Open plan man

Open plan man

No walls, no doors but an 18-inch rubber penis; how I negotiated open plan working for the first time.

I approached the cavernous room with trepidation. First day. New job. Open plan.


22 years in the industry and I’d never not had a door and four walls. This was big, open, uncharted territory.


As I settled down into the middle seat on the middle table in the middle of the creative department I felt an imaginary target hovering over my head; ‘Let’s see how you deal with this office, boy’.

A nearby colleague (and when I say ‘nearby’ I’m talking able-to-smell-his-Tom-Ford-aftershave nearby) passed me something, muttering "this is for you".

“Cheers, mate”, I said, bluffing my way into early open plan banter, accepting what I quickly realised was an 18-inch wobbly, rubber penis.

It was like a scene from that Dr Pepper spot, where the girlfriend walks in on her fella playfully wrestling her father, but it looks like her beau is taking her dad doggy style.

So, there I was, trying to make a good impression on my first day, bang in the middle of the VCCP creative floor, holding an enormous cock.

Holding one and feeling like one.

Damn you, open plan. You’d blown it for me before I even got started.

I suppose I had it coming. 22 years is a good stint to have enjoyed the secluded luxury of an office.

Shut the door. Dim the lights. Have a little kip under the desk. Maybe pop on some Brian Eno. Or whatever you like to do on your own in a room with a door closed…

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All that is gone now. But weirdly it feels ok.

I can still do most of those things in open plan - so long as those around me have an open mind. Although Brian Eno may be pushing it for some of the millennials.

Dragged, kicking and screaming, into open plan, it‘s making complete sense.

In a beat I’ve managed to meet all the creative directors at the middle table. At my last place I actually only met some at my leaving drinks. Sounds obvious, but leaning over and chatting through an idea is a million times quicker than walking down a corridor, talking to a PA, knocking on a door, exchanging pleasantries before even getting down to discussing the work.

And as you discuss your work, others chip in. Be it opinions on an end frame/voice over/a rival agency’s work/what Trump’s gone and done now. It creates debate. And awareness. Walls and doors don’t allow this.

What’s more, if I need to chat to a creative team I can spot if they’re in by just looking up from my screen. Waving and shouting - those old school methods of communicating – are actively encouraged.

I’m still experiencing a few teething problems – floating planners inadvertently thrusting their arse in your face as they talk strategy to your next-door-neighbour is not great first thing. But that’s kind of the point. Debating strategy as close quarters in a relaxed environment is crucial to get to where we want briefs to be. There is little hierarchy or pomposity. Let’s get on with getting on. After all that’s what we’re here for right.

Open plan means we get our shit done quicker. And better.

And if you’re wondering about the phallus, it was a leaving gift for the CD who previously sat in my seat. Colin, it’s in the bottom drawer if you ever need it.

This article first appeared at shots online magazine

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