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Ideal office

I wanted to start a discussion on what people have in their office/cube environment and how that compares to their conception of an ideal work environment.

I have an 8 x 8 cube that's pretty sterile and unfortunately is on the inside away from the windows.  I'd rather be able to see the sun without having to stand up and peer over my walls, the space is just fine for me and the nature of the business is very quiet so its not like an office would induce more productivity.  I'd really benefit from a second monitor though.

Would you like a bigger office - how big?  Would you like low cube walls or higher ones?  The architecture geek in me gets really intrigued by this kind of stuff.

Friday, April 25, 2003

I work at home 4 days a week, but when we move into offices, all developers will have an office with a door that closes. We'll probably take a modified Joel approach, and do larger offices with 2 to an office, but I'm not sure.

My office at home is about 14x16, which I share with my wife. We have a rather sizeable book collection along one wall, and desks along the other three. I have a large desk surface arranged in an L, each leg being 30" x 72", lots of overhead storage (6' tall hutch with lots of cubbieholes and some closed storage), plus rolling drawers with storage for hanging files. A laptop and multiple PCs, the primary of which has a 17" and a 15" LCD monitor.

Having worked with a system like this, I'm not sure I'd be able to stand much less.

Brad Wilson (
Friday, April 25, 2003

Currently, my cube is only 5 x 5, and the walls are only 4 feet high, but I'm near a window, and the nearest co-worker is about 14 feet away, so I still have some privacy.

The next cube over holds my test PC's.

Friday, April 25, 2003

I don't actually have a cube *or* an office.  I'm in a desk that's pushed up against a bunch of other desks, with three-foot dividers between each group of four desks.  The desks that are against the far wall of the room have an actual wall; the others (including mine) have a standard six-foot cubicle partition that's about four feet wide.  So, I have basically *no* wall space.  The cubicle wall is useful for hanging a few piees of paper, but that's about it.  Blech.

But I have an extra desk.  Whee.

To brighten things up, I've pasted a large poster of a squadron of P-38 Lightnings onto the surface of my extra desk.  I've also pasted a long and thin Monet print on the low "wall" separating me from the desk next to me.  It helps.

That's about all I *can* do.  I've been thinking of putting up a poster on the cubicle wall, but I'm not sure if others will mind.  It's a bit distracting, anyway....

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, April 25, 2003

8x8 cube - right next to the receptionist.  Unfortunately we just reorganized and there's not even a lab to hide in to get some work done too.

Office layout is my current campaign at my company to get right.  I'm hiding out in a downsized employee's office at the moment to try to get my current project back on track. 

It's amazing how no one will do Peopleware things to prevent a project crisis, but sometimes they'll do it for a short time once you get into a crisis.

Friday, April 25, 2003


Your home office arrangement sounds fantastic. Any chance you might post a couple photos somewhere so we can drool over it?

Dennis Atkins
Friday, April 25, 2003

I have some desk pictures.

This is the current main part of my desk:

These are a couple older pictures with older arrangements (basically, back when I using the laptop full time and didn't yet have the 17" LCD):

My wife got the mini-PC you see in that third picture, and here's her desk setup now:

Brad Wilson (
Friday, April 25, 2003

I currently have a small office with a door that closes, however I hardly ever do so. The actual space is very small, and I feel like I'm sitting in a walk-in closet. Across the hall from my door is just a blank wall. Ugh. A window and a nice size desk that I don't bang my knees on would be GREAT! At least it's quiet in here, and nobody bugs me.

Friday, April 25, 2003

"Rapid Development", Chapter 30 is a good start.

Bill Tomlinson
Friday, April 25, 2003

Current office is 9' x 9'6", north window,  two desks, two chairs, four filing cabinets, a book case, two computers, two monitors 21" and 15",  a laptop, a printer, a scanner, two old servers.

What I would like is get rid of other peoples projects: two file cabinets, the old servers, the scanner.

Clean up the wireing, I hate the rats nest of power bars, hubs, ethernet cables, and phone cords.

Add a 4' x 8' whiteboard.

Anonymous Coward
Friday, April 25, 2003

The reason I asked this question is that a friend of mine is setting up his company in an old textile mill and he's asked me to help think through some of the design.  One of our major questions is - how much space do people need (yes, we know that 100 sq ft is considered the minimum productivity zone for most people - but we're really thinking 8 x 12 or 16 x 12... 4 ft wide windows eight feet on center limit possibilities some).  Our other serious question is, do people really benefit from having small conference tables in their offcies or should more group spaces be created?

Cetainly its nice to have a small table for quick meetings, but couldn't that be achieved by having two chairs against the front of a desk?  Its not about economy of space so much as its about utterly wasted space.  Would you like a small meeting table in your office or would it just become another table to spread your papers out onto?

Friday, April 25, 2003

light and reasonably quiet thats it

Daniel Shchyokin
Friday, April 25, 2003

I would only put in a conference area for someone who regularly has meetings in their office (at least once a day, if not more often), and I would definitely not force that person to share an office with someone else. The meetings would be too disruptive.

Brad Wilson (
Friday, April 25, 2003

High walls...all the way to the ceiling (and floor). A door (or two). A skylight (shadeable). BYOAL (bring your own artificial lighting). A pair of Mackie HR624s and a fridge.  No phone ( I'll bring my own thanks). Fresh air and a fan. Peephole.

And all Bill Evans CDs.

Wow. I didn't realize how much my cube at work sucks. But the home office has all of the above.

fool for python
Friday, April 25, 2003

Having the windows on 8' centres make the decision for you. You need to put the office walls on 8' centres, assuming 1/2" drywall on 2"x4" studs, this makes your offices 7' 7 1/2" wide.

So far so good.

Now, look at your current staffing and plan to double it. Make sure your lay-out still works.

Now triple it, still working?

I'd make the offices 16' to 18' deep. That way the team leads can have conference space, and everybody else can double up when the company grows.

Anonymous Coward
Friday, April 25, 2003

When we moved we discussed the design of the new place at length. The conclusion, and the experience with it for two years, shaped it like this:

- everybody have their own offices with doors that close
- a "coffee" room with fluffy pillows where people can meet, discuss different things and so on
- a conference room
- some form of "social area" where one can go with the laptop and work with others (and wireless net)

So that's basically it. Stationary computer with dual monitors and a laptop. Lots of storage space and bookshelves. Ergonomic everything. Really cheap crappy mouse (optical, at least) since computer maintanance decided to break away from Microsoft assimilation and experiment with other products.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Here are some comments based on my experience doing software development in a variety of work spaces:

- Quiet is essential.  You need to pay attention to the HVAC system, refrigerators, soda machines, telephones, outside traffic and the PCs that developers use.  An unexpected source of noise can ruin an otherwise well planned office.

- About 120 sq ft is a good amount of floor space.  I find that more isn't very useful, unless I need to keep special equipment in my office.

- For meetings with other developers have a spare chair in the room and position the white board where is it accessible to a visitor.  Team leaders may need a bit of extra space and a small table for meetings with 2-3 others.

- You probably need to have larger conference rooms, lab space, kitchen, etc.  but this will vary with the size of your team and the work you are doing.

- The offices need to be private, one person, offices.  Don't fool yourself into thinking that two person offices, even with a door, is a "modified Joel approach".  Shared space is shared space, and  if you share with someone who likes to listen to the radio all day, you are stuck with listening to the same thing.

- A door is desirable, but it shouldn't be necessary to use it very much.  When I had such space I rarely closed the door except when working on  a difficult problem.  At one time I was put in an office near a soda machine that had a noisy compressor.  Then I had to keep the door closed all the time.

Monday, April 28, 2003

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