Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
We're ditching the office completely (buffer.com)
337 points by open-source-ux on Feb 9, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 255 comments

I guess I'm the flip-side of this. I work for myself, self-employed, and my office is the best $360 I spend each month. I need separation of space. My 15 minute walk ("commute") adds to the separation of work from home.

The other thing is that there are two small children running around my house. I simply can't work there, or else I'd never get anything done. Our house isn't large enough to have a separate, dedicated office-space. I'd be constantly interrupted.

I like the concept of remote working, even in a shared environment, but if I were working at that company and I no longer had a free place to go do work, I'd be looking for another gig.

Separation of work and personal is key IMO.

I thought I'd like working at home, as it turns out I didn't at all because once you're working at home, it's hard to draw the line.

I learned it well working for myself. After 5pm, no work unless it's a real emergency and those might happen 1-2x a year.

Having gone back into the workforce, people were always amazed I didn't carry the latest greatest phone (only got an iPhone once they added GPS, currently using a Lumia 1020). I don't need a computer in my pocket. I'm in front of a computer roughly 12-16 hours a day, that little time I'm not, I'm okay with being away from email, etc.

Even though I'm on my computer at night (like now). I never check work emails, they're also never sent to my phone. Only personal. If it's an emergency, call. It better fucking be an emergency (why I left my last job, owner didn't understand boundaries). I also don't work overtime. If you want 24/7 support, hire it.

Turning off Gmail notifications on my phone was the best thing I ever did for my stress levels.

Honestly, when you think about it, if it's over email, it's not a "real" emergency. Someone in a real emergency would just call.

Ditto. I turned off virtually all notifications on my phone. Only phone calls and text messages get through (which for me is quite rare).

I realized that almost nothing on my phone is important enough to interrupt me whenever.

I just use Priority Mode and put the phone face down if the notification led will distract me.

I too turned off notifications on gmail a long time ago. However, I've setup some filters looking for words like "urgent", "emergency", etc without telling people that I have. They're all labeled accordingly and that specific label makes a noise on my phone. It seems to work pretty good so far.

> people were always amazed I didn't carry the latest greatest phone (only got an iPhone once they added GPS, currently using a Lumia 1020).

Same thing here, nobody understands why I'm sticking to a nokia 208.

Same here. I tried doing the work-from-home thing for years. It never worked out. I would waste my mornings and stay up late wrapping up pending work. I would also skip gym because it was too much effort dressing up and going out. Plus, because I would waste my mornings, I would convince myself that I couldn't go to the gym because I had to catch up with work.

Working from a shared office means that I'm out of the door by 10-11AM. I chose a shared office that was very close to my place, so my commute is 15 minutes at most.

It's also easier going to the gym after work when I'm already out.

Wouldn't do the work from home thing unless it was absolutely necessary.

It works for some and not so well for others. I worked remote for 2 years and don't plan on doing it again anytime soon. The social isolation was hard to deal with.

I also worked solo -- at home for one year and in a private office at a coworking space alone, and then with an officemate, and now finally working at a company in an office. Each incremental step has been better than the next and I do not want to go back. Working solo at home was especially horrible (and I'm an introvert). I would like to have flexibility, i.e. Fridays at home (or off totally) would be ideal.

ditto. I worked remotely for 10 months and don't plan to do it again. There is no substitute of the good feeling of hanging out together with team mates at same place.

Are you hanging out or working?

Don't be obtuse. You know it is not a binary thing. Work ebbs and flows throughout a day. No one works exactly from 8-12 then 1-5 and goes home. So working and hanging out can happen at work.

Good point, but it would be a much better comment without the first 5 unduly personal words.

I found that the best way to deal with the social isolation is to plan lots of coffees with friends and former colleagues, and plan to attend lots of meetups.

Gets me dressed and out of the house.

This is key. Working in the office, social interaction is almost a passive activity, ie the water cooler chat about the weekend trip away to London to see musical.

When working remote, it becomes conscious effort to seek out social activity and to connect. This extra step is difficult for some.

we have a very boring, traditional, class A office space in a commercial district of town. it looks like a small law office, or an insurance sales office. no cubicles, just shared rooms and normal desks against walls.

it's quiet, and well lit, and cool. i can work an honest 8-10 hour day with occasional breaks without a problem. every full time employee (except interns) has a view. it's nice, but it's not "luxury" space. it's not very expensive, less than the cost of one junior employee.

i will never work in any other kind of environment ever again -- maybe a dedicated home office, but even then, i do like a (very) short commute for the same reasons you do. there are a handful of other tech companies here (it's mostly law firms, finance, psychiatrists, etc.) and they seem to have the same idea, and are doing well.

it's kind of like the black turtleneck theory -- the office is not something we think about, like at all, so that we're free to spend our mental energy on other more productive things.

