If you are one of the people lucky enough to be blessed with the luxury of walls and doors at your job, then there’s a good chance you’ve never had to deal with the nightmare of an “open plan” workplace. There, employees don’t work in offices or even cubicles, but are huddled together in a single room, working at tables of varying lengths with no dividers — like something resembling the human power plant scene in The Matrix, if Neo knew Microsoft Excel instead of Kung Fu. There’s a wide breadth of better-thought-out arguments for why these soul-sucking, Orwellian cattle roundups should be burned to the ground, but here are a few of the more awkward reasons…
1. Everyone sees how disgusting you are when you eat lunch.
When you have only five minutes between meetings to swallow a Subway $5 footlong, you’re not too concerned about how you look while doing it. To think, you spent all that time caring about how you looked this morning — “Does this shirt go with these shoes? Hmm, maybe I should wear the tan pants…” — only to dive into the soggy bread and meat sock that is an Italian BMT sandwich in front of everyone you work with. You can pretty much rule out any chance of wooing your hot office crush once he or she gets a gander of your sweaty, slimy, lettuce-and-vinegar-lipped face.
2. It’s really obvious when you’re not doing work.
You know what I like to do when I’m at work sometimes? Not work. I like to write stupid stuff on Twitter and talk about people and things I hate with my friends on Gchat. Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at minimizing browser windows at breakneck speed whenever a boss would pass behind me, like a high-tech, high-stakes game of Whac-A-Mole. But other times I just like to sit there and just shut my eyes for a minute or two. I take a few deep breaths, recite some old Cure lyrics in my head, and then fantasize about slitting my wrists in the bathroom. You tend to attract a good deal of unwanted attention when you start singing “it doesn’t matter if we all die” over and over again to yourself.
3. Your computer monitor is fodder for dumb office small talk.
When you’re actually able to steal a few seconds of dick-around time, whatever is on your computer screen becomes an open topic of discussion for anyone who’s in eyeshot. If you’re gonna try and sneak in a covert game of 2048, you better be prepared to talk about it at length when the chatty Cathy of your office spots you playing it. Your best bet is to politely excuse yourself from the conversation and go stand in the tiny alcove that houses the copy machine, then reevaluate all of your life decisions.
4. Having a phone conversation is impossible.
Forget about calling your pharmacy about refilling a prescription, unless you don’t have a problem with the entire floor knowing about your UTI. On the other hand, you can just get up and take the call in the kitchen, where someone is guaranteed to walk in right at the most embarrassing part of your conversation, like a nosy mom ruining their kid’s masturbation session.
5. Everyone knows when you’re pooping.
When you all sit in the same room, it’s very obvious when someone’s been gone for a long time. Nothing to worry about if you’re a quick pooper, but for those of us who like to let their late-afternoon dumps develop like an Aaron Sorkin script, it can cause some embarrassment. No, no one’s actually gonna say to you, “hey, pretty long shit you took in there,” once you get back, but the accusatory looks on their faces definitely will.
6. People no longer have meetings…they “huddle.”
You see this bullshit at a lot of douchey tech startups. To Hell with sitting in a conference room and having a productive meeting like civilized adults — no, that would not jive with their “mantra of openness” and wouldn’t be conducive to a “free flow of ideas.” Instead, people get up and just meet wherever: at a whiteboard in the middle of the room, by the windows, or right next to you as you attempt to do work. There’s nothing like trying to concentrate on a spreadsheet as some millennial tech bro spews digital doublespeak and social media mumbo jumbo as he tosses around a Frisbee centimeters from your head.
7. Awkwardly locking eyes with the person sitting across the table from you.
There’s nothing more unsettling than letting your gaze accidentally wander and landing on your co-worker’s glazed-over face as he’s staring dead-eyed at his computer screen. It’s an angle that no one is really meant to see — and for good reason. It’s a visual reminder that we’re just all reanimated corpses slaving away at our desks (sorry, catering tables), only coming out of our catatonic trances to get Starbucks and take Buzzfeed quizzes: “Which miserable twentysomething cliché are you?” Answer? All of them.