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Cubes vs. Offices - the unanswered question

...at least, I've never seen the figures on it.

Simple question: are cubes *really* cheaper than offices? I'm throwing down the gauntlet and betting that over a ten year period, they're not.

The only time cubes make sense to me is if you have an active plan to rearrange the office floor. But that plan needs to factor in five days of lost productivity for everyone affected for each move, which means you must have a true business need for doing it.

Other than that, I suspect that a well-designed build out of office space will match the cost of maintaining cubes over ten years (figure one full replacement in that time).

My point being - until I see that cubes truly save 50+% of the cost of an office buildout, my opinion is that cubes are about management inertia, maintaining an artificial caste system, and lack of consideration for the workforce.

My $.02.

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 01, 2004

Brand new cubes can be very expensive, but your city probably has a dozen used office furniture dealers that can provide decent cheap cubes.

Or you can play dealer yourself by going to the auctions. Of course, you usually have to buy the cubes in massive lots.

Samo
Monday, March 01, 2004

"I suspect that a well-designed build out of office space"

Your "well-built" assumption might be flawed, allowing for cost savings.

But how could lego-block cubicle walls be more expensive than actual dry-wall and mortar walls for offices? Or are there office options built out of typical cubicle materials? They would still be more expensive since the walls must be higher, and a door and ceiling needed.

David Fischer
Monday, March 01, 2004

More people per square foot -> either means you need less office space OR you are increasing utilization of rented space.

Therefor, in the long run, cube farms are cheaper.

njkayaker
Monday, March 01, 2004

David Fischer, njkayaker

Assuming nobody would work in those stalls.

The cost increases dramatically as soon as you include productivity loss caused by these cubes.


Monday, March 01, 2004

The major expense in each case is labor.

Drywall is pennies a sheet, steel framing is cheap, doors are probably $200 each for a contractor, pre-hung. I have seen a 2,000 square foot area framed in one day and drywalled in another.

Both solutions need ceiling work done and electricals run.

Cubes have to be free-standing, durable, "modular", and often carry a premium for being cubes. You also have to buy cube furniture (desks and cabinets) instead of buying wooden desks and steel filing cabinets from the local office auction house or bulk supply.

Cubes and cubestuff breaks. They wear out. I've never seen cube walls older than 6-7 years that looked presentable for a place I'd like to work or invest in. So that means that over ten years we're talking two sets of cubes vs. one frame/drywall buildout.

AND - you *still* have to have the frame-and-drywall guys come in to build the manager's offices and conference rooms (or else you pay for cubestuff there, in which case I know for a fact you're paying more than frame/drywall for a lesser product).

The more I think about it, the more I believe that cubes have *got* to cost more over time.

I'm ready to be convinced otherwise, but I have to see numbers. :)

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 01, 2004

Philo,

Figure this scenario. Big Corp. Inc. is located in numerous locations across BigCity. One day they decide to move out of one of the locations.

Office space like office size/location is hierarcy driven,  (it should not be, but is) so when the people that gets moved some manager decides they need the top floors, the side of the building that is closest to the subway exit or the indoor garage or whatnot.

This sets the domino-style office move in motion. Everybody needs to move around to accomodate the newcomers. Rebuilding offices will take forever, so everybody gets stuck in cubes.

Cubes are cheaper per square feet obviously, because you can stick more people in the same area, but you can not meassure the productivity losses in dollars and cents, its all hidden nicely within the organization.

And I take it cheap always wins over untold or unproven.

Not this time
Monday, March 01, 2004

"Office space like office size/location is hierarcy driven,  (it should not be, but is) so when the people that gets moved some manager decides they need the top floors, the side of the building that is closest to the subway exit or the indoor garage or whatnot."

Has anyone actually ever seen cubes moved/rebuilt in this scenario? I've been through office moves, reorgs, staffing up and down, and I have seen cubes brought in and set up, people shuffled around, cubes (and office space) abandoned, but I have *never* seen the "modular" part of cubicles exercised.

In addition, let me point out that I specified that moving people around costs five days for every person affected, so you have to figure that into the equation.

Wouldn't that be wonderful?
"Robert, moving you into the corner office will cost the company $167,000 in lost productivity. Shall we take that out of your weekly pay over the next year or do you want to write a check?"

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 01, 2004

Cubes are almost always much more expensive. Philo is right.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, March 01, 2004

>Has anyone actually ever seen cubes moved/rebuilt in >this scenario?