> I guess I'm the flip-side of this. I work for myself, self-employed, and my office is the best $360 I spend each month.

That's not the flip side, that's what the article says they're doing: converting office staff to a co-working space (via their "perks"):

    "Those in San Francisco who worked in the office now have
    moved into coworking spaces, which Buffer pays for as      
    part of our team perks."

That negates the whole point of the article (well, headline) for me.

You didn't stop having an office. You just realised you could save money by sending the few guys using your office to a shared space.

I think I'd be a bit miffed if I was a non-office employee there - suddenly the old 'office guys' are getting this 'team perk' that doesn't apply to me.

It would be more in the spirit of the whole 'openness' thing to say "here's $X, spend it on office space, coffee, whatever to improve whatever working environment you choose".

According to the article, every employee gets the team perk you seem so upset about...

I'm sorry if I "seem upset", I don't work there or anything.

My main point is just that the article content "those employees who were in our office are now in company-paid co-working space" is pretty different from the headline "we're ditching the office completely".

Having an office and granting perks to those who previously used the office (or everyone) doesn't have any redistributional effects as long as it doesn't incentivize prior non-office employees to join coworking spaces.

But apart from that, I'm with you in your conclusion that an equal amount of money for possible work environments is probably the most structure agnostic solution.

> coworking spaces, which Buffer pays for as part of our team perks

"Going to work" is now considered a "perk of the job"? Now I have heard everything.

Just last night a friend in hospitality was telling me how tips were pooled and shared out, and money was taken out of the pool against staff parties (okay, kind of defensible) and breakage (wtf!?). He said the place was even dicier than it sounds - when they did have the staff parties, the boss made it sound like the money came out of his own pocket, rather than sucked from the employees tips. Some "perks" are definitely less valuable than other "perks"...


This is explicitly illegal in California, Massachusetts and New York (among other states). There are also states where it is legal.

I guess I picture an office as an actual office, not a room full of desks. I'm too old-fashioned. And maybe people prefer the atmosphere of co-working. I like having a place to go where I can have quiet, have music, but most importantly have focus without interruptions. That's what an office is to me.

Sadly that is no longer what an office is.

I used to think this way.

However if I work at home for the long term, then here's what that will cost:

10 years X 12 months X 360 per month = $43200

If you are as old as I am then 10 years won't seem like a long time and $43200 will seem like alot of money.

In your shoes I'd put a chair and a desk in the garage, presuming you have one or similar.

I'm self employed and have an away from home office also.

Like OP it makes a break between work and home. Plus, a few times clients have dropped by to see something. Also, I get dressed and see neighbors from adjoining offices on a regular basis. So I don't become a totally socially inept nerd.

I don't have any kids but if I continue with this, I fully expect to get more than 43,000 worth of value out of the office over a 10 year period.

I think this is a problem that will be solved in time. The social contact one, I mean. One of the advantages of being self employed is that advancements in productivity are things you can actually take advantage of. It's not like in an office environment where no matter how long it takes you to accomplish your work, you still have to have your butt warming a chair for 40+ hours a week.

But even if you do maintain a schedule with 40+ hours of work a week, working from home still leaves you with more time, since the time eaten up by commuting disappears. Now, imagine that everyone in your neighborhood is doing this. Instead of the vast majority of your local community spending the vast majority of their time outside of the community, they will actually be present. And they will all desire the natural human need for social contact. I expect that this will result in a rebirth of the local community. Long commutes, ever-growing work weeks, ever-shrinking vacation time has pretty much decimated the whole concept of a local community. But when those things disappear, you're going to end up with a lot of people wanting to get together and I'm sure they will eventually figure it out and block parties, back-yard barbecues, etc will become a regular occurrence.

Transitions are always fraught with difficulties, and I think the social contact issue with working from home is just one of the temporary ones as our society moves toward people working from home, most being self-employed.

That's great and all, except for the fact that not everyone has a job they can work remotely.

They said they were paying for every employee to work at a coworking space. So everyone everywhere would still have a place to go (assuming they work in a location that has a coworking space).

I think your current setup is ideal. It's hard to justify when your employer already has an office, though. Even if the company allowed for "100% remote work" it would be nagging at me that I'm choosing to work away from my coworkers. I love what Buffer is doing. When the default choice is to work remote and I can choose to meet my coworkers and work with them in person, it comes off much nicer than having the default choice being working in the company's office.

