Topic: Offices, Cubicles & Open Space (Upper-Intermediate Lesson Plan)

Download the Office Space ESL Lesson plan here: Topic-Office-Space-uppIntermediate-08232011.doc

an open-space office area

Upper-Intermediate Office Space ESL News Lesson Plan : Warm-up

1)    How has the inside of offices changed since the time of your parents?
2)    What are the minimum things you need to do your work effectively? Do you have them?
3)    Would the below items affect your productivity as a worker in an office? How so?
– sunlight / lighting
– artwork
– coworkers
– furniture (e.g. chairs)
– unrestricted WWW access
– wall colors

Topic: Offices, Cubicles, & Open Space (August 23, 2011)

In the past few decades, there has been a shift away from the traditional private offices and cubicles found in the workspaces of the 1980s. Whether for productivity or financial reasons, many companies are adopting an open space office layout where teams of workers are clustered together.
The most glaring criticism of cubicles, semi-private work areas surrounded by partitions, is their resemblance to cages. They can remind the worker of monotony and imprisonment. Franklin Becker, the director of a workplace studies program at Cornell University, believes cubicles “provide pseudo-privacy at best, and are terrible for spontaneous communication.” Becker is also against private offices because they lower the likelihood of employees having contact outside of their group. He believes promoting inter-group collaboration is important for a company’s success. While Becker realizes employees need privacy at times, he believes four to eight-person team offices are ideal because people spend most of their time in teams.
Michael Brill, a workplace-planning consultant in Buffalo, holds a different view. According to Brill, the top two predictors of job performance are: 1) the ability for teams and individuals to do work without distraction, and 2) the ability to have easy, frequent, informal interactions. Therefore, he believes that having a private office lends itself to a more productive work environment.
Another issue at question is the importance of displaying hierarchy. Some argue that private offices promote individual status over team performance. Stripping senior employees of their cherished offices, however, could be seen as an insult.
Clearly, designing the ideal workspace is a complex task. Employers might be better off asking their workers what they prefer. (269)

Office Space ESL Lesson Plan: Comprehension Questions

1)    What does the author believe is the most obvious criticism of cubicles?
2)    According to Franklin Becker, what should companies promote?
3)    True or False: Brill believes, most importantly, workers must be able to concentrate on their job.
4)    True or False: The author states that companies should give offices to workers who earn them.
  1. They resemble cages for employees, who may feel like prisoners.
  2. He believes companies should promote collaboration among company groups and teams.
  3. True.
  4. False.

Office Space ESL Lesson Plan : Vocabulary Matching

Match the words with their meaning as used in the news lesson. (Note: good as homework for students)
cluster (verb)
lend itself to (verb)
strip (verb)
  • cluster – come together in a group
  • glaring – obvious, striking
  • partition – division, wall
  • monotony – dullness, repetitiveness
  • pseudo-  – false, not genuine
  • spontaneous – unplanned, impromptu
  • collaboration – cooperation
  • distraction – diversion, disturbance
  • lend itself to – be suitable for something
  • hierarchy – a ranking in an organization
  • strip – take away from

Office Space ESL Lesson Plan : Connect the below idea(s) to make a sentence.

government / uprising
cluster / stars
cubicle / pseudo-privacy
spontaneous / monotony
collaboration / government
distraction / partition
body / lend itself to / exercise
hierarchy / rigid
strip / position
glaring / problem / democracy

Office Space ESL Lesson Plan: Quotations (Pair Work)

Discuss with a partner whether you agree with the below quotations. Present you answers to the class when finished.
“Open office settings encourage office space cleanliness and organization.”
“Cleanliness can be equated with productivity.”
“People (workers) spend most of their time in teams.”
“Happy workers are more productive”.
“Employers might be better off asking their workers what they prefer.”

Office Space ESL Lesson Plan: Debate

(Note: each student reads his/her role to himself/herself)

Student A: Your company is moving to a different location next month. Due to budget concerns, you have had to reduce the number of offices available to managers. Student B is a senior manager at your company. She/he will lose his office. Please give him/her the news, and try to convince him/her that it will benefit his/her happiness and productivity. When you are ready, start the conversation.

Student B: You have been working for Student A’s company for 15 years. You are a senior manager. The company announced that they would be changing locations last year. The move will take place next month. You are already unhappy about this because you bought a home near the current location. Now, Student A says he/she wants to talk to you about something.

Office Space ESL Lesson Plan: Workspace Design (Pair Work)

Design a workspace for an IT company consisting of 1 owner, 1 team leader, 5 programmers, 3 graphic designers, and 1 receptionist. Use the space on the back of this page. You have five minutes. When done, present your design to the class.

Office Space ESL Lesson Plan : Discussion Questions

(Write your answers in the Comments section below if you wish)

1) What do you believe are the top predictors of job performance?
2) Do people commonly work from home in your company? What do you think of this?


Lesson plan copyright Matthew Barton of