Im the one that has seen it. Different colored cube walls, different type furniture and stuff moves along with the people, or actually department.

Not this time
Monday, March 01, 2004

Philo, part of the expense may be in how it's costed out.  Drywall is a physical install that must be paid for up front.  Cubes can be leased.  Chalk that up to crazy finance people, they like leased goods (even when there's no good reason to lease them).

Additionally, it may be a space issue - which is a huge cost.  A cube can be made as an 8x8, or even as small as a 4x6 (yikes! but I've seen it done).  Offices are usually at least 8x8 and often 12x12 or larger.

Lou
Monday, March 01, 2004

I believe Lou has it.  The cost per sq foot assumes equal size, but that is rarely the case. Cubes ARE cheaper because you fit more of them into the same size space. 

2000 sq ft  ~ 19 10x10 offices, but close to 30 cubes.

The worst cube I was ever in was 4 x 8, like a coffin.

MSHack
Monday, March 01, 2004

"The worst cube I was ever in was 4 x 8, like a coffin."

But without the privacy. At least in a coffin people leave you alone, and you're unlikely to be bothered by your neighbor's radio tuned to the station with the annoying radio personalities.  People in coffins get much more respect than people in cubes.

Honestly, I prefer desks in an open room to cubes. I don't feel boxed in and it's easy to talk to colleagues when I need to. When I need to concentrate, a pair of good headphones gives me a private space.  The best productivity I ever had was in a room with six other guys, all with desks, and a solid wall of windows.

Clay Dowling
Monday, March 01, 2004

The only time I've seen cubes moved is when the victi^H^H^Hinhabitants hate the current layout, and bring in their power screwdrivers/saws/hammers.  I myself have done that a few time.  Tends to piss HR and/or facilities off, but typically your immediate managers don't care.

I was in an office for 10 years, then spent 2 years back in a cube.  Now I got an office again.  Cubes bite.  Suck ass.  Never mind the space, the whole lack of piece and quiet, and the hedgehog effect to me ruin productivity.

Snotnose
Monday, March 01, 2004

> Has anyone actually ever seen cubes moved/rebuilt in this scenario?

Yes: hiring more people, not wanting to rent an extra floor, so changing the cubicle layout to squeeze more people in.

Christopher Wells
Monday, March 01, 2004

> moving people around costs five days for every person affected

For people who aren't managing the move it's only half a day: in the afternoon, everyone empties their cubicle (moves their computer and chair etc. into the board room); in the evening, movers change the cubicle locations, install new wiring, etc.; and the next day morning, you move your computer etc. from the board room into your new cubicle.

Christopher Wells
Monday, March 01, 2004

Yes, that's the solution. Never mind the difficult to measure impact on productivity and actual square footage...

Let's drywall everything. We'll fit the 200 people in our department/on our floor in tiny cubicle sized offices (unless you're suggesting we double the amount of real estate we need to acquire?), creating a maze of offices, each with it's own ventilation system, sprinkler system, electricity, networking, nice wood doors (ever see hollow core doors in an office?) and their own window out into... the 5 foot wide by 20 foot long corridor. Not to mention the proprietary furniture designed to fit in a 5ft x 10ft "office." Should we also buy everyone their own printer instead of that communal one next to the printer down the hall?

Then when we re-org in 2 to 5 years we'll tear down all the walls, clean up that mess, put up new walls, (do we ever throw out old cubicles like we do old plasterboard?) new ducting, new doors, new windows, rewire everything, move all the sprinklers, lighting, and slap on a coat of new paint....

Philo, why not call a couple of contractors and get some estimates?

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, March 01, 2004

> next to the printer down the hall?

copier down the hall?

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, March 01, 2004

Chris, I'm sure some moves are that simple, but we had a group move downstairs to a new cube farm.  The move itself took 2+ days. Box up (half of day one).  Move computers and boxes and phones (day 2).  Unpack (half of day 3). 

Could it have been faster - oh yeah, but one guy was moving all the computers and boxes - yikes!

Lou
Monday, March 01, 2004

I spent about two years in a cube farm.  About 6 months or so in one spot, then got moved one row down for no reason I could ever figure out and spent just over a year there.  At least in those two spots I was pretty much in a low traffic area.