I think you'd be much more likely to be able to keep the arrangement you have now if you became an employee of a company like this than if you became an employee of a company that had a traditional office.

I've been working remote for quite some time. And in my current company I'm now working remote after 6 months of having to be in the office. Since I had 3 hour daily commutes I said to them that I would be leaving someday! Too much lost time..

So, remote working is definitely not for everyone! You must really appreciate your "freedom" so much that you'll want to have the trouble to organize your life around it. You have to be a very organized person "internally", if you know what I mean.

As for the lack of social life, as some people say, I found that hobbies are great solution to that problem. You get to do interesting things outside work while meeting other people. For instance, I think my diverse interests in life and the hobbies that I pursue describe me better personally than being a "developer doing.. things.."!

But consider if every company let you work remotely, you could switch companies and still have your commute be the same quick walk.

$360/mo becomes a lot more affordable with the scale of money self-employment brings. I looked into getting an out-of-house office with my last gig which was all-remote, couldn't afford any of them. (We also didn't have co-working spaces nearby; small town/5 years ago, things were different.)

If I got a real job again, I'm not sure that I could afford to have a $360 monthly bill.

Are you me? Exactly same situation. And I find it much easier to concentrate in the solitude of my private office room (rented from a co-working company) and be more productive there.

As I understand it, they pay for coworking space as a benefit.

As others mentioned, for some it’s important to separate work from home. It resembles more of a classic approach to workspace. However, when you think about lifestyle choices and entrepreneur mindset, fusion of two is better as there is no work anymore. Everything is hustle, either landing clients or writing code.

You have small children running around the house, so you'd never get anything done there because you'd be constantly interrupted.

I have childish coworkers running around the office, so I can barely get any work done there and I am constantly interrupted.

Work from home, son shoots you with nerf gun, work from office, brogrammer shoots you with nerf gun....

I've been in this exact situation. Fortunately I found another place to work in the same building that contained our office and I was super productive. I feel like the "no fun employee" but when you get shot 20 times a day from all the nerf Wars that break out I don't understand how anyone gets shit done. Ultimately they probably just don't (at least if it is as frequent as I ran into).

I really wish that I could kick out the office dogs, shut down the office music, and enforce library rules.

I am definitely the "no fun employee".

Wait, those seriously happen? I thought examples of that were just satire. I guess there are some upsides to working in finance. That would never happen there lol.

It used to happen in my office, but it was usually a friday evening thing, or in one of those awkward gaps after meetings, but before lunch, and everyone was distracted anyway.

I mean my 20 was probably an exaggeration but I can remember days where 10+ battles erupted around me. If it's 1 or maybe 2 times I don't mind and might even join in but on the days when it becomes excessive? I can't get anything done! Very frustrating.

When I worked for a game development studio a couple guys brought nerf guns and shot people at work for awhile.

It got too distracting so management put the kibosh on it after about a month, though.

At least you can send your son in timeout.

I work from home, and we have 4 children (ages 3 to 12), and one on the way. My office is in my bedroom.

But back when I worked in a "real" office, I had the exact same situation you just described. It was just as noisy and loud as it is here at home.

In either place, I have to learn how to work with distractions in the background, and learn how to ignore them efficiently. So why not do that at home?

Here, I have an "open door" policy, so that I can help my wife out with any homeschool tasks that might be better suited for me.

It can be challenging sometimes, but it's extremely rewarding.

And I'm just as productive here (if not more productive) than I ever was at a "real" office.


Five kids is very old fashioned and ... Roman. It's good to be not alone here in HN.

On the subject, eventually the house's temperature goes to the heights. But I'd never worked so much before and the parenting experience gives a great sense of achievement. It's like a family business with its own departments, and its own kind of clashes.

I don't understand the Roman part. But yeah I agree with everything else you said wholeheartedly.

Roman Catholic.

Oh hey you're Catholic too? I didn't know there were any actual legit Catholics on HN. Crazy!

I have no children running around my house, but I still lack the discipline to work from home effectively. That "separation of space" helps to keep me focused. That's just me personally, and I know plenty of people that are effective working form home, but I just procrastinate and distract myself. I am my own interruption.

Yes, open office environments with a culture of "interruptions are fine" doesn't help either. I guess what a need is a library that's also an office? I don't know.

Where are you located and what kind of SF do you get for that?

Just saying I pay N is nearly useless without context.

I'm very curious about this too. A little research suggests that I could barely get my own desk for a similar price in Southern California.

