Iron laws of open plan offices

Law One:  Everybody around you starts having very loud conversations as soon as you are on a difficult conference call.

Someone has a mobile with a very loud ringtone or notification and a tendency to leave it on their desk and wander off.

I was in an open plan in CC many years ago. One lunch time a trainee who was (a) Scottish and (b) very large opened his draw and took out a whole, very ripe washed rind cheese wrapped in waxed paper and then a cloth. As he undid it there was this wave of ammonia and chimp arsehole.  It was the size of a dinner plate with a pinkish rind - like an Epoisse but much bigger.  Really properly whiffy. I mean "what has that dog rolled in??" smelly.   I think it can only have been a dare.  He then just sat there and ate it as if he was eating a pizza, chomp chomp chomp, vaguely aware that attention on him was growing.  It was quite some performance to behold.  When he'd finished the entire area was giving him the "WTF?" slackjawed look.  He say "aye, what?" in a voice like Jazzer from the Archers,  and then threw the waxed paper in the bin and strolled out to wash his hands.  The whole room smelled of sick for an age. He did not join the department on qualification (was sent to Shipping I think).

Law 3, there will be some khunt who thinks it's cool to throw a cricket ball over dividers who eventually causes major injury to the partially sighted chap.

This will possibly out me if my old work colleague is reading this, but we once worked together on a project with an internal client which involved almost daily meetings in small, windowless underground meeting rooms over the course of several months. The client was diabetic and didn't eat sweets, but brought in bags of sugary crap for everyone else, and all but forced people to eat it. She, on the other hand, would unwrap a wedge of brie and sit there with it clutched in her chubby fist, taking bites out of it as if it were a piece of cake.

*shudders*

 unhealthy food, mostly made up of candy etc for 5 year olds in the 'usual place'

I think I used to work in your office, diceman.

And what sails said x 100.  Always a partner.

 

 

There will also be someone who sits about three feet away from you who will go to the effort of opening a new e-mail and typing in your details, etc. to just ask a simple question that would have taken two seconds to ask if they'd just spoken to you.

I'm still traumatised by the memories of watching her chomp through it during all those 8am meetings, Mutters. Still traumatised by that whole project actually, tbf.

Not really a "law", this one, but I once worked in open plan with a partner who spent the whole afternoon audibly farting.  He was one for a rich, often boozy, lunch.

Someone’s fucking PA will come back from their baby holiday with a mewing little ball of snot and you can basically kiss goodbye to any support for about an extra two hours beyond the usual lunchtime as the rest of the secretaries descend upon little Wayne and coo over him for half the day. 

There will also be someone who sits about three feet away from you who will go to the effort of opening a new e-mail and typing in your details, etc. to just ask a simple question that would have taken two seconds to ask if they'd just spoken to you.

 

Sounds like they are avoiding talking to you.

Coracle the one who used to do that was more interested in arse covering and wanted e-mails to show everything they'd said and done.

Open plan sounds ghastly. I now (thanks to absurd political decisions beyond my reach) reside on an open plan floor, but at least I have my own goldfish bowl office. How can professional people cope with it?

Magnificent grandstand fuckwittery. moi? Above the salt? How very dare you!  I’m in a goldfish bowlnod despair. And yet still somehow I bring myself to work. Goodbye cruel world...

Open plan has many downsides but also virtues. You get to know your colleagues. There’s a greater sense of team.  Lawyers in boxes go the whole day reading and thinking sometimes and don’t engage with others. Isolation is bad for the mental health.

From a management point of view, you get a clearer sense of how people work, who is busy and who is not, who is happy, who has strengths or developmental needs that otherwise might take a while to undearth. You can do all that just by tuning in and listening. If someone’s got a snippy style on the phone or having a bad day because something is up, you can catch it and have a quiet word before it gets out of hand or destructive.  

If you’re in Dux’s executive washroom on your own you can’t absorb that kind of intel and performance evaluation and management is less frequent and more formal, often hit and miss. 

Some seccy talking too loud for 30 mins about Corrie or how drunk she got last night (invariably a Monday night) 

Law 4: Someone will walk past your desk/come to your desk to speak to you as soon as you open something dodgy on Rof

There have been 5 occasions I have been moved and they've tried to put me into open plan.  Each time I have repelled them.  I'm having my own office or I'm off.  Fuck this sh1t

Jamal why do you think you must have your own office or need one ? Provided you aren’t packed in like battery hens , open plan works well

In PP, generally speaking, if it is open plan everyone is open plan - I realise there are exceptions to that.

It’s a myth that lawyers must /should have their own offices because the nature of the work they do is so complicated and challenging it requires isolation.legal work is rarely that complex and when it is book a room . Other professions manage perfectly well, bankers , engineers, accountants, surveyors, research scientists, architects. Some of these do often do mind bending original stuff such as engineers and they still deliver 

Where I am we have a mix but there are no single offices and even heads of department have to share.  Open plan is good for discussing random points as you get several views rather than just the view of your room mate and it's interesting listening to how other people deal with things which can give you ideas.  It's also great fun trying not to laugh as one of your colleagues is having some total meltdown on the phone or is calling IT to sort out some utterly basic IT issue.

The downside to open plan is trying to concentrate/read or listen on the phone when someone is yammering at the top of their voice 3 feet away. 

