It just occurred to me that the way I pine longingly for the office I used to have myself (at the venerable BBN) or the offices I used to share with just one other coworker (and now belatedly appreciate) is similar to how the old days of air travel are described with nostalgia. Even cubicles (presented enthusiastically at BBN during their difficult period as a “new open-office environment” by ex-IBM management) are luxuries — today’s open-office environment is a big table where you try not to look at the person in front of you who’s trying not to look at you and try to avoid knocking elbows with those on either side of you, while surreptitiously covering any personal activity on your screen. But there’s no option to purchase extra leg room, although if you move up to first class (upper management) you can get an office. I was astonished to see coworking spaces rent out “hot seats”, lower-cost desks that are first-come first-serve. The Southwest Airlines of coworking, if you will.
Supposedly it’s all about communication, but everyone wears headphones (the secret pillar supporting Apple’s business model), and that’s the way management likes it — if everyone started talking to each other like they’re at a Maryland crab feast picnic table I guarantee you management would tell everyone to shut up and get back to work. In fact, modern workplaces can take a page from the airline industry’s book and have workplace “attendants” with carts patrol around the big table every hour or so selling drinks and headphones. And throw in some free peanuts.