Whether you're considering a return to the office or even starting a new one, there are many reasons you might want to choose the open office with no work-from-home option as your approach. Despite what employees may think, it's not only because you hate them.
It's way cheaper
Cubicles are expensive. Now, you're not really allowed to just say that reason out loud. Use old tropes about not wanting to work in cubicle hell. Ignore the fact that they were hated not because people innately hate cubicles, but because they're far worse than having offices.
Walls are even more expensive. This is another one you can't really say out loud. Say things like "why should we build walls between our team? We should be removing them!" Tell them it's to foster communication. You will need to control your facial expressions, though, as it will destroy the effect if you openly laugh in their faces while saying it.
While you're in the business of saving money, don't bother to do anything about sound absorption or noise deadening. The echoing cacophony off the bare walls increases the amount of times they hear valuable information from their neighbors.
Instead, just buy several large tables or stick cheap desks end-to-end. Take a look at pictures of sweat shops for crucial inspiration. Remember the goal is not to set up a good work environment, but a cost-efficient one.
You look good
It's obvious that you're more important than them as you sit in your office with a closed door. After all, what's the point of walking a client through your office if they can't see the worker bees and the clear delineation of the important people like you? Note that work-from-home destroys this dynamic and preventing that is discussed later.
To really drive the point home that you're better than them: work remote nearly 100% of the time. Keep your office door locked so that nobody else can use it.
Keep things fresh around the office! With the open office concept and no work-from-home options, you can be certain that you'll continually turnover most of your staff within 6-24 months.
Having trouble recruiting? Just buy yourself one of those awards that says you're one of the best places to work at. All you have to do is pay a fee and have your employees answer a survey, then you'll attend some awards ceremony with like-minded individuals who have also purchased an award for themselves.
If you're afraid that you're not one of the actual best places to work at, don't let that stop you from "applying". Good companies don't need to buy themselves vanity awards. These award companies cater to companies like yours that are having problems finding and retaining talent.
If you're not sure you'll get the award, just take a look at the award company's website. If its primary purpose is to give out awards, you're at the right place. If they openly sell plaques and trophies, you're definitely at the right place. If it's something like a critically acclaimed magazine that also gives out awards, you might want to look somewhere else. They'll likely have standards that you're not going to meet if you're reading this article.
You'll likely start to feel the pressure of being understaffed from time-to-time. Remember that this just means you'll save even more money on salaries. Blame any gaps in coverage on nobody wanting to work.
Everyone can see everyone else's screens. This will force people to remain on-task at all times and feel ashamed to do anything not work-related.
Try to publicly call out anyone you catch doing anything remotely not work-related when walking past. Loudly shout it out so that they know you're watching. Again, the volume of your voice is extremely important. You need everyone to be able to hear you over the noise-cancelling headphones everyone's been essentially forced to wear while they sit on Zoom calls.
If they're all communicating, there's a chance they might do something awful like talk about their pay. Combat this by giving people wildly different titles for what's essentially the same job. They might also get the idea to unionize. Combat this by keeping turnover high so they quit before they ever successfully organize. They might take breaks to talk to their coworkers. Combat this with cameras in the shared areas, time tracking, and productivity monitoring tools.
Tell them you have an open-door policy. Of course, this will be a figurative open-door policy as you'll keep your door shut as it's so loud out there in the open office without any walls or sound deadening. If they complain about the noise, just tell them they can always use the conference room or an empty office if they need to concentrate. Just ignore the fact that those are always already in-use.
If all else fails, find a way to blame them. Maybe put up signs that say something like "Please be mindful of other employees when on calls".
Tell them it's incompatible with your company culture. The great thing about culture is that you can just refuse to define what that culture is. Hand-wavy explanations are best here.
Require in-person meetings. Intersperse them throughout the day. Make the agendas vague or ideally leave them out entirely so that it's impossible for people to gauge if they actually need to go or not. Include only a cryptic title and a physical location if you can. Bring in whatever the cheapest form of food is so that you can justify working through lunch. Don't buy enough for everyone. First come, first served.
You can also blame security. Sure, you can overcome this hurdle. But only if you wanted to. Refuse to hear any appeals to the fact that they just did it successfully for 2 years during the pandemic while achieving record-breaking profits. Again, the hand-wavy explanation is best here. Say you don't want to get into the technical details. Act offended if they do want to get into the technical details. Finally, concede that you don't know the technical details but are confident they exist.
Imply workers can't be trusted. Don't directly say it as that's how you get quoted in a news article. Instead, assert that the "work from home experiment" has failed. Blame vague terms such as productivity but refuse to quantify what that means as you can't say that you miss being able to walk up to someone's desk and demand their full attention right then and there. Simply say that you know productivity when you see it.
Finally, just tell them you'll pay them less if they don't want to be on-display in the human zoo that is the open office. Don't disclose this in your job postings. It might scare away potential applicants. Tell them after they've already quit their other job. Remember that to pull this off with a straight face that you will really have to internalize that they're the ones being unreasonable here.
If you can do it, though, you can pull off your goal of lowering costs by passing those costs of running your business onto your employees.