Tear down the walls, literally

Walls in work areas can hurt direct and indirect communications for dynamic, fast-paced teams and projects. Without a wall, lift your head, get an answer, and return to work.


We got rid of cubicle walls around the same time we started moving people constantly according to their teams and projects. We didn’t do this for the whole office, but we realized that for our teams that work in a dynamic, fast paced environment, walls were hurting direct and indirect communications.

Direct communications

Lift you head up, see who’s out there to help, ask your question, get your answer, and go back to work. There is no need to get up and wander around if there are no walls. This may provide lots of short distractions but if you really need to focus, you can put on your headphones or ear plugs as a visual “do not disturb” sign.

Quick impromptu meetings are easier for the same reason. It’s as simple as “Hey, come here, see this?” or “What are you up to? I don’t think that’s the right direction.” We don’t have to wait until tomorrow to find out time has been wasted.

Indirect communications

If you’re the project manager or team lead, and there is a delay in those familiar typing and clicking noises, your spider senses start to tingle. It’s easy to ask – “Hey are you stuck?”

People venting and getting frustrated is always visible. If someone’s stuck, anyone on the team can see this and help. A face that is frustrated or unsure can’t be hidden without walls. “Stuck” time is lower and people are back to work before you know it.

Sure there is more noise and sometimes you need to move to a different area for a client call or to focus on a task, but walls impede a healthy team environment – tear them down.

- The Control Engineering “Automation System Integration” blog is written by Anthony Baker, a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration. The blog provides Callisto Integration advice in plant-floor controls, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and manufacturing consulting, from the factory floor through to the enterprise. Andrew Barker, P.Eng., Callisto Integration, compiled the advice. See additional posts at www.controleng.com/blogs.


Callisto Integration is a CSIA member as of 3/1/2015

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