The 10 Worst Things About Working In An Open-Office–In Your Words

We asked you what you hate about your open-office layout. And you told us. Oh boy, did you tell us.

It’s not surprising that many people don’t like cubicle life.


But recently we’ve noticed a particular amount of disgust directed toward the once-revolutionary open-office layout. What was supposed to be the ultimate space for collaboration and office culture was having the opposite effect.

Instead of asking experts who work in hyper-designed productivity palaces their opinion, we wanted to know how the everyman fares in the revolution of the open workspace.

So we asked you why you hate open-office layouts.


We received lengthy (and sometimes painful) responses from over 100 people. Below we’ve compiled some of the most common gripes, and our favorite responses.

1. It’s Loud

Constant, disruptive noise. Being constantly “open to chat” with my boss as apparently making eye-contact means I have time to talk about whatever is most important for him right there and then.

The worst thing is the noise–you can hear people typing, sneezing, coughing, eating, taking calls, cursing, and anything and everything in between. It’s hard to concentrate!

As a creative person I love to collaborate but I love solitude equally as much because distractions for me are very counter productive. I don’t care if the offices are all glass and off no visual privacy, it’s the ability to shut the door and keep outside noise from invading my space.

Inability to concentrate due to noise. Noise that is mostly talking. On phones. In groups. Work related. Non-work related. Blah, blah, blah blah blah. Constantly.

2. Your Co-Workers Won’t Stop Interrupting You

Our open space has low cubicles so I can also see the person next to me. This means, if I put on my headphones my co-worker can still wave her hands to get my attention. She does this frequently throughout the day–often to tell me about things I am intentionally trying to block out, like the phone ringing.

For anyone in the company to get to our kitchen, they have to walk through our department because the facilities are located at the back of our work area. In the morning, everyone (and I mean EVERYone) says “Good morning” and throughout the day, they make other comments like… “It’s so quiet in here!” At the end of the day… of course… it’s good-bye, see you tomorrow.

NONSTOP DISTRACTIONS. I can hardly ever work uninterrupted for more than a few minutes at a time. Footballs flying, loud conversations and nowhere to hide. It takes me twice as long to do my work than if I were able to work in solace.

Repeated distractions by coworkers. “Hey, look at this Youtube video.” “Hey, listen to this story I told you five times already but am going to tell it again.” Nevermind the amount of time you lose during the interruption itself, but you completely lose your flow and momentum on whatever it was you were working on.

3. There’s Absolutely No Privacy

You have no privacy. Sometimes you need to make personal phone calls or are having a frustrating moment, and you just need a little personal space.

Your privacy and time are no longer respected. If you’re eating lunch at your desk (which you know, is sad but sometimes unavoidable), people will come up to you and ask you a long-form question even thought you just stuffed your face with a sandwich.

Having to hide in the stairwell to take personal calls.

4. Sometimes You Just Don’t Want to Talk to People

If you choose to ignore these constant interruptions, you are usually marked as uncommunicative, too negative, antisocial, or something similar come review time. God forbid you show up to work to actually get some work done.

Accidentally making eye contact with the worker sitting directly across from you because the cube dividers are just a LITTLE bit too low…

5. People Always Looking At Your Monitor

Lack of privacy. God forbid I check email or do some online shopping while I eat lunch at my desk–EVERYONE knows everything.

As I’m typing comments regarding my pet-peeve about NOT having a private, closed office on Fast Company, they’re not compelled to look over my shoulder and say, “Oh, cool article.”

6. The Office Always Smells

People eat all types of food at all hours of the day it seems. The various smells are a distraction in themselves, not to mention chewing, throat clearing, and other bodily noises.

The smells. Oh lord, the smells. One woman wore a perfume that we nicknamed “Meemaw Roses.” It was almost worse than the smells of old food. Mixed together–well, you can imagine. Real productivity killer.

7. The Curse Of Headphones

Because everyone is trying to focus and crank out their work in peace, we have become long rows of people wearing headphones all day–the exact opposite of the vibrant, collaborative space the open-office layout was meant to promote.

Somedays I need to put on my headphones to isolate myself from the “tic tic tic tic tic” noise of everyone typing. But music in my headphones is too intense and just adds other sounds and it prevents me from concentrating.

8. Everyone Can Hear Every Conversation About Everything

I HATE making phone calls when I can be overheard. Which is every single phone call I make at work. So I carefully plan my day to make zero phone calls on office days. Which is absurd and unproductive. Totally my weirdness– but if I had a door, it wouldn’t happen.

9. You Have No Control Over The Workspace

An open-office means that I can’t have a space that I control. I can’t make it look how I want it to look. I can’t listen to music without headphones. It means that all of my office environment needs are secondary to some idea of collaboration.

No walls! There’s no room for personalization or walls to pin things up. If I am expected to be there for 8+ hours a day… let me have some of my creature comforts. I feel transient.

10. If You Want Some Privacy, You Better Come In Early Or Fight With Others For Space

I come into work early in the morning just to have some quiet, focused time before the insanity starts. A cubicle would actually be an improvement–right now we all work at one table, so I have an inch of personal space, and no respite from the audible distractions.

When you want to have a private conversation with your boss, you can’t. Finding a private conference room is nearly impossible.

I arrive to work at an absurdly early hour–like 5:00 a.m. (my office opens at 9:00 a.m.) to get in a few hours of power work before I become the web surfing, distracted, silent, unproductive dork once the office fills up.

It’s nearly impossible to book a conference room here, since everyone is driven to find a quiet space to hold a phone call, rather than conducting calls at their desk/office.