Where space isn’t available, or when time is of the essence, both manufacturers that I spoke with expect the partition business to attract new customers and competitors for at least the next six months to a year, if not longer. And as the country has already learned this year with faulty masks and fake hand sanitizer, pandemic panic-buying can attract some unsavory operators and pose unforeseen risks to a desperate public—even cutting into a sheet of plexiglass and bolting it to a desk or counter isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. “That acrylic gets in your skin and cuts you, and I think you’d rather get cut with glass,” said Steve Alexander, True Manufacturing’s parts-marketing manager. Walls, in all their variations, aren’t created equally: Hastily purchased panels that haven’t been properly finished at the edges, that aren’t thick enough to stand rigidly, or whose bases are too narrow for their height could cause more problems than they solve, especially in sensitive environments such as hospitals or classrooms. “You can’t have these things fall on third or fourth graders if they go back to school,” Alexander noted. “That would be a big problem.”
It was clear from employee surveys and media reports that workers are not fans of the open architecture trend. Employees complain of noise, distractions, lowered productivity, a loss of privacy, and a feeling of being “watched.” On top of that, studies have suggested that open offices can be bad for workers’ health.