The last move was to a corner cube that everyone on that half of the floor had to walk past to go in or out of the building, or just to get to the bathroom.  Yeah, I had my back to the entire company for about a half a day until I put my monitor at one corner so I at least had my side to everyone and could track people with my peripheral vision.  I was there for a couple months until the company went through two downsizings and got rid of 13% of staff in 6 months - I was in the second wave of that.

Did I mention that all cubes were in the 4x6 size?  Yeah.

(BTW, our company database was in M on VMS.)

Aaron F Stanton
Monday, March 01, 2004

I think I could safely say that cubes would be more expensive here.  As this is a (listed) Victorian building, the office walls are made of brick and load-bearing ;-)

a cynic writes...
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Oh, I dream of having an actual cube.

Being in a large open plan area with all the cube furniture but no walls...Can you even begin to imagine how unproductive that is? (hint: we're talking minutes of dev time per day).

Could be worse; at least most of the others here are devs or support people, not sales/marketing (I've put up with that in the past).

Justin
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Personally, if I was in charge of a small company, cubes would be out of the question.

One of the major costs of a business is turnover.  Especially in boom times.  Now, who do you think is more likely to leave, all else being equal -- a developer with an office who feels like it is a home away from home or a developer who has a cubicle with no privacy.

I don't have any links to studies to back it up, but I'm fairly sure I'm correct in this.  Humans psycologically invest themselves in rooms.  A cozy office will have that effect.  A cube will not, unless you're a set-in-stone person to begin with.

Hmmmm.  Now I totally have to go watch office space just for the stapler guy.

Richard P
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

My experience with office moves agrees completely with Philo's expectations. . .

Move 1: Two floors down.  Effectively took 5 hours of my time, BUT, not everything came down.  Took the copier 3 months to show up, the network was only 1/2 working for a portion of the time.  After the first month, the fire marshall came through wondered why we had moved in as the cubes weren't laid out to code and the cubes on the end had to be shrunken to give an ample sized hallway.  I'd say it was never quite right on that floor until about 6 months after the move.  Then 2 months after that. . .

Move 2: 8 miles down the road.  Effectively took 1 week of my time, BUT, nothing worked.  Spent hours supervising the coffee man install the coffee machine in a secure space (not to mention I don't drink coffee), no one had keys to their locked cabinets and other cube storage devices (they got lost in the move), had to endure the single channel ISDN line they put in for the building of 200 for about 2 weeks.  Here's the kicker with cost.  Did they bring the cube furniture, chairs, physical cubes, etc. in the move?  Nope, pitched it all because it didn't fit right in the new space.  What about the Herman Miller chairs?  Nope, color didn't match the color scheme and carpeting of the new building, so all new Miller's.  Cost effective?  I'd say probably not.  Adding in huge amounts of lost productivity?  Definately not.

Would it have been any better if there were offices instead?  Maybe not.  They could have lost all of the keys to the doors, and the office furniture.  Would it have been more expensive?  I doubt it.  Would I have been a happier worker that continued to work for the company?  Yes, but alas, they didn't give me a pleasurable working environment (among many other things), so I didn't give them the pleasure of my employment.  (And yes, I now work at a company with only offices).

Elephant
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Christopher, how many cube migrations have you been through?

Let's say "moving day" is Tuesday night.

Monday - people start "getting ready" to move, as well as finding out where their new cube is and spending a lot of time talking about their new location. Many people start boxing stuff up. Some people will try to work, but effectiveness is very low.

Tuesday - box everything up. Zero work done today by anyone.

Wednesday - move boxes back to cubes, start unpacking. Lots of conversation about new locations.

Thursday - more unpacking and settling in. IT staff going crazy fixing network connections, phones, etc.

Friday - finish settling in, getting back to work. Effectiveness may reach full speed by lunch, but then it's lunchtime...

Oh, and let's not forget the scaled math of lost time finding people's new locations when you need them.

It's like shaking a jar of moths - the actual shaking may only last a minute, but things won't settle down afterwards for quite a while.  Now admittedly this is a worst-case situation, but doesn't a smart manager always plan for worst case?

***************
"Then when we re-org in 2 to 5 years we'll tear down all the walls"

Okay, part of my underlying assumption here is that we'll use good management practices. Assume "in a well-run organization" kind of thing.

I don't believe well-run organizations re-org every 2-5 years. And maybe if the walls weren't moveable it would make them be damn sure it's justifiable to do it.

