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An Open Office in the White House?


Photo of an open office floor plan
Image: Andrey -
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently caused a stir when he tweeted that, if elected president, he’d rarely work in the Oval Office, but instead would convert the massive East Room into an open office where he’d have a desk among the West Wing types who’d staff his administration. This Business Insider article points out that the offices of Bloomberg’s media company are all open plan, and of course the Bloomberg campaign rolled out the same kind of corporate-speak defense that companies use when they announce or defend open office plans to their employees.
You’d like to think that Bloomberg wouldn’t really be planning to conduct state business in a huge room full of junior-level policy wonks; imagine the prime minister of Japan or Sweden or someplace perching on Bloomberg’s little cushion-topped low-rise file cabinet next to his workstation, talking about whatever crises or trade deals the dignitary had come to Washington to discuss. Meanwhile, some staffer in the next row of workstations is arguing loudly with his girlfriend on the phone, and it’s take your dog to work day so there’s a golden retriever sniffing at the prime minister, etc., etc.
But that’s the thing. The Bloomberg tweet was really more a message than a plan you’d really expect to be implemented. What Bloomberg was saying is that he’s going to run the country like a business — not an old-school business, but a hip, fast-moving, Silicon Valley startup-style business. That’s what open office means to people who own and/or run media empires and other big businesses. Needless to say, it’s not generally what open office means to the people who don’t have a second, oval-shaped office whose desk has its own name to retreat to when needed.
Bloomberg’s tweet was a fairly bizarre development in the saga of the open office, but the issues behind it are real: What really is the most modern — and effective — way for people to work in offices today? Responses to the Bloomberg idea helped remind people of the many doubts about open offices’ effectiveness in promoting collaboration and innovation, but there’s still the problem of figuring out what does work to achieve these goals.
We’re excited to be among those trying to help enterprise decision-makers answer this question. On March 30, we’re debuting our first-ever WorkSpace Connect Summit, collocated at this year’s Enterprise Connect 2020 conference, our sister event that serves IT decision-makers who must wrestle with their responsibility to provide the technology that facilitates collaboration. In addition to IT, the Summit will feature concepts and discussion aimed at helping two other enterprise constituencies tackle this problem from their perspective: HR and Facilities/Real Estate.
I’m especially pleased that we’ve recruited a representative of one of the nation’s leading office design firms, HOK, to present a session on Optimizing for the Open Office: Technology and Design. Adriana Rojas, director of interiors at HOK, will help attendees understand in specific terms the design concepts and workplace options that come under the heading of “open office,” and will discuss what is likely to work for specific groups of users and use cases.
You can attend the WorkSpace Connect Summit as part of the full week’s experience of the Enterprise Connect event, or you can get a pass to come just for the one-day Summit. We’ve got a packed day of information and insights on how your enterprise IT, HR, and Facilities/Real Estate teams can work together to enable the future of work and collaboration in your enterprise. I hope you can join us.

Join us at Enterprise Connect 2020 for our one-day WorkSpace Connect Summit on Monday, March 30, in Orlando, Fla. The summit brings together IT, Real Estate/Facilities, and HR experts  for a day of programming designed to help you create strategies, spaces, and best practices that enable collaboration among employees across situations, generations, work styles, and locations.