If you work in an office, there’s a good chance it’s an open one. How did we get here? And why is it so bad? Is there any humanity left in office design?








  • overrated – with a higher opinion of (someone or something) than is deserved
  • across the board – applying to all
  • cubicle – a small partitioned-off area of a room, for example one containing a shower or toilet, or a desk in an office
  • to outperform sth/sb – perform better than
  • to pinch pennies to spend as little money as possible
  • clerical – concerned with or relating to work in an office, especially routine documentation and administrative tasks
  • gem – an outstanding person or thing

Watch and listen

Answer the questions below.

  • What do “cool companies” all have in common? (00:50)
  • When did open offices first appear? (01:35)
  • What was Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision? (02:40)
  • What happened by the 1960s? (03:50)
  • What is happening with open offices today? (05:50)

Practice Makes Perfect

WORD FORMATION: Change the word in CAPITALS at the end of the line to fill in the blanks. Go to Inc.com to find out more.

Then there’s office spaces. Open-plan offices are there to create 1.________, harmony, and communication, aren’t they?     [UNION]

 Few things are more emotionally 2.________ than walking into an open-plan office and seeing that most of the employees are wearing headphones, in order to pretend they’re alone.   [STRESS]

It seems that at least some corporate types have realized open-plan offices are 3.________.   [PERFECTION]

A whole industry is rising of companies creating, I hate even to utter it, cubicles.

These, though, are no ordinary cubicles.

They’re phone booths. Well, phone booths with little shelves to rest your laptop.

Yes, you can achieve 4.________ by slipping away into one of these little boxes and attempting to be 5.________ that they have large windows through which everyone can see you.   [PRIVATE]   [AWARENESS]

Employees must at least appreciate them because they’re 6.________ to shut out some of the office sounds.   [INTENTION]

Tiny places — and getting even tinier — where even the most basic functions can leave you feeling a touch 7.________.   [COMFORT]




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