During reorgs are the cubes moved around? Or just the people? People can be moved around offices too. In fact, I believe that the perceived impermanency of cubes contributes to the ease with which management moves people around like chess pieces.

Remember - one of the world's most successful software companies has fixed walls. So not only *can* it be done, it can be done well.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Philo -- I still don't really understand where you're coming from. You assert, "Cubes have to be free-standing, durable, "modular", and often carry a premium for being cubes. You also have to buy cube furniture (desks and cabinets) instead of buying wooden desks and steel filing cabinets from the local office auction house or bulk supply. "

The cubes we've got here are not individually free-standing, they are in sections of eight (4x2). We use generic office desks and filing cabinets, not expensive cube-specific hardware.

Then you suggest, "Cubes and cubestuff breaks. They wear out. I've never seen cube walls older than 6-7 years that looked presentable for a place I'd like to work or invest in."

I don't have the years of experience with cubes. But drywall is easily marred or damaged. As a graduate student I had an old university office. While private and solidly built, it was not at all attractive. In my very limited experience, cubes are far more attractive and pleasant than offices.

And Mark TAW raises good points about the costs of the extra costs: doors, lighting, ventilation, electrical, etc.

Show me the cost-savings of offices over cubes. I'll do a six-sigma program here, to replace all of our cubes with offices. I'll get my green-belt, save the company money, and be hailed as a hero for getting us offices :)

David Fischer
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Drywall or the cement/plaster walls of a university are easily fixed when they become damaged.  Plaster or joint compound fixes holes, and a layer of paint brings the appearance up to date.

Also, people are unlikely to rip out the walls of offices when a reorg takes place.  Makes offices big enough to hold several people and you have plenty of flexibility in organization. I worked in a company where people were shifted approximately every six months, to match the projects that they were working on.  Usually we just shifted our computers and the contents of our desks.  Very easy to do, only about a day lost in productivity.

Clay Dowling
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Is there not internal wiring and networking within the cubes?  We had an electrician install ours.  Don't see how there is potential cost savings there.  Same goes for the networking.  All of my cubes had their own lights in them.  Two little piece of crap flourescent things underneath the storage cabinets.  I imagine they cost more than the flourescent housing units that I bought for the woodworking shop at $6 a piece from Home Depot.  Ventilation, is a valid concern, although I don't know how valid.  The office's that I've been in have a vent in them, although you can't control your own thermostat (it's in the hall).  All that is really needed is more openings in the duct work.  Sprinklers is a valid concern though, no objections there.  And I'd say that cubes don't wear out any faster than Drywall. 

Sitting at client site at the moment, there are scuffs in the cube fabric, coffee stains on it behind my monitor, dust bunnies attached all over the fabric walls.  All simmilar problems to drywall.

Elephant
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

12 years ago I was consulting for a company that had cubes.  President decided that since he couldn't see anyone, they weren't working.  So over a weekend he brings in a chainsaw and, as proof of concept, hacked all the walls in 1 department to desk level.  Didn't tell anyone.  Didn't take stuff off their walls.  Didn't cover computers.  Imagine the effect of tiny aluminum fragments settling inside the airholes of monitors. 

One of the victims was salesman of the year for the prior 2 years.  His plaques were on the cube wall.  One got cut up pretty badly, the other just ended up on the floor.  He was outta there by lunch, plaques in the trash.  That place has the worst management I've seen in my life, but that's a different topic.

At another place 2 years ago we had about 30 engineers, the company's modus operandi was for teams of 2-5 people working on a project for 1-6 months.  Then new projects came up, and new teams formed.  It was pretty nice, you never had time to get bored.

Then we got Mr MBA.  He decided he wanted his teams in adjacent offices.  Yep, this bonehead actually thought it was smart for everyone to move every 1-6 months.  Of course, we had to move close to his office, he was too busy to move. When I was unfortunate enough to get on one of his projects I went to the head of engineering (whom I'd worked for for a couple years) and made sure he knew how much I liked my current office.

No more moves after that.  At least until the layoffs started to hit, but that's a different story.

Neither of these companies exist anymore.

Snotnose
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

> Christopher, how many cube migrations have you been through?

I thought the topic was a specific type of migration: not from one office to another, but a reorg within an existing office. Of those, I've experienced one, recently.

