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Private offices: fairness vs. productivity

My employer has a lot more space than we actually need, including several empty private offices with doors, windows, nice desks, and lots more space. Currently, managers are in offices and everyone else is in cubicles.

I asked whether some of the developers could move into the unused offices, where we'd be more productive. I was told that management considered it, but chose not to since they didn't want to pick favorites among the non-managers.

It seems ridiculous to reduce our productivity when we have serious deadlines coming up. They could select office residents at random if they want to avoid ranking people. Besides, business life isn't fair; some employees are more productive than others and some earn more money than others.

Anonymous
Thursday, January 15, 2004

anyone remember that recent dilbert cartoon on the same theme?

FullNameRequired
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Considering the ego of your average developper, in a non random system those who didn't get the offices would surely make quite a fuss. :)

And a random system probably would take a lot of time to manage.

I can understand why management doesn't want to create unrest with this, as stupid as it can look on a logical basis ... but *people* aren't that logical, are they ?

I know that when I was moved out of a private office and to a cubicle (because of the opposite problem, space was seriously lacking and offices had to be torn down) I quit almost on the spot.

Renaud Martinon
Thursday, January 15, 2004

One office I worked in had a bit of a strange layout ... just the architecture of the space, such that there were about an equal number of offices and cubicles.

Some developers got an office, others didn't.  I *never* heard anyone complain about it.

I quit a couple of years ago and have visited a couple of times since.  Oddly they renovated the space so that everyone is now in a cubicle.

I suppose its safe to say, that kind of thinking is why I left in the first place.

Canuck
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Move the managers into the cubicles and the programmers into the offices.


Thursday, January 15, 2004

"And a random system probably would take a lot of time to manage."

Why?  Just get together one day and pull numbers out of a box. That's what we did when the company moved several developers to another location and they had to decide who got the cubicles near the window.

NoName
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Personally, our group was recently transferred from an open space to offices and it is a completely different atmosphere.  Most people preferred the open space setup.  It's a less "corporate" atmosphere.  I much more unhappy in my own office!

G
Thursday, January 15, 2004

I guess my internal grammar checker has not woken up yet; my apologies for the obvious mistakes ;-)

G
Thursday, January 15, 2004

G, I expect you were just distracted by the background noise :-P

We had offices standing empty and no amount of begging would change the company's mind about moving us into them. Company policy is that only directors are allowed to have offices, full stop.

So there we stayed, in the heart of the marketing department.

Fernanda Stickpot
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Let the staff decide. Open season. If they want to use the offices let the non managerial staff get together and decide who gets to sit there and only agree to keep the status quo if they cannot come up with a solution.

Jules
Thursday, January 15, 2004

If they are truly empty and belong to no one, have no purpose such as meeting rooms then stick a white board on the wall and move a table in there.

Begin using it for development meetings (make sure there are network connections or whatever).  Gradually over time spend a greater proportion of time in them.

In around 6 months all of the available space will be taken over.

If someone objects, back down saying 'oh I didn't know you needed it'.  If they come up with a use for it then fine, if not they may just wander off confused.

Posession is nine tenths, just claim it.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Or, if you're in a position to risk it, just move in.
When they tell you to move out, say "I can't think straight out there - I get so much more done in here, and I'm so much happier."

You could even move to "when are you going to build enough offices for all the developers?" [grin]

BTW, isn't that psychology bizarre - "since we can't give this benefit to everyone, nobody gets it and we throw it away"

Philo

Philo
Thursday, January 15, 2004

That psycology is everywhere, at least in this country - and it is one of the few things that all but sets me off every time the subject comes up.

Life isn't fair, it will never *be* fair.  If that realization can make its way into the main thoughtstream before I die, I'll die happy.

As far as the empty offices go, give the group of people who might get an office a month to come up with a system they can all live with.  At the end of that month, if no answer is reached, the managers will pick names out of a hat.  If they complain, give them only until the end of the day.

Greg Hurlman
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Find a better job and quit.  Tell your coworkers why you quit.  In your final days, mock the idiotic management.  Recruit your former colleagues.

