. So I traded the comfort of home for a small office in a cosy little town in Luxembourg.

Matej Latin

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This article was originally published on my personal website.

Six years ago, I joined a tiny startup and it was the first time I experienced an open-plan office. There were only three other people working with me in that office and we really got along. We went to lunch together, took walks together, hung out in our free time and built a friendly relationship based on trust. My journey would then take me forward to London where I’d end up working for other, larger startups. Little did I know, that the tiny Luxembourgish company would be the only positive onsite working environment that I’d get to experience in my career.

“No nesting!”, I’m told. I’m expected to move around, sit in different areas each day.

After working for a medium-sized startup in London I went on to work for an enterprise. The office was the most stylish compared to the previous ones, it was larger and in a recently-built skyscraper just the opposite of the Google headquarters. Beautiful views of downtown London on one side, similar skyscrapers on the other. Long rows of tables everywhere and busy-looking people slouching over their laptops. Lively and even somewhat noisy, but, surprisingly, it all looked strangely bleak. I learned on the first day that the company practices what they call “a clean desk policy”. This simply means that at the end of the day you need to pack your shit up, put it in a box and take it to your little American-high-school-looking locker. “No nesting!”, I’m told. I’m expected to move around, sit in different areas each day. It’s supposed to make me interact with different people in the company.

Open-plan offices done wrong

Corporations like these try to emulate the startup working environment by creating such open offices where they throw 100 people in and tell them to collaborate. They expect cross-pollination of ideas like we’re fucking bees or something. It’s not that simple. It kinda works for startups because the teams are usually really small. We’re talking about 5 to 7…

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Matej Latin

Designer, writer, entrepreneur — Get my free web typography course 👉 betterwebtype.com