> people start "getting ready" to move

Well, that's not the way it worked when I did it. There isn't much of a "new location" to find out about before the fact: it's the same office after all, merely a different cublicle location. By getting each worker to move their own personal effects, downtime is minimal. I needed only to dewire two computers and their peripherals, put my papers and coffe mug into cardboard boxes (discover how to unfold the cardboard into boxes), and move my computers and chair and boxes into the board room. An afternoon was more than enough time for this: that day, I left work early.

So, Monday (pre-talk) didn't happen, Tuesday (packing) took 2 1/2 hours, Wednesday and Thursday (unpacking) didn't take even 2 hours of the next morning.

I noticed that on those days, some of *other* people took the opportunity to stand around and socialize with each other ... which also isn't an entirely bad thing, I thought.

The IT staff didn't go crazy, that I saw: the phone and network connections in my new cubicle were simply plug and play.

The move was well-organized: on packing day, we had a schedule ("do it in the afternoon"), materials (packing boxes), and a designated staging area for the stuff (the board room). Similarly, the wiring people must have done a cmopetent job overnight (or, perhaps it was over the weekend) since we had no trouble plogging in the next day.

> Now admittedly this is a worst-case situation, but doesn't a smart manager always plan for worst case?

Well, no, I don't think a smart manager does always expect the worst case ... to do so would result in paralysis ("we can never dare move office: because the moving truck and all the employees might get hit by lightning en route"). Instead, a manager should plan for the likely case, and plan to avoid the worst case.

Now I'm not saying that I *like* cubes ... in fact, the cube ethos there was a reason for my quitting that employer, and now working from home; I'm just adding one data point concerning the duration of disruption caused by a cube reorg.

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It's possible that people in offices are more productive.

The problem with this is that productivity is often subjective and hard to measure.

The number of bodies per square foot is easy to measure.

People running businesses will tend to take actions that have a clear measurable effect.

This is the same reason that discussing potential loss of quality as a consequence of off-shoring is irrelevent. Managers only care about the reduction of cost presumably provided by offshoring (because it's measurable).

njkayaker
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It sounds to me like there should be metrics such as bugs per  line of code, cost of fixing bugs, and so on that could be invoked here.  If the number of bugs per line of code created in a cube farm is substantially higher, then you can point to the cost of fixing the bugs.

Also, if you can show that people in an office not only produce fewer bugs per line of code but also more lines of code overall, then you have an even stronger case.

Managers like the metrics of people per square foot, but come on...programmers should be able to create metrics to prove a point, too.

(The same arguments can be used in the offshoring argument - sure, you pay people one tenth as much per hour for the code, but if you spend twenty times as much in fixing and maintaining said code, is it really a bargain?  I'm arbitrarily pulling numbers out of air here, but there have got to be metrics that can be applied.)

Aaron F Stanton
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Aaron, as quickly as you pull out those numbers, Finance will generate numbers showing that the cost of having a physical installation far exceeds the cost of having leased goods.  (0 maintenance fees, cost is spread over 5+ years reducing initial expendeture (freeing money for other projects and/or to bear interest/investments)).

What it really takes is a strong leader at the top of the company who says, "We need offices, and I'm willing to bear the cost associated with them in order to reap the benefits that accrue over the long term."  Like anything else, it's a trade-off.

Cubes:  Initial savings, long term cost in productivity/morale
Offices: Initial cost, long term savings in productivity/morale

The numbers might not even balance on paper, but we all know what company we'd rather work for, and that's a benefit that can't be placed on a balance sheet.

Lou
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Ah...perhaps the "where I'd rather work" is a key part that can be presented to Finance:
Perhaps cube workers have a higher turn-over rate than office workers.  If so, the lost productivity from having to continually hire and train people might make it clear on paper.
Not just that, but a person who is at a company for ten continuous years is certainly going to be much more productive than ten people who work there for only one year each.  You get to reap the benefits of a ten year veteran in the first case, and you don't in the second.
Perhaps the loss in productivity is balanced by paying the one-years less in Finance's eyes.

Of course, in this market, many people are hungry enough for a job that they will put up with a cube farm.  (I know *I* am.)

Aaron F Stanton
Tuesday, March 02, 2004


An interesting sidenote to this would be to determine what percentage of cube-dwellers who get promoted to management (and offices) and then suddenly decide that cubes are a good idea for "those other people".

"Animal Farm" is alive and well in the office.

