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Age discrimination and office space – is open-plan anti the older worker?

by on March 19, 2015

Strange that we see not one but two items on age and office space in less than two weeks. Katrina blogged about generational differences as justification for the office space squeeze ealier this month. Today we bring you this item on the Fortune website which debates the pros (they’re cheap) and cons (they’re horrible) of an open-plan floorspace. I think it’s written in the context of the IT industry (Silicon Valley, specifically) as there are mentions of programmers.

However, it then launches into what the author describes as the ‘fifth, evil, “pro” of the open-plan office: age discrimination’ which he unpacks as follows:  “It’s well known that older workers are the first to leave when office layouts deteriorate. When you’re growing rapidly, that’s an undesirable side effect. When you’re cutting costs everywhere you can, and you don’t really need experienced engineers, it’s an added bonus to what you’d probably do (decrease office-space expenditures) in the first place.” He also claims that employers who particularly make a lot about the supposed value of open-plan offices also have ‘exclusionary intentions toward older programmers and women’.  Well, there’s no evidence at all provided in the article to justify these claims but he ends by asserting that the trend towards open-plan in Silicon Valley is the interior design equivalent of telling older workers (in the IT industry, those aged 28 and over) that they are not wanted.

(Written from my office at home – nice view of the garden – but I have just moved from an institution where I worked in an open-plan environment to one where I have my own office – it just has a sloping floor….but that’s a whole other issue!)

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