The answer is really simple, and has been well-known at least since the time of the book Peopleware and the studies it cited.

Provide a real office environment for every knowledge worker.

You know ... a door that shuts ... a window ... space to allow your gaze to adjust.

Things that are ... human.

It's really simple.

And before you say it costs too much, it doesn't. The problem is that you're in denial about how much your current offices with open floor plans are costing you. You merely think the cost is equal to the rent. It's much greater than the rent, though, because of lowered productivity, lowered morale, increased superficiality of important inter-worker communication, incessant interruptions disrupting developer flow, more sick time, etc. etc.

If you didn't pretend like those aren't affecting you, and you actually counted their cost, you'd see that the extra cost in real estate for offices is well worth it even in short-term scenarios like 1-year where you're using your start-up runway to pay for it.

Even in San Francisco. Even in Manhattan.

I've never believed it's about cost, but about distrust and, more importantly, control.

IMO, most managers are paid very nicely to babysit employees and use unspoken threats and coercion to make them feel scared and threatened enough for their livelihoods where they will sit rather quietly and produce work at a measurable-yet-uninspired rate.

Much like elementary school.

I know I'm older then most of the IT workers here are and due to that, my personal experiences and insights may not reflect the current realities of many here, but they have been real to me over my 30 year career.

I have been working remotely now, for myself, for the past 3 years.

It was difficult in the beginning to have the discipline to actually keep my head "at work" for the required 8 hours, but now...I couldn't really imagine ever wanting to go back to an onsite gig.

My boss could not be happier with the arrangement as he is realizing significant cost saving as well...it's a real win-win but both sides have to be willing to do their parts for it to work.

> Much like elementary school.

What did you do yesterday / What you did today / What are your issues <=== this is similar to what some elementary schools ask their kids to do

It is absolutely about status. "Programming" is a low status activity. "Inking mega fucking cash dealz" is a high status activity. If I ink mega fucking cash dealz all day, then of course I deserve a better physical status symbol than some schmuck who just types code all day, right?

What? The schmucks are not happy with coding in the human equivalent of a bucket of crabs? Did you try giving them coffee? Did you try saying the phrase "unlimited vacation"? Did you jingle your keys?

Ah, unlimited vacation. A competition to see who can take the least vacation!

It should be called undefined vacation, because there's clearly a limit, unless taking half of the year off is fine.

I never got less vacation days than the time we switched to unlimited vacation. God, I hate CEOs that keep up on the latest bro management books and blogs.

I think it's really dependent on the management. I worked at an "unlimited vacation" job and Felton shame taking 4-6 weeks off per year. There was motivators for not taking vacation- profit sharing was dependent on your utilization rate. I happen to have a good reason to take the time (my kids holiday schedule) so I didn't mind giving up extra money for time. I never was approached about my vacation time and felt that I used it responsibly. I can see how some environments could push that into a don't take vacation culture though.

If this is what you want, why not offer 6 weeks of PTO and a firm policy? It removes the ambiguity.

I always take 6 or more weeks per year. Usually I have unlimited vacation. The few times I've been acquired by megacorps with ancient vacation policies I either "forget" to file for vacation and so does my boss, or I take unpaid time off.

> Ah, unlimited vacation. A competition to see who can take the least vacation!

That definitely hasn't been the case for me. I've had unlimited vacation and take off 4 weeks a year + assorted random days off (2/month).

I would never work somewhere with constrained vacation. Having to file paperwork for a random day showing family around town is ridiculous.

That being said, I think "untracked" is the best definition. It's obviously not unlimited, but there's also no hard limit. And the limit depends on behavior (leaving for 6 weeks is frowned upon, but 3 random days off every month is fine).

I'm from the U.K. - everyone here is entitled to that number of holidays

I understand that your requirement is 28 days. [1]

I've taken as many as 44 days off, which is a lot more.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/holiday-entitlement-rights/entitlement

> "Programming" is a low status activity. "Inking mega fucking cash dealz" is a high status activity.

While I agree with the status analysis, I don't think that's why programmers are forced into open offices.

Traders are high status, but work in a terrible environment (wide open trading floors).

> Traders are high status, but work in a terrible environment (wide open trading floors).

Traders work in an environment where very quick turnaround matters.

Most software development roles are nothing like this.

I hear this a lot on HN, and while I understand how it would work at bank or at IBM, how does this attitude translate into startups, founded by technical people, competing to hire "rock-star" "ninja" developers?