Nah.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Sorry Lou, "a bird in the hand beats two in the bush", as they say. That's the way most management will think on operational costs like these. IMO, all these arguments that have been made for offices sound a bit like wishful thinking to me. Don't get me wrong, I'd like an office. But I think if you do a factor analysis on programmer productivity you'd find that workspace quality ranks behind several other factors in explanatory power.

"I just moved you into an office, but your productivity in is the crapper." "Oh yeah, the office is great, but fantasy baseball season is starting up, and I've got to get ready..."

I just keep in mind that asking management for offices is asking them to trade a tangible asset for something very intangible...

Rob VH
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Anecdote:

A company I used to work for had us programmers spend 3 days rearranging our cube walls to make room for more programmers.  We each had to shorten 2 walls by 2 foot in order to add five more cubes to the room. 

This was a few months before the bottom fell out of the tech economy.

Only 2 of those cubes ever got filled.  Then the hiring freeze came, then the firings started.  Last I heard they had laid off more than half the developers.

I'll bet I could have built a really big cube if I would've stayed.

Dan Brown
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The pay was the same, so we didn't mind if we were writing code or moving furniture.

But I lost the little faith I had left in "management" that day.

Figure $35/hr for 30 developers x 3 days = Hell of an exensive move.

Dan Brown
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

>>>I don't have the years of experience with cubes. But drywall is easily marred or damaged. As a graduate student I had an old university office. While private and solidly built, it was not at all attractive. In my very limited experience, cubes are far more attractive and pleasant than offices.<<<

Cubes might be more attractive if all you are doing is looking at them or taking a picture for a brochure.  But a few years of experience in various in various work environments can change one's perspective.

A fresh out CS grad might think that a bright shiny new cube farm would be an OK place to work, but, having several years experience, that private solidly built old university office with the marred drywall is the one that I would take if I had a choice.

mackinac
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Aren't cube walls thinner than regular (drywall) walls?

Places I've worked at, they seemed to be about half as thick.  Not huge savings,but contributes to the people-density factor.

The real Entrepreneur
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

One other factor in favour of cubes:

Most commercial office leases require you to restore the premises to the original condition at the end of the lease.  With a cube you just break it down and carry it out.

Don't get me wrong, I hate working in cubes.

HeWhoMustBeConfused
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Cubes:  Initial savings
Offices: Initial cost

Several arguments were made about leasing vs buying. Why do people think that offices are a cash expenditure? Most places I have seen, you sign a lease and as part of the lease the owner does a custom build in for you, which includes places walls for offices, wiring and all that. On the other hand, cube ware is usually purchased from an office supply place like Staples. I don't think they offer leases.

Accountant
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

An article in the Washington Post a few years ago described one company's (SRA International) investigation of office space for a move they were considering.  It didn't give any cost numbers, but there was a statement that in their investigations they found that they would not save any money if they switched from offices to cubes.

mackinac
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

>>>But I think if you do a factor analysis on programmer productivity you'd find that workspace quality ranks behind several other factors in explanatory power. <<<

DeMarco and Lister's coding war games showed a rather strong correlation between workspace quality and programmer productivity.  But I do think there is more to it than that.

Several years ago I worked for a small software company that provided a private office for every employee (except the receptionist).  It had low turn over and good reputation for the quality of its work.  But the point came where the owners decided to sell and we became a small branch of a much larger company.  Growth became the goal and private offices were a thing of the past.  The culture had changed.

The distinguishing characteristic of the company was a dedication to quality.  One manifestation of that was the private offices.  But it extended to the interview process, and the attitude of the employees themselves. 

If you took a team of mediocre developers and mediocre managers and moved them to private offices one day, I suspect you might not get much benefit.

mackinac
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

[nod]

Given "Developers in private offices produce better quality code faster," are private offices the cause or a parallel symptom? ;-)

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Perhaps the biggest difference in productivity of offices vs. cubes is this:  The most productive programmers are more likely to want to be hired by, and stay with, companies in which programmers are placed in offices.

NoName
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Philo, your assessment of five days lost productivity for a move is probably overstated, but say it is nearer three days. A move is taken as an opportunity to muck out the stuff that has often accumulated over years, and to reorganize and streamline your working environment - and you can conveniently charge it to moving costs. So, you have to factor into the equation the resultant and immediate productivity gain, which depends on the individual and is intangible in any case (the Year 2000 roll-over had a similar effect as regards obsolescent software!)

Pete

Peter Billard
Friday, March 19, 2004

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