Scientists and interior designers are starting to think that short cubicle walls and open floor plans are neat places to visit, but you wouldn’t want to work there:
Cubicle culture is already something of a punch line — how many ways can we find to annoy one another all day? — but lately the complaints are being heard by the right people, including managers and social scientists. Companies are redesigning offices, piping in special background noise to improve the acoustics and bringing in engineers to solve volume issues. “Sound masking” has become a buzz phrase.
Scientists, for their part, are measuring the unhappiness and the lower productivity of distracted workers. After surveying 65,000 people over the past decade in North America, Europe, Africa and Australia, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, report that more than half of office workers are dissatisfied with the level of “speech privacy,” making it the leading complaint in offices everywhere.
“In general, people do not like the acoustics in open offices,” said John Goins, the leader of the survey conducted by Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment. “The noisemakers aren’t so bothered by the lack of privacy, but most people are not happy, and designers are finally starting to pay attention to the problem.”
I prefer a QA lab with walls because it’s so much harder to get heavy metal to bounce off of the walls without the, you know, walls.
That, and QA requires a lot of focus, and people popping by all the time or even the fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye can be enough to make me fear I’ve missed something.