Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Futuristic office

This post is based on some of the discussion in the
'Enlightened companies' thread.

I just wanted to find out  why no body is talking about working from home, telecommuting etc when they talk how an ideal workplace should be( private office ) .

Would not this be the next step to having private office & other ideal stuff.
Not only does this give you flexibility as an employee but also it could be environmentally friendly.

I can imagine most of the employees of such a company working from home using high speed internet connections and use collobrative tools for interacting with their co workers. The company itself could maintain a small office, mainly for meeting with clients & a suite of guest offices.

What do you guys feel ?

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

I do work from home and I think it is fabulous. I am never, ever going to work in an office environment again. (OK, maybe if someone gives me that $500k/yr job...)

Even when I worked in an office, I found that I couldn't get much done in the office due to constant interruption. So I did most work at home early in the AM, then just came in for meetings. In fact all the members on my team worked the same way, and we were the only team in the entire division that accomplished _anything_. When the megacorp dropped the entire division last year (I left about 6 months earlier to take a contract job), the only people they kept were the developers on the team who all worked from home.

I do think more and more, companies will operate this way. especially with "tiger teams"...small development teams working on very specific projects.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

One of the things I've noticed is that too often developers are just too accessible.

Peopleware sort of touches on this - giving developers private offices and the like, but that won't help if they're still too easy to interrupt. Round here, people call the developers. End users call developers and ask them questions: developer gets interrupted to explain to someone how folders work or something.

The "management" team is in the same open plan office, so they pop over every couple of minutes to chat about things.

Telecommuting is an extreme form of not being interruptable by people who shouldn't be able to interrupt you at all. Personally I find it stormingly hard to work at home - I have the "fridge problem". You get up in the morning, can't find the butter and before you know it, it's lunch-time, but the fridge is organised properly now. Anything but work.

Actually going somewhere to work I actually do work. But it would be nice to be non-interruptable when I go there.

{Actually I get to work on lots of different sites, being a contractor, and every bloody time, I get the seat near the fax machine (lots of beeping and dialing sounds) or the printer (people forever stood behind me gossiping). Or sometimes both...}

I've figured it's not whether the office is open plan or cubicalled or what, it's how far you are from the non-developers that's important. You want it to be just far enough that they can't be bothered to wander over with trivial stuff so they'll email it instead...

Katie Lucas
Wednesday, April 24, 2002

I have worked from home on several contracting projects and loved it.  As long as you can maintain a working mindset... damn fridge... there isn't a better place. Your favourite chair, soda, light music and Bob's your uncle.

I'd love to work from home now, but don't have an office area, and I'm positive that my boss would freak if I brought it up (maybe I should stop asking for half days off to play golf). 

So working from home is out, but the good thing is I have a door to my office, blinds on my window, and a brand new light bulb.

"Close the door, I'm not here"

Jack of all(?), master of none
Wednesday, April 24, 2002

IBM had it figured out about 25 years ago on their Santa Teresa project.  Developers need to be able to spend some time working alone without interruption and some time meeting and working with coworkers.  Their percentage was about 40%/60%.  In my experience the basic concept is right, but I spend a larger fraction working alone.

At my previous employer a few people decided that they wanted to move away but were allowed to (or convinced to) continue working  on their project by telecommuting.  This worked out for a few months, but eventually the difficulties of maintaining contact with the project became too much and they left to find other jobs.

I have thought about the idea of telecommuting and even done it in special cases like staying home during a snow storm.  But for the kind of small team projects I usually work on it would be exchanging one set of problems for another.  Also, I often need access to special hardware which is located in a lab and would be impossible to take home.

For some situations telecommuting probably could work fine, but for the general case it has its own problems.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Well, what are the pros/cons of working at home?  I just wrote up a quick list.

