We're beyond thrilled that COVID-19 could be under control in the United States in the near future — but we're not so excited about the prospect of going back to our offices. Remote work and telecommuting have become the new normal for huge swaths of white-collar workers, and while there's been a learning curve, there's a lot we love about it too. The workplaces we envisioned at the beginning of the pandemic may or may not become the norm; instead, expect to return to the polarizing open office layout.
There are so many reasons to dislike the open office, from the noise and lack of privacy to the way it harms women in particular. But there are ways to optimize the experience, according to new research from architects at University College London. It all has to do with what's in your line of sight: If you've got the magic combination of facing the room with fewer desks in view, you're likely far happier than if you're facing a wall with a lot of desks at your back.
"In other words," per the study authors, "staff with more visual control over their environment were up to 40 times more likely to rate productivity, focus, teamwork, and team bonding favorably."
Knowledge workers may not have to put up with open offices all day, every day as in-person work resumes more and more. But if you've got a choice about where you set up shop among your colleagues, this is how you can keep your work experience as human (and humane) as possible.