It's amazing how much fucked-up shit humans suffer for no reason at all.

veal
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Managers don't care if you are more productive.  They just say that.  An office is not a productivity tool; it is a status symbol. 

Name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Just bubbling.  Do all the deveopers want an office?  There are some who like to work more in a lab environment where they can ask questions quickly, pair, or just hang out.  Maybe you could give those who stay outside the office some perks?  Easier access to food?  Bigger monitors?  Maybe you could rotate the office space every few months?  Maybe first person into the office gets to keep it until they go home?  Maybe you could just turn the office into private break rooms with couch, phone, TV, etc.  Maybe there could be an office reservation schedule and people could have X reservations a month?  Maybe turn them into a daycare center?  Company movie theater?  Kitchen?

Lots of possibilities, but wasting the space is stupid and making employees upset.  Don't take no for an answer on this.  Keep pressing the issue until they come around.

Matt
Thursday, January 15, 2004

here are some data points:

- i am very productive in a private work office, by myself
- i can't get anything done in my home when I am there, by myself
- i can't get much done in an open plan / cube farm environment
- i am very productive in a noisy, crowded coffee shop
- i am reasonably productive in an airport / on an airplane

I can get more done in a private work office, than I can in an open plan shared workspace, which seems to reflect what peopleware suggests. But I often feel most productive when I'm in a noisy, crowded coffee shop, which seems to go against the idea that the reason why private offices are better is because they are "quiet." 

.
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Coffee shops have something going for them though.

Despite the noise there's a relative lack of familiar distractions - co-workers, stuff on your desk, etc. Work is a bit of a habit, or a skill. If you're in the habit of going down for a cigarette every 20 minutes when you're at the office, you'll do that. You haven't developed any bad coffee shop habits.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, January 15, 2004

It may not be that strange for the managers to decide that if everyone can't have an office, nobody can.

On the face of it, you'd think having *some* programmers working more productively in offices would be better than not letting any of them have offices.

But depending upon the corporate culture, giving offices to a select few will breed resentment and bitterness amongst those who missed out. The ones in offices might be more productive, but overall productivity will drop because everyone else is busy bitching about the office-people. Communication between office-people and cube-plebs is lowered as well.

This won't happen in every work environment, but I've certainly worked at one place where it would have.

Darren Collins
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Incidentally, I'm hoping that the next stage in human evolution involves shedding this destructive envy that we have. I'm talking about the "if I can't have it, nobody can" attitude that seems to generate a lot of problems in general.

There's nothing wrong with *aspiring* to have what the other guy has. I can even, to some degree, support the idea of pursuing trying to get it from him (with ethics and integrity, preferably).

But IMHO people that cannot reason and have to flood the lifeboat, tax the wealthy into starvation, ruin perqs, or otherwise basically "screw it up for everyone" really just create a lot of pain and suffering, or destroy happiness, to no end.

Sorry. Personal sore point.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, January 15, 2004

But Philo - surely if they cannot reason, they can't be blamed for making what you perceive to be poor decisions?

Mongo
Thursday, January 15, 2004

They most certainly can be blamed, just as lightning can be blamed for starting fires. If we're truly talking action without thought then perhaps they can't be faulted...

But that's besides the point - you'll note I started the rant saying that I'm hoping at some time in the future we as a race will put the entire concept behind us.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Five offices. Ten developers. give the five offices to the five best developers. fire the other five developers. The five good developers will now be two to four times as productive as before, yet the costs have been reduced by half.

Everyone wins.

Daniel Blyburg
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Or, if they're not *that* disparate in their abilities....

Five offices, ten developers

Put the five senior devs into the offices. Make the five junior devs suffer while you have offices built where their cubes were, then everyone has an office.

Seriously, it's not that hard to divide a whole company floor into offices instead of cubes.

Philo

Philo
Friday, January 16, 2004

Moving straight into the empty room wouldn't have worked because we depend on LAN connections, which we can't set up ourselves. There were no LAN connections in the room.

Otherwise, we'd have done just that.

Fernanda Stickpot
Friday, January 16, 2004

---"tax the wealthy into starvation"-----

Errr, where apart from Philolandia?

Perhaps you could tell us how muxh tax Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation pays? Anywhere.