* personal bandwidth greater when face-to-face
* millenia of societal evolution
* dependence on uncontrollable communications infrastructure
* security problems
* possibly bad home environment
* no informal practices like "hallway testing"
* certain resources are only available at office
* decreased chance for spontaneous insprational smalltalk

* costs (office, transport, perks)
* discipline of specs and other recordable interaction
* better communications infrastucture
* less impedance mismatch - mgrs like to yak, programmers don't
* supports heterogenous dev env
* designwork may be easier w/out Big Brother watching
* treats human capital as individuals
* scales

* hybrid approach
* personal offices
* webcams so mgmt can still put fear of god into employees

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

I have an office at home with a cable modem connection to the net. I have worked from home. I have been successful and productive from home.

I also have kids at home and about a million other "interesting" things to do. I need "face time" to really bounce ideas.

Finding the magic balance between time spent working at home and at the office is the key. I have known people who cranked their schedules around at home (up at 4:00 work until the kids get up at 7) just to get the quite time.

I'm pushing to get VPN access into my current company so that I will have the flexibility to deal with the chaos of three kids and a wife with her own company (and boatload of problems) to deal with.

Sometimes there just isn't enough time or space.

Charles J Williams
Wednesday, April 24, 2002

My office space is in the middle of a call center. When I have a hard problem to solve, I have to go in the parking lot to think it over!

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

A call center?!  That takes the cake for the worst programming office space I had ever heard of.

I want one of those cool offices like Ryan Phillippe had in that dorky movie where he was fighting Bill Gates.  A huge open space, with surfboards on the wall, and lots of cubicles floating around in space. Of course, as readers of this web site must know, the cubicles would have to be far enough apart from one another to keep it quiet.  And they would have to have windows, and doors that closed, somehow, ...

Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Oh, I also worked in Japan for a "traditional" Japanese company and then Apple.

I went from:
* A 60cmx90cm desk in a two column row facing a fellow inmate -- I mean employee, with the section lead at the end cap looking down the rows on his minions.
* Stand up 9:00AM meeting spouting goals for the day.
* Cigarette smog bank by 10:00AM

* Quad cube clusters with cubes opening at the programmers back to a common table.
* Hallway meetings
* No smoke.

You learn to do what you have to do in either environment, but I would never go back to a traditional Japanese company like that.

Damnit though, the sushi was exquisite in Tsukiji...

Charles J Williams
Thursday, April 25, 2002

>>I want one of those cool offices like Ryan Phillippe had in that dorky movie where he was fighting Bill Gates. A huge open space, with surfboards on the wall, and lots of cubicles floating around in space.

That sounds like what they have over at IDEO as I read in their book 'The Art of Innovation' (a quick interesting read).  The first thing I did after reading the book was check their website for jobs.

Chris Rickwood
Thursday, April 25, 2002

I am a contractor and work from place to place, I'd have to say the biggest advantage for me for working from home is the consistancy of my environment as well as the peace and quiet. My study and P4/40G/1G RAM development PC as well as my network at home is far preferable to most development PC's offered at most companies, not to mention the consistant toolset that I can use from home, generally I find I am using better software tools than most organisations. Almost always, even at the better places, I am better setup at home to deliver software than I will be in the office. I have tried a high end laptop but that has not been a good solution and comes with a range of connectivity, security issues for most companies.
I lke going to the office too, and think that a 40/60 type solution would work from me, basically if the work is difficult/challenging I'd want to be at home.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Charles, yeah japanese companies are really something, aren't they? to be honest though most japanese would probably be horrifed at the way "western" companies are run. we and they have really different expectations and ways of thinking and behaving.

Friday, April 26, 2002

For me, the major disadvantage of working at home is that it's harder to get in touch with co-workers.  If I need to talk to somebody and they're at their desk, and they pick up their phone, great.  But if they're not at their desk, when will they call me back?  How much longer will it take to explain something on the phone compared to drawing a quick diagram or typing a few commands on their computer to illustrate my problem?

In other words, there's a significant communication reduction inherent in physical separation from co-workers, no matter the tools available.

That said, I like to work from home, and I wish that more employers would allow it.  I benefit from the stable toolset I've collected over time, with which I'm highly comfortable.

So, is the best system a mixture of work-time and home-time?  I've seen problems with that, because people choose different times and/or days to be at home.

It's a tough issue.

Brent P. Newhall
Monday, May 6, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home