The open-office trend began in Silicon Valley and caught on like a greyish-fabric-thirsty wildfire, burning down cubicle walls worldwide. At one point, given the trend’s loudly touted benefits, such as improved communication, transparency, creativity, and productivity, if you weren’t opening your office, you were essentially against innovation. But in the past few years, there’s been plenty of backlash against the open-office layout: article after article about how it’s actually detrimental to productivity, riddled with distractions, and damaging to workers’ attention spans, creative thinking, and satisfaction.
The Bold Italic’s headquarters utilizes an open-office floor plan, and I think my coworkers would agree that there are pros and cons. Throwing ideas around is as easy as swiveling your desk chair, yet people started to work from home more and more frequently, somehow getting multiple days’ worth of work done in a single day, and returning to the office feeling refreshed. We took a moment at the beginning of this year to reflect on the situation: what was it about working from home that made everyone so productive and happy? Most people cited a lack of interruptions, which allowed them to deeply focus on certain tasks — an argument that was, of course, immediately ignored, since “disruption” has been hailed time and time again as the be-all-and-end-all element of modern success. When it came to light during post-work happy-hour chitchat that nearly all of us worked from home sans pants, it clicked. Perhaps it wasn’t the lack of walls that was hindering our work at the office; maybe there were simply more barriers that had yet to be unbuttoned.
Turns out, we weren’t the first to discover the wonders of working nude. David Taylor, a business psychologist, encouraged “Naked Fridays” to boost office morale back in 2009. Seeing no benefit in ruining the remaining four workdays with morale-busting clothes, we decided to try working naked for the entire month of March.
I know this is San Francisco, one of the most hospitable places for anything nudity-based to take root, but that’s not to say that the experiment was immediately embraced with across-the-board enthusiasm. The majority reaction to the idea of being naked among coworkers was to ask a resounding “Can we . . . not?” and make pleading disclaimers about how long it’d been since people had stopped going to CrossFit. But on Monday, March 2, we all came to the office with nervous, curious energy. We hesitantly disrobed, folding each layer to a live track of increasingly awkward laughter until, there we were: naked.
Looking back, I can honestly estimate that it took under an hour for things to stop being weird and start being awesome. By day three, it all seemed so incredibly normal, and the benefits were astounding — everything the open-office trend promised and more. We instantly shared a gleeful camaraderie; a deep and trusting bond permeated every meeting. Productivity skyrocketed once we implemented a “nipples hard = need to focus, nipples soft = have time to talk” system, and it turns out that creativity is at its peak when your genitals are unbound. (“Free your genitals, free your mind,” I always say.)
There were tons of less-obvious benefits as well: we all started packing our own lunches or ordering pizzas together, as the act of redressing to run out (thanks, Scott Weiner) became more and more unappealing, and who needs to go to the dermatologist when you’ve got a team of people monitoring your every mole? Sure, our heating bills went up a bit, and we could collect enough rogue pubes to furnish the scalp of a small doll, but it’s a very small price to pay for this level of workplace satisfaction. Our events director was laughing the other day about having a legitimate nightmare that she was giving a presentation at the office and looked down to find she was completely clothed.
I know this experiment is a little out-there, but I encourage any office to give it a try, even for a week. Don’t let a few naysayers dissuade you, either. Our photographer and resident Never Nude, Sierra, refused to participate, so we forced him to wear cutoffs and this extremely realistic naked-man-chest T-shirt every single day. Was he happy about it? No! But once we scrubbed all contacts to HR from his phone, it ceased to be an issue.
So now that our naked month is up, will we continue? Going back to working in clothes seems unfathomable, but we’ll see. For now, I just hope we can inspire even one office full of frustrated employees to give this bold, soon-to-be-trend a try.
by Jessica Saia & Sierra Hartman
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