The language around perceived high-ability developers is important -- "rock stars" are admired. "Ninja" are feared. Neither are respected by the people who actually have money and power -- producers, daimyo, investors, management. Even "guru" implies asceticism and a willingness to provide expertise without appropriate compensation, and more importantly all three of these terms imply an independence from existing power structures that means they cannot move or advance within those structures.

I have watched very competent developers trade social status of titles and public admiration for remuneration. Your comment is uncomfortably close to truth.

This is an exceptionally insightful and just plain awesome comment...thank you for making me belly-LOL.

One of the startups I worked for moved office a few times as we grew and leases expired etc.

The engineering team pushed for "quiet private space". We avoided asking for "offices" so that the focus was on what sort of environment we needed, and didn't jump straight into the status and/or cost issues.

It never happened.

The main reason wasn't cost savings (though that was definitely a factor) or management paranoia (which wasn't too bad) or status/ego. It was simply a total failure to understand the process of software engineering, despite being told by the people who were employed to do that job.

The people planning the offices were from a sales background. They were extroverts. They hated quiet spaces. They'd walk into the office and immediately start up some useless conversation that broke everyone's concentration. No matter how many times we tried to explain to them that we got far more work done if they'd just shut the f* up (we'd usually put it more politely than that), they'd keep on thinking that he most important thing was to have a "cool", "vibrant" space and, to them, that meant open-plan and loud.

You were making a great point until They'd walk into the office and immediately start up some useless conversation and they'd just shut the f up.

They both illustrate you suffer from the same condition they are: that neither one of you respects the way the other is. What silence is to you (an me perhaps) social interaction and "pointless chat" is to them. If your productivity went up by them not talking, theirs will go down for the same reason.


- Person A works requires social interaction to be productive.

- Person B works requires silence to be productive.


- Person A is actively disrupting Person B's work to be productive.

- Person B is not actively disrupting Person A but Person A is left unproductive as a result of non-action

The only practical solution is to have Person A work with other Person As and have a separate work area for Person B's. The solution is not to sacrifice Person B's productivity for Person A's benefit. This is a managerial and office layout problem, characterizing it as a problem of Person B's ability to be understanding is not fair nor a rational course of action.

In fact, supposing it was a true case of something like misophonia, this attitude towards Person B ought to rightfully be considered a form of physical discrimination. I know that would not hold up in our current system, which is tragic.

I realise my post was a little unclear.

Yes, often they'd carry on a conversation between themselves, which was an interruption, but was a symptom of the poorly designed office space. It's hardly their fault that their job and/or personality thrives on conversation. That was why the engineering team wanted a separate quiet work space for our team, so they could do their thing without breaking the productivity of the dev team.

But what I meant with They'd walk into the office and immediately start up some useless conversation was that they'd start it with us. Partly because they wanted conversation but also because they thought it was good for us. That the office was too quiet and we needed to liven it up a bit. That the reason we weren't talking is because we needed someone to break the ice for us.

That failure to understand what makes an engineering team productive led them to try and do things that were totally counter-productive, but they just didn't see it. It's in that context that they really needed to just stop.

Good teams are diverse, whether it's in sex, color, religion, nationality or preferred working conditions. I wish companies offered both open and private space. And by private space I don't mean a beanbag in the other side of the room. Some days I don't mind the chatter around me, and some days my stomach makes the loudest and strangest gurgling noises that you can imagine and I'd rather my coworkers didn't hear them.

Not really, because the statement implies that the Sales people would go into the Engineering department and do that. You'd have a point if members of the Engineering department would go into the Sales area and demand they all shut the fuck up.

> The people planning the offices were from a sales background.

That's the problem. You have to insist that an engineer is on the office planning committee.

I pushed hard to be included in the choice of office space at my last startup and managed to get us a "silent" room. (Almost as good as private offices.)

I'm mostly with you. I'm astounded that the "open plan" is the current "state of the art" in silicon valley considering we are supposedly so creative and innovative and meritocratic. My only misgiving about pure enclosed office is that it does seem a little solitary for 8+ hours/day, 5 days/week.

I remember Fogcreek came up with an interesting design that used angles and transparency to get some good light, etc: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/BionicOffice.html

I like offices with 2 to 4 people. They don't even need to work on the same things. I have developed lots of good friendships with people in such environments.

In open office I rarely talk to people because it's so loud.

For many years I worked in a big tech company that had 2 and 3 person offices grouped into bays of 6 offices around a small common area where a secretary had a desk and files, printers and coffee machine were kept. The grouping usually corresponded to a "Section", the first level of the organizational structure, with a Section Head in one of the offices.

