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The Anti-Bionic Office

I just got this link to Wired story about an experiment in office space design at an advertising agency that, according to the writer, was a dismal failure.  Interesting to contrast with the Bionic Office design:

Crater Moon
Sunday, November 23, 2003

Awesome story.

<< Chiat had anticipated this pathetic human reaction, and was ready. He declared that "nesting" - parking in any one place for more than a day - was strictly forbidden. In the "Chiat High" he'd created, he acted as both principal and hall monitor. Says Rabosky: "Jay would walk around, and he'd give you this look and say, 'Did you sit here yesterday?' And he'd make you get up and move." >>

Sounds like someone never read Snow Crash, especially Neal Stephenson's description of working in Fedland.  (=

Sam Livingston-Gray
Sunday, November 23, 2003

And an interesting contrast:

John C.
Sunday, November 23, 2003

I'm not very excited about that story. It quotes executives about how much money it saves them.  Nothing from the employee side of things.

Crater Moon
Sunday, November 23, 2003

I think that it was at Arthur Andersen in Paris that they went with this idea a couple of years ago. Sorry, I can't find any link, but I remember watching a documentary on TV about this. AA employees who needed to spend some time at the office, ie. when they weren't out meeting customers or working from home, had to make reservations at least 24h before showing up. Don't know if AA is still running things this way.

I seem to recall people didn't like using totally anonymous desks, and never having the same neighbors. Besides, what about the loss of information due to lack of face-to-face interaction with co-workers.

Frederic Faure
Sunday, November 23, 2003

Great article. Amazing no one sow the writing on the wall when that poor woman had to drag her files around the building in a little red wagon, looking for an empty desk.

Yeah, that's a great use of the time of a talented creative person.

Also amazing is the idea that high school lockers and going to classes is a productve way to produce products.

I remember in college I searched for several weeks until I found an unused professors office. I moved my computer, my radio, my coffee machine, a cot, blankets and my bookcase into that office and put a fictitious name on the door. While other students were scrambling to sign up for mainframe time, I just headed to my office, made some coffee and got my projects done. i always seemed to have more free time than the other students and in the end I graduated Summa Cum Laude and #2 in a class of 800.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, November 23, 2003

dennis, that story brought a smile to my face :-)  good show.

Scot Doyle
Sunday, November 23, 2003

"...and #2 in a class of 800."

Did #1 have a bigger coffee machine?

Monday, November 24, 2003

"Did #1 have a bigger coffee machine? "

Probably just grabbed a bigger office...

Heck, I wish I would have thought of this when I was in college. If they'd have been available, I'd have probably even rented an office from the University.

Monday, November 24, 2003


I worked for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) several years ago (my first job out of college). In 1997 they went to "hotelling". Only employees who were permanently assigned to the location had offices or cubes. I thought it was great. I was not permanently assigned, but I did spend a significant amount of time working from the office.

Basically you signed up, and when you arrived for work for that week, all of your files and whatnot would be waiting on a little cart in your work area, and your phone would be transferred. Really pretty efficient.

I always made sure to sign up for what had formerly been partners' offices: corner offices, marble desks, big-ol' leather chairs. I remember one where you could open and close the door with a switch under the desktop. It was sweet.

Many of the partners hated the concept. Maybe that's why I liked it so much...

Rob VH
Monday, November 24, 2003

Frederic, Rob,

Andersen Consulting Brussels also used this technique. But there was a good reason : Most people (consultants) were supposed to have their main workplace at the client's office. There, they had their own seat (AA missions are long terms). Probably more than 75% of folks _never_ came to the AA office.
So the AA office didn't have room for everyone... simply because it was not really needed.
Hence the 'pick a seat' strategy. Even if I hated my AA experience (left after 5 months (first 3 of which i _did not_ have a job ! Was just paid to sit around...), I must say that this office strategy didn't seem odd to me.

Serge Wautier
Monday, November 24, 2003

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