The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Work Daze: Shutting the Door on the Open Office

Be honest — are you over stimulated?

I know you’re excited to read this week’s column, but that doesn’t explain the rapid heart rate, the gushing hormones, the pinballing pupils.

No, it’s your floor plan that’s the culprit. It’s just too darn open.


In the words of Alan Henry, author of “Simple Desk Improvements That Make an Open Office Easier to Bear,” a recent article in The New York Times, “open floor plan offices are supposed to improve communications, but instead leave workers feeling exposed, over stimulated and lacking privacy.”

This is where Henry comes in — or, would come in, if you had a door for him to come in through.

“Make yourself at home” is his first recommendation. “A few personal effects, like a photo or a desk toy that expresses your personality… will make your desk feel like a place you can settle in and get work done.”

Picking the right photo to personalize your workspace is a challenge. An 8×10 of your supervisor is always a good choice, especially if said supervisor can be photographed cavorting naked in the executive sauna.

As for the desk toy, there are a variety of high-quality fake poop and ersatz vomit products — a hilarious way to express your personality and win yourself some open office privacy.

You are also encouraged to “add a water bottle, hand sanitizer and lotion” to make your hunk of the wide open spaces “really feel like home.” Terrific idea. Ever since you gave away your cat and kicked granny out of the basement, nothing says “home” more than a flagon of Purell.

According to Roy Mann, an expert in enhancing collaboration, you should also personalize your space by “keeping a few clocks visible — not just on your laptop or phone.”

The idea here is to help people “understand how long meetings take.”

This is a very useful strategy as you probably have no idea how long you spend in meetings, especially after hour three, when your vital organs start shutting down.

If you truly want to discourage impromptu meetings in your shared space, I recommend a grandfather clock. Six feet of stately oak that loudly chimes “Rock of Ages” on the quarter-hour will not only discourage co-workers from meeting with you but also make a wonderful place to hide when the boss comes around.

A very popular way to shut out the many distractions of an open office is by wearing headphones. With a noise-cancellation feature, headphones can silence the daily chatfest and provide high-fidelity music, like the “upbeat, instrumental playlist” that helps author Alan Henry “tune out the rest of the world and focus.”

Reasonable solution, but why be selfish when it comes to the healing power of music? Get yourself a pair of Klipsch Klipschorn heritage series floor-standing speakers — a bargain at $11,998 (with free shipping)! Your open office and open offices within a five-mile radius will be able to tune out the rest of the world and focus when you blast nonstop decibels of Insane Clown Posse and KISS.

Of course, you can always leave the open office for the privacy of your home or car. The problem here is that most managers prefer to see you at a desk pretending to work. Instead of leaving the premises, why not set up a work yurt in the center of the office. It shows your commitment to the environment and also allows you to spend the day snoozing peacefully in your jam-jams.

A final suggestion is to add greenery, which “can create a more relaxing space.” You are strongly cautioned to “make sure the plants will thrive in your specific desk environment.” Beyond insuring there is sufficient sunlight and heat, pick plants that match the psychological environment of your workplace.

Obviously, the Venus flytrap is a perfect choice, since it entraps and ingests insects and arachnids.

Unfortunately, it’s probably not capable of eating the human pests that infest your open office. You will have better results by acquiring a Nepenthes rajah, aka, the rat-eating giant Malaysian pitcher plant.

Pick one up next time you visit Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. You’ll enjoy watching the rats in your open office mysteriously disappear as your Nepenthes rajah grows to the ceiling.

It could, in fact, become your best office friend, until it runs out of food and eats you, too. It’s a horrible way to go, I’m told, but still better than working in an open office.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


You may like