It must have been a slow news day at the Wall Street Journal. The editors commissioned Alina Dizik (God bless her for being young) to write a piece about office space. She produced the article, “Open Offices Are Losing Some of Their Openness“, which, through no fault of hers (God bless her for being young), is a statement of the obvious. Case in point:

Companies are adding soundproof rooms, creating quiet zones and rearranging floor plans to appeal to employees eager to escape disruptions at their desk … lack of “speech privacy” is currently a significant problem … Now, companies are again “realizing people actually have to be productive.”

Wait. Again? Realizing again? They lost sight of the fact that people have to be productive? When? How? For what other purpose(s) might people have been hired?

The Boss: Ya know, Wally over there is a little too light for heavy work and a little too heavy for light work.
Gopher: Yeah, Boss. But he looks great in jeans, and he has a lovely singing voice.
The Boss: True dat.

Beyond that, how surprising could it be that people need quiet zones, speech privacy, and escape from disruption? (No. Not that disruption.) They’re human beings, aren’t they? We all need some time to ourselves, don’t we?

Psychoanalyst, clinical psychologist, and New York University professor, Ester Schaler Buchholz, devoted an entire book to our need to be alone: The Call of Solitude. Had Ms. Dizik (God bless her for being young) chanced upon that book, the notions she presents in her article might not have seemed so revelatory. In fact, she might have foreseen the inevitability in what companies are now (re)discovering had she read Dr. Buchholz’s desire to:

unshackle aloneness from its negative position as kith and kin to loneliness … She laments many of her patients’ inability to grow inwardly by fostering their self-reflective and imaginative lives.

And speaking of self-reflective and imaginative lives, Ms. Dizik (God bless her for being young) might not have perceived introspection to be so new or novel had she availed herself of the writing of Henry David Thoreau:

In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post-office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while. (Life Without Principle)

I know there’s nothing new under the sun. I know everything old becomes new again. And I know everything in nature turns in cycles. Maybe we’d all be more cognizant of those truths if we gave ourselves more unfettered and undisturbed time to reflect on them. At the very least, our employers and the folks at the Wall Street Journal might stop being surprised at our needs for quiet and privacy.

Take some time. (You, too, Ms. Dizik.) You might be surprised at what you hear from yourself.

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