Stephen Jones
Friday, January 16, 2004

I'm talking about desires, not what's actually happening.

It seems almost universal that people think "everyone richer than me should pay 50-75% income tax."

The problem I have with this is that it appears to me that the goal of this isn't to cut their own taxes or provide more services to themselves - it's about making the rich less rich.

I've found I'm much happier if instead of focusing on how much tax Murdoch does or doesn't pay, I simply focus on my own life and what I can do to provide for myself and my family.

Spiteful envy is really a wasteful emotion. ;-)

Philo

Philo
Friday, January 16, 2004

Fernanda Stickpot:  So if you have a LAN connection in your cube, but not in the office...

...how picky is your netadmin about 802.11*?  (=

Sam Livingston-Gray
Friday, January 16, 2004

Oh, and on the topic of divvying up resources, there may be people who prefer a particular space.  I know that when I had a choice, I deliberately picked the cube with the lowest light level, because I'm sensitive to such things.

I'd been in a corner office on the 26th floor for a few months during a remodel, which was almost entirely wasted on me because I had to keep the blinds drawn against the sun.  Let someone else have the cube by the window.  The windows in my home office are covered over with posterboard because I haven't got round to putting up vampire-friendly curtains... ;>

Sam Livingston-Gray
Friday, January 16, 2004

"It seems almost universal that people think "everyone richer than me should pay 50-75% income tax."

I support that plan!

Especially since I already pay over 50% in taxes as it is.
Why should the rich pay a lower rate?

Dennis Atkins
Friday, January 16, 2004

Amen about the class warfare thing.  One of the major reasons I didn't vote for Gore in 2000 was that he campaigned on "No Tax Cuts For The Rich" and not "No Irresponsible Tax Cuts".  The rich pay the most taxes; any fair tax cut would benefit them more than others.  To me, his inability to recognize that proved his inability to be a responsible steward of the public's finances, as well as proving that his campaign was fueled only by pandering to his base.  I wonder if many other independents (such as myself) picked 'none of the above' and caused Gore to lose his very close election.

Of course, I rejected Bush too, not only for proposing a tax cut I knew would be irresponsible, but also for flat-out lying that "by far most of my tax cut goes to those at the bottom".

Alyosha`
Friday, January 16, 2004

To Philo et al:

I don't particulary agree with the stance you are opposing, but: some of the desire to tax the rich more may be coming from the view that many wealthy people (at least appear to) pay much less in income tax then the laws would have you believe (via the use of tax shelters, tax attorneys, etc).

Whether this is in fact true or not, I don't know.

Steve C.
Friday, January 16, 2004

Well, also consider this ... (these figures are for the USA)

Once you get past 87k a year (earned income), you have a 15% drop in marginal rates - you don't pay SS and Medicare any more.

The highest marginal rate is somewhere around 35% (used to be 39.6%, but it's dropping now).  But the rich usually are so from capital gains - which is taxed at a 20% rate.

The sales tax is a fairly regressive tax, since the rich tend the same amount as anyone else on things that it applies to - autos being an exception.  Other use taxes and flat fees (gas taxes, etc) figure as a lower percentage with the more money you make.  Property taxes are usually only a few percentage points out of anyone's income.

And when you have that much money, you'd be silly not to hire yourself an entourage of accountants who can best advise you how to keep that away from the long arm of the law.

So yeah, the rich actually DO pay less as a percentage of their income than most of us.  =-)

Alyosha`
Friday, January 16, 2004

Uh, just to clarify - once you get past 87k you don't pay SS and medicare, but you *do* pay them on that first 87k.

And of course, when talking about "the rich don't pay income tax" it's time to trot out my favorite batch of statistics...

The top 5% of earners in this nation pay over half of the income taxes paid in the country.

The top 50% are carrying 95% of the tax burden in the country.

The bottom 20% generally get 2% of the income tax burden back as tax credits.

So when you say that "the rich" should pay more in income taxes, you're really saying you want them to carry you more.

IMHO, if you have a problem with income taxes, you need to address the amount of money our federal government is spending, not who's paying the burden.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, January 18, 2004

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