ZDNet on how headphones are the new walls for people in open-plan offices who do not want to be bothered so they can stay productive in an unproductive situation:
Unfortunately, open-plan offices are still trendy, and technology companies such as Yahoo and eBay are among the worst offenders. Now Facebook has announced plans for what founder Mark Zuckerberg says “will be the largest open floor plan in the world,” holding almost 3,000 engineers. (See Facebook Unveils New Campus: Will Workers Be Sick, Stressed and Dissatisfied?) Google is also planning to build a massive new campus in Mountain View that, in the words of a San Francisco Chronicle headline, “shuns walls, roofs, reality”.
The usual excuse for open-plan offices is that they reduce the cost of office space, mainly by reducing the amount of space occupied by each worker. Perhaps Google and Facebook really need to save some cash by making their workers less productive, but I suspect it has more to do with ignorance, or arrogance.
Japan is an all open-plan office society. It is for this reason, when I do not want to be bothered I put on headphones, sometimes even with no music playing.