Yeah, old school, and it worked well, better than later work places with various cubicle themes and shared conference rooms that you had to compete for if you needed quiet or privacy.

That actually sounds kind of interesting, especially the not necessarily grouping same teams. What do you think of rotating every so often?

I think it's a bad idea. Stability is good.

Change is nice too. We've got an open office and we change desks 2 to 4 times a year. So far we're grouped only with other engineers, but even with a small team you get much more comfortable with the people you work in close proximity to.

Rotation is fine. It just goes on my nerves when management rotates people randomly to "improve collaboration". I am not aware that the VPs switch offices a few times a year.

I think if the team is small and synergy is good, then this could work well. Sometimes a bad apple in the bunch (aka The Talker) can really be a drag on productivity.

Slightly aside, I liked what Valve did, where they standardised on desks with wheels, and a single power and network hookup per desk. - Want to work next to someone, move your whole desk.

I was hoping that mid-range/business laptops would go in a similar direction with power-and-thunderbolt connectors, so you could have you monitors, network etc all through one connector, and just pick up your laptop and move to another desk.

It looks like we might be getting there with USB-C, but it seems much delayed to me.

I like having tchotchkes on my desk, and I hate packing with a passion.

It shouldn't be solitary. At any given time it'll have a range between zero and the entire team in it based on what needs to happen... You do work with other people right? :)

And now you can actually talk to each other which you can't really do in an open space...

> And before you say it costs too much, it doesn't. The problem is that you're in denial about how much your current offices with open floor plans are costing you.

The problem is that rent is easy to measure, and the productivity your staff would have, once things were settled in, with an appropriate work environment is less easy to measure specifically (there may be studies which provide an approximate basis for estimating it, but that's different than a direct and company-specific measure.)

Yeah, so like other bad employees, bad managers hide from metrics that are hard to measure, and report metrics that are easy to measure and hope nobody calls bullshit on them.

Completely agree with you. It's been ages since Peopleware and management still thinks cheaper office rent == win $$$. I keep trying to find quite spaces and booking conference rooms in my current job just to find some quite, nice space.

Btw, any manager out there that has not read Peopleware, please make yourself and your team a favour and get yourself a copy (and read it, of course).

I just was recently offered a day a week work from home just for the same reasons you mentioned. I may capitalize on that soon. I think it was a smart suggestion and believe it saves both me and the employer in a number of ways. Less liability insurance? Not sure, but if I happen to be less at risk and I get my work done, then it's a win-win in my book.


At GitLab we're always been completely distributed. Even though most people like working from home some prefer an office. For them we hire a (co)working space. Our team call https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/#team-call is also pretty important.

Thanks for sharing the GitLab team handbook! It's a very interesting read. :)

how are you going to put this in a way where you can make a strong case for spending more on facilities? you can easily make a case for saving money with open plan and showing how much you can save, what about the reverse? how can you justify spending 2x what your competitors spend on rent? how can you quantify "lost productivity due to constant interruptions" or "more bugs due to developers not being able to focus" in an accountable way?

Also, are the people that make the budget decisions the type of people that thrive on collaboration and open plans, or the type of people that prefer quiet and isolation? if they are the type of people that thrive on open plans they might feel negatively about private offices period, which leads to making your case about their positives even harder.

On one hand you have hard data, open offices cost x, open plan costs x/2, on the other hand you have "engineers say they could be more productive with offices" against "do you remember when we were small and working in a single room, that was awesome, we were so agile and communicative" (whether or not that is applicable at your particular company size or stage, burning the midnight oil on your stack to cobble together a demo for a pitch is not the same as writing production level tricky security code)

A multiplier of only 2x to go from open plan to offices is ridiculously optimistic. You can't make people work in a box. 5x is probably getting closer to reality but I bet that it's actually even higher than that. That doesn't even count the cost of renovation to make all these offices.

"On one hand you have hard data, open offices cost x, open plan costs x/2, on the other hand you have "engineers say they could be more productive with offices" against "do you remember when we were small and working in a single room, that was awesome, we were so agile and communicative" (whether or not that is applicable at your particular company size or stage, burning the midnight oil on your stack to cobble together a demo for a pitch is not the same as writing production level tricky security code)"

Not to mention that part of why you do that then is so you don't have to do that anymore.

I don't know but for me working in an open office is a positive experience, I feel joy talking to coworkers from time to time, sitting in a separate room is quite depressing and might drop the productivity for some people even further then time you lose chatting with coworkers

It's totally possible for people who are more extroverted to find an interactive setting more pleasant. You could round up all such folks and let them sit together, since they get energy from that.

