Thursday, April 10, 2008

why do open concept workspaces breed insanity?

This morning I was chatting with a colleague who amuses me immensely. Somehow the conversation turned to the dreaded shared printer, as we both have one right beside our desk. People have a tendency to print somewhat personal documents and forget to pick them up. Over my time at this particular office, I've viewed legal documents for a divorce, mortgage applications (including the applicant's salary information), performance reviews, and even a colleague's child's school report card.

When I got back to my desk after this conversation, I experienced a flash of brilliance. I added the printer next to my colleague's desk to my available networked printers, then got to work. Faking up a clinic's letterhead, I informed my colleague that he had a dangerously high level of vitamins A and K, and that he was strongly advised to cease eating carrots in high doses immediately. I hit print.

And then I waited by my printer. Sure enough, within 20 minutes, a document appeared on somewhat sketchy HR letterhead, approving my application for maternity leave. (I am very visibly not pregnant.)

And so I faked up a letter confirming my colleague's appointment for implants to his gluteus maximus and printed that. And the madness continued.

Soon my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. I had lots of work to do, as I'm sure my colleague did too. But our open concept office made our little game of one-up-manship more crucial than actual work success.

People in Asia spend their entire life in close quarters with others, with no discernible ill-effects . But put us in an open concept office and we start to go haywire. What's that about anyway?

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