The busy, noisy, modern office 嘈雜繁忙的現代化辦公室

An open-plan office
Image caption Would you work in a place like this?

Vocabulary: Work 詞匯: 工作

Can you concentrate in a crowded environment? If you want to work in a modern office you'd better start getting used to it. Millions of workers spend their long shifts in open-plan offices these days. And your co-workers? Well, don't stretch your arms out too far or you might knock over their cup of coffee!

Offices today might have the latest computers, but the idea of having dozens of workers gathered in a big room isn't new. Henry Ford, the American industrialist of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, had a lot to do with that. The owner of the famous Ford cars loved efficiency - one of the main themes in the story of open-plan offices.

Companies say they use these layouts to encourage communication and collaboration among staff. But does this really happen?

Franklin Becker, social psychologist at Cornell University in the US, doesn't think so. He says: "The fundamental reason why open-plan has taken root has to do with the fact that you can reduce the amount of space per person in an open-plan versus any kind of closed cellular office."

Becker says that if you put walls amongst the desks, offices would look like prison cells. But a big room feels different, so having lots of workers is acceptable.

Although an open-plan office can save a company money, they might have a negative impact on productivity.

Sound expert Julian Treasure, chairman of the Sound Agency, explains: "We have bandwidth for about 1.6 people talking. If I'm trying to do work it requires me to listen to a voice in my head to organise a flow of words and put them on paper. If you're talking at the same time, then you're taking up one of my 1.6. I'm left with 0.6 in my head."

Well, it sounds like that big report you have to finish by end of play might be just a whisper inside your head struggling against all that chatter around you.

So, do you like open-plan offices?