Open Office Concept Going The Way of the 'Powdered Wig'

31 Jan, 2020 Chriss Swaney


Sarasota, FL ( - This year is the tipping point for the open office appeal to finally end, according to Curtis Sparrer, a principal at Bospar, a boutique PR firm that puts tech companies on the map.

“People are no longer fooled into thinking open offices are necessary to be cool or collaborative. Instead, people see open offices for what they truly are: the cheapest way to house as many employees as possible. No amount of comfy chairs or hip pool tables can hide their economics,’’ said Sparrer.

Sparrer further notes that open offices can’t hide the sound of a coworker’s talking or the lingering smell of a coworker’s meals as he shares space with everyone.

Howard Stern, chair of the MBA program at Carlow University, said the open office provides no privacy and is actually counterproductive. “The real winner is the virtual office where workers increase productivity by 60 to 80 percent,’’ said Stern.  “This is the alternative that modern companies are now starting to use … It simply offers a better life/work balance.”

And Sparrer says he has seen the benefits first hand. “At Bospar, a virtual office means less absenteeism, more productivity, and better staff retention,’’ said Sparrer.  

Industry analysts observe that by having everyone work from home, the playing field is leveled and makes the virtual office a lifestyle; unlike the old open office concept that emphasized the feudalism of the workplace culture when staff could actually see who gets the dedicated offices as opposed to being in the bullpen.  

“Virtual offices are greener, more family friendly, more scalable, and more cost efficient. Because of our virtual environment, our staff has been able to serve our clients better, winning awards such as ‘outstanding boutique agency’ from PR

Week two years in a row,’’ said Sparrer. “While I don’t think the open office concept will go away in 2020, I do think they will be remembered as the powdered wig of our day,’’ Sparrer said. 

In a sampling of over 1,000 working adults in the U.S., Bospar and Propeller Insights found 76 percent disliked open offices. Almost half (43 percent) hated the lack of privacy in an open office setting. Thirty-four percent say they overheard too many personal conversations, which is the side effect of an open office sappng all privacy. Almost one-third (29 percent) say they simply can’t concentrate, and 23 percent worry “sensitive information’’  could be leaked to others in the open office, while 21 percent say they can’t think in open offices. Eighteen percent of those unhappy with their current workspace say they’d quit if another company could offer a better environment.

The survey also revealed that the vast majority of Americans (84 percent) feel that working from home is preferable to any other work arrangement. The number one reason is not having to commute (58 percent),  followed by the belief that working from home would make them more productive (41 percent) and more thoughtful (35 percent).


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    About The Author

    • Chriss Swaney

      Chriss Swaney is a freelance reporter who has written for Antique Trader Magazine, Reuters, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, the Burlington Free Press, UPI, The Tribune-Review and the Daily Record.

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