Offices cubicles have been maligned as passé, akin to fax machines and desktop Roladexes. But maybe it’s time to bring them back. While 20-foot long desks shared by several colleagues may make your office feel more like a cool hangout space than a workspace, working at a company with an open floor plan presents a series of problems. And as I see it, many of the issues caused by an office-less office that author and psychology professor Art Markman calls out in a recent article for Fast Company could also be contributing to burnout culture.
Burnout is feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and stressed to the max all at once. And it’s such a pervasive problem in our culture that methods to curb it regularly—and rightly—make headlines. Meditation, working out, taking a lunch break, and leaving work on time to do something enjoyable are common practices that can help to stave off burnout, but as Dr. Markman points out, they aren’t always easy to accomplish when you work in such physical closeness with your coworkers (with no barriers).
“For example, anyone who leaves the office at exactly 5 p.m. runs the risk of being labeled a slacker by anyone staying later. As a result, people look around the office and wait for other people to leave before they head out,” he says. “If staying all of those extra hours made people more productive, there might be something valuable in working longer hours.” Similarly, someone might feel bad for leaving their desk in the middle of the afternoon to go outside for 45 minutes, wondering if their colleagues are keeping tabs on how long they’ve been gone.
So, what’s the solution? Markman says it can help to change the way you think of your colleagues: You’re a team, not competitors. If we all stopped trying to outdo one another, perhaps more people would leave the office at a reasonable hour—when they’re done their work—as opposed to just sitting around wondering what to make for dinner and waiting until other people to shut down their computers.
You can’t do your best work when you’re burnt out. Taking a mid-day break or leaving the office a little early once in a while might actually turn you into a more productive worker—it’s certain surely make you a happier one.
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