But clearly for the people with more introverted working styles it won't work.

So let people pick. Want to sit in the communal workspace? OK, do so. Want your own office? OK done.

From time to time you'll need to intermix. Sometimes a social butterfly needs to tune out the distractions. Provide a place for it. Sometimes a hermit crab needs to sit with the team for 1/2 day and pair program. As Picard says, make it so.

This is not rocket science. The important part is that company management has to recognize that getting this right is one of the most important financial investments they will make. Instead of seeing space as a cost sink ... something to be standardized, minimized, and papered over with free lunch and dumbass "team building" shit, they need to recognize that of all the places to spend money, spending it on compensation for rewarding hard working employees is number one, and spending it on creating a humanity-affirming physical work environment is number 2. In visibly healthy companies, everything else hinges massively on those two things. Companies that have been so distorted away from humanity that they grind out success (generally for senior level people only) despite humanity-disaffirming workplaces ought to be seen as the frightening panopticons they are.

The thing is, open plans can be extremely non-interactive. I've been in several where it was almost always silent, everyone with headphones on, could not hear a pin drop, zero "collaboration" environments.

Plenty of collaboration happens in quiet environments. It's just often digital collaboration. In a lot of software settings, that is precisely how you want it to be. You don't want people using their meat flaps to hit your head with acoustical vibrations, except in certain scenarios where our meatputers still process things better that way. Like if emotions need to be considered, or if there are aspects of creative expression being lost in digital translation.

Sometimes it's the opposite, and you definitely do want meat flap acoustics often, and silent digital communication less so.

For any given company, you need to understand this. You can't just assert that an open floor plan "is collaborative." It is one kind of collaborative. It may not be the right kind for you. And worst of all will be to assert that it definitely is the necessary kind merely as an excuse when your real motivation is to minimize financial investment into physical space.

easier to opt-out of an open office via headphones than opt-in to a collaborative one by relocating your desk. i think this is the root of why open plans make sense.

Except that all of the studies suggest the headphones / earplugs option doesn't help very much. Most of the damage is done because of lack of privacy and noise is a secondary (though still large) effect.

The headphone solution is also insensitive to people with extreme aversions to distracting sounds, such as sufferers of misophonia. In a lot of cases, if you are embedded in an open plan, there is no such thing as "opting out." It's a fixed decision mandated upon you.

headphones don't let you opt out of an open office. there is still noise you can hear above the music, visual distractions, proximity, catching colds, 6 person meetings on neighbours desk, everyone cans see your screen etc.

Headphones are a shitty solution, and laptops make it easier to opt into whichever you want.

Opt out = permanently damage hearing?

everybody's jiggling! argh!

Having an office doesn't mean you don't talk to coworkers. It means you get to control when you talk to coworkers. You can easily have 1-1 meetings in your office, talk about personal things and actually really hash out problems without worrying about annoying or distracting the poor sap 2 seats down. All office areas have shared space as well - thats why people meet up around the water cooler. If you want to spend no time socializing in an open office, its better to have your own office. If you want to spend lots of time socializing, its better to have an office since you won't be annoying the people who don't want to or don't have the time to socialize.

Biggest hint: the door. Open? Come on in and chat. Closed? Send me an email or come back later.

Many of the older Oxford and Cambridge colleges have two doors in one doorway: the external one for the 'interruptible/not' signal, and the internal one to keep the heat in when the outer is open. We have a term for it: 'sporting one's oak'.


This was a great system in medieval buildings where most doors opened directly to the outdoors, which in itself is a great privacy feature.

Except for when someone doesn't use that model. I work with people who keep their door closed all the time, but they're not in a "don't bother me" mood.

Then they suffer the concequences of people not going up to them. That, or they want people "to know" that the door closed means they can come in - those who they haven't told will shy away. Its kinda a way of filtering, or they're socially inept.

different strokes for different folks, the ideal "office environment" for me would be being able to teleport to a cabin in the middle of nowhere with just trees / nature to look at all day, and all work-related communication over email or IM.

It's really easy to find an extrovert-friendly workspace, much harder to find an introvert-friendly one, because pretty much all managers are extroverts (they have to be, to succeed at management) and they are the ones that decide the office layout.

Makes me wonder sometimes how deaf people can manage in today's vocal-collaboration oriented workplace, which is sad as the type of work we do lends itself extremely well to text-based communication.

Someone coming up to me and talking to me interrupts whatever I was doing and makes it hard to get back into that original context. In general the research is showing open spaces is less productive. Obviously there will be edge cases here but in general it's usually much worse.