I find every one in open plan always considerate for each other , as failure to do so , it works both ways . There is an etiquette to open plan and every one adheres to it. Simple. Even the large bazza sets are open plan or 4/5 to a room 

I used to work for big law firms, I had my own office, like others. There was a traffic light thing on the door. Green, fine, come in, amber, only if its important, red, no I'm shagging my secretary.

Joking, but that's what it became known as.

not everyone is so considerate, ebitda.

e.g. I used to sit opposite a partner with a booming voice who wouldn't stop using speakerphone.  Even when the MP told him not to.

 

We are currently being monitored for how much we're occupying our desks and meeting rooms

 

*shudders*

Open plan is fine provided you have enough rooms to go and do calls or that complicated bit of drafting you have to do once in a blue moon, and provided said rooms haven’t been commandeered by a partner or some other shunter who thinks he’s Lord Sumption. 

I did encounter one colleague earlier wearing headphones and then on top of those massive noise cancelling ear defenders which seems a little OTT.  Also means you have to wait a minute to start a conversation with him while he gets to the point where he can hear you.  I'm good at ignoring background noise but that's partly from learning to sleep whilst listening to a howling gale with someone operating machinery and shouting 18 inches away from your bed.

Heh.

even in open plan we had a weirdly feudal system of where people sat - most important partners in corners by windows, partners along the back by windows and continuing in that vein as it got closer to the centre where the trainees were sat.  By sheer luck I got a window but spent so much time on the phone in one of the meeting rooms or wfh that it didn’t really make much difference in the end.

That said I had a meeting at a shoosmiths office , there were 100s of them packed in like sardines, looked grim as fuck .

MDs where I work all have their own offices , they mostly sit on the floor so to speak, which they prefer.

Jamal why do you think you must have your own office or need one ?

 

Because I'm talking about sacking people or medical reports of people sitting all around me and we don't have enough ante rooms?

and provided said rooms haven’t been commandeered by a partner or some other shunter who thinks he’s Lord Sumption

Lolz

 

AND in spaces which are 150% over capacity where it is A N Other, not even Lord Sumption.  Fvckers just camp out all day, and unless you want endless conflict, you're not keen on telling them to fvck off all day if you need to discuss their colleague's mental health problems and forthcoming dismissal

Your job sounds miserable.  At least most people I deal with are happy when they manage to move into the property they wanted or sell a property.

music. and putting your phone on speaker.

you would have thought this would be beyond the pale in an open plan office.

but it isn't!

 

and headphones. all very well. but if you wonder over to someone you line manage and it takes them half an hour to register/acknowledge your presence, that's annoying....

 

 

Nish Kumar really annoys me. He's one of those comedians who (a) is not funny (b) thinks sarcasm and an over-sarcastic tone is in itself hilarious and thus quality of material is unnecessary  (c) has a voice you want to kick him in the balls for and (d) has a "smash my face in" laugh.

You have that in your open plan. That is bad.  

I used to work with a very angry girl who used to listen to loud heavy metal whilst working. I used to try and avoid sitting near her but we hot desked, so sometimes it couldn't be helped. One day I genuinely thought her earphones had come unplugged so I went to have a word and she said, "no, it's just very loud, that's all".

Yeah, no shit Sherlock, now turn it down, you appalling gobshite.

This was as bad as any I've heard on public transport and she was sitting about half a tube carriage's distance from me.

My room has no decorations but the secretaries across the corridor have full on stockings hanging from the fireplace and fairy lights along the partitions between desks, etc.

One open plan i worked in they set up one of those giant inflatable santas that require a bouncy castle generator.

my mrs worked in an open plan where her boss who sat next to her and was a veggie took in egg curry sarnies every day and ate them at his desk.  

Nish Kumar really annoys me. He's one of those comedians who (a) is not funny (b) thinks sarcasm and an over-sarcastic tone is in itself hilarious and thus quality of material is unnecessary  (c) has a voice you want to kick him in the balls for and (d) has a "smash my face in" laugh.

You have that in your open plan. That is bad.  

Surprisingly I don't actually find it that annoying.

Possibly because it is an uncannily good impression.Now the one with the voice like a screeching siren at the other end is a different matter.

 

ps Have you heard any of Nish Kumar's earlier work?

He wouldn't be the first to not be as funny as he used to be.

is there anyone who actually thinks open plan is a good idea? Apart from management who like the cost savings? The evidence showing it is bad for productivity and concentration and work that requires you to think is pretty conclusive 

A few years ago I worked in an open plan office where the seccies went bananas about xmas decs and competed with each other in each area of the office.  I’ve never seen anything like it.   A few of us refused to deck the halls and maintained a nice oasis of sanity (there aint no sanity clause, etc).  Bah humbug rules. 

 

Kimmy, I am with you...

 

today, I came to work. someone has put a bauble on my screen...

 

I don't like it

 

but dare not remove it

 

the tyranny of compulsory Christmas fanfare!!

Kimmy you'd have loved the firm I worked at where there was an inter-department decorations competition and an inter-office carol singing contest at the Christmas party.

It was variable as you were expected to rewrite the carols in a witty manner and some were very funny and some were terrible.

 

cliff Richard songs are very popular.

 

we haven't got onto ....secret santa.  more compulsory non-fun.....