Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

About Office space...

Take a look at this article:

From any worker's standpoint, there is something just wrong with the reasoning behind this kind of measures. I'm not talking about "programmers do better in offices with a door." My first concern is comfort and privacy (I like to work barefoot and pipe smoking.)

Anybody else have any issues with this?

Leonardo Herrera
Monday, January 14, 2002

My Grandmother used to say "Its easy to pull your socks down when you've got socks"

Meaning, maybe the big guy just wants to mix with the rest of us, because he can.

If he changes his mind, then hey, "I'll take that big office over there" is all he needs to say.

Not so simple for the rest of us.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

This is a very slanted article, so I don't know the situation before, but if the article can be trusted it seems like an improvement over the past.

At least they tested it out:
"Prior to moving forward on architectural plans, Alcoa tested the concept by converting the top  floor of the old building into an open furniture landscape and situating its top nine executives and their assistants there.  It was a three-year changing work in progress that ultimately proved the positives outweighed the negatives."

So if they were at least aware there were negatives, it might have been a decent decision.

Cletus Washington
Tuesday, January 15, 2002

I think this quote is the clincher

"Now we have more useful engagements by accident than we used to have on purpose."

That  is GREAT for marketing / sales type people. Unfortunately, these guys do not understand what it takes to program.
It took me a LOT of time to train them :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

I'm not sure it is even good for marketing/sales type people, all the time.  That last phrase being the disclaimer for many geewhiz ideas.

If a product manager is concentrating on how he's going to roll out a release, when ads will hit, when customer visits will be, when trade shows are - that's a number of variables comparable to a programmer's.

He doesn't want to be interrupted anymore than a programmer, and if he doesn't have an office, he's going to want to scream off to a private room to concentrate.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Check out
This is the architect and builders plans. There are links to constuction pics as well.
To me it looks nice, with lots of windows and natural light. I don't mind the open space plan when I can at least see what the weather is like.
The article talks about being able to change  the set up. If there are no cubicle police around that could be nice. Move the team together with a large common area and private cubes. I am thinking this is more like in XP explained, not what DeMarco was talking about in Peopleware.
From the pics and plans, this is not a warehouse with no windows and a cube farm in the center. That would be my idea of the upper floors in hell.

Doug Withau
Tuesday, January 15, 2002

I like open plan, its great. I've spent all my working life in open plan offices, and I am a developer not a salesman. Over here in Europe we don't have cubicles to work in, and I would never take a job that had them. I am sure the people who invented the idea of cubicles were people who believed that workers were machines and that each machine can work solidly for eight hours a day, we know that not true.

I think the opposite is true. Give people a nice open working environment and their productivity will increase, or at worst remain the same. So hats off to Alcoa.


Jonathan Naylor
Tuesday, January 15, 2002

I, actually, believe in the other approach. Give me a closed office, with a door that shuts, a window (to get some natural light), a small desk, a comfortable chair, my computer, and I'm done. The complete "I want to be with my subordinates" thing seems BS to me.

Leonardo Herrera
Tuesday, January 15, 2002

I am also in Europe, with those open plan offices...  Or "War Rooms" as described in a Slashdot article: ( ).

They're fine when I have people sitting some distance to the front of me, since my monitor blocks them out.  But as the day progresses and there are people at their desks on either side to me, I feel a bit constrained.

It does prevent a level of thinking. 

And I note that in that article, it mentions that only the executives and their assistants tested the war room concept for three years.  No one else.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

I too am from "Europe", and am used to open plan - every one of my jobs has been in a room with at least 6 people.  Currently, I am in (approx) a 100 x 50 ft room, a chunk of which is partitioned off as the machine room, and there are about 5 partitioned smaller rooms which are used for offices and conference rooms.  All the people (40 of them) in this room are working in Engineering (formerly Development).

I actually like working in here.  I can see from my seat everyone I would need to talk to on a day to day basis.  It encourages a friendly atmosphere.  It is this friendly atmosphere which makes me want to work here.

But ... there is a downside, and this is the one that Joel talks about.  It can be very, very difficult to "get into the zone".  I _can_ use one of the smaller rooms to do reading, but I can't take my computer with me.  I have considered working at home for "high density thought" tasks!


Mark Alexander Bertenshaw
Thursday, January 17, 2002

well, I am from Singapore... that small dot on the world map :)

the thing about Singapore is the scarcity of land and hence office space is expensive.

I have yet come across office for developers with doors.
Most big companies will give you the cubicles, while the smaller ones (less than 20 in total) will opt for open space.

I prefer open space than cubicles..

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home