I've seen my share of open floor plans where everyone has headphones on and is typing in Hipchat / Slack rooms sharing memes.

Have you considered a line of work more suited to an extrovert personality?

The funny thing is, in my experience the most extroverted people (the sales team) all have offices, and the introverted programmers are all stuck in a bullpen.

Status once again. There's actually quite a lot of formal research on this, such as here:

< http://homepages.se.edu/cvonbergen/files/2013/01/Reversing-t... >

Do you have an equivalent experience of working in offices to compare with? When I worked in offices I never had a problem talking with coworkers (about work or personal life).

I've heard that offices aren't more expensive cited here many times, but haven't found that to be true.

Also consider that despite Peopleware, literally nobody builds offices for programmers as if they were attorneys. And yet we muddle through.

Having been involved in office planning to support moves 4-5 times... Costs were 5x-7x more for build out for a fixed office design vs. modular and would take much much longer.

Just in terms of labor, you're talking about dramatically higher costs for drywall, electricians, and carpenters. If you're retrofitting, construction triggers full code compliance ($$$), and in major cities you often run into labor/prevailing wage problem.

Office rent is more expensive than open-plan rent. Nobody disagrees.

Office productivity, morale, collaboration, and communication are higher than open-plan. The degree to which those things are higher is enough to more than make up for the higher rent, even over relatively short periods of time.

If you're building from scratch, up-front costs are higher, and long-term gains from productivity, etc., are also much higher, once again more than offsetting the higher up-front costs and making private offices a winner from a net-present-value perspective.

I think time to market matters.

Higher rent + long, time and attention consuming build outs + accounting nightmares are more expensive than you think.

Look at Joel Spolsky's story. 4x rent plus $500k in extra buildout. http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/12/29.html

And just look how successful Joel's endeavors have been. It's almost like there's something to this idea of really investing in your employees...

Do you think Joel would not attribute a significant amount of the financial returns his companies have seen to his cultural choices about providing the best workplaces, even when it cost him a lot to do so?

I do, but I don't think that most places have the margin to do it.

I agree that some places do not. If you've bootstrapped yourself entirely and have been based in Boulder, CO, and now you're opening up an office in SF, yeah, it might be a while before you can give everyone an office.

Of course, since you can treat programmers as adults, you can just explain that to them. And, with whatever funds and free variables that you can work with, you can focus on providing the healthiest workplace available at your budget.

I don't see a lot of companies running into this issue though. If you're at the point of receiving VC funding, then you can afford to give everyone an office. 4x rent + $500k up front is round off error for a lot of firms, and even for some firms where that would be feasible-but-expensive, it's probably worth it.

What I don't see, though, is a bunch of firms actually running the numbers here. No one is pragmatically checking whether they can give their employees this thing that would be super great for the employees and for the company. Instead, I see a lot of people looking for excuses, a priori, to not invest in it, and to instead put the money towards over-the-top, opulent expenses, and designing a workplace that functions more like peacock feathers than as a workplace.

I would totally agree with you if I looked around and saw a bunch of VC firms or founders going "shit, I'd really like to make a healthy and productive workplace for my employees, but the budget is just too tight." But I don't see that. I see people who a priori place more value on the status aspects of workplaces than the functional or humanity-affirming aspects, and as a result want to confirmation-bias their way into rationalizing decisions to make every wall a transparent soap marker surface cuz it looked cool in A Beautiful Mind.

"I think time to market matters."

That is not being impacted here. And in most cases, an extra month or so does not make a difference.

"Costs were 5x-7x more for build out for a fixed office design vs. modular"

And how does that compare to what you're paying for personnel? It's like arguing that you can't afford the best computers for your developers.

One thing I've noticed, there's the "coolness factor". Open offices are just more photogenic than closed offices, almost no matter how you do them. That's a big factor in startups and gamedev where coolness factor is actually important.

Edit: to be clear by "important" I don't mean that it's a good thing, I mean that it has an unfortunately big impact on PR, hiring, and it's something that the people in charge take seriously. Personally I prefer individual offices, regardless of the coolness factor.

Yes, tech workers often are just pieces of office furniture these days, and so getting to be cool rustic armoir is better than being a lame ottoman.

This is an important lesson for undergrad CS majors. Instead of working really hard to master dynamic programming or taking that extra course on programming language concepts, you should instead just watch Michael Bay's Transformers movie so that you know when to say "Furrier Transform" at the right moment.

Seriously. Go right now and buy a pair of purely decorative eye glasses. At work tomorrow, got stand by the coffee machine and let your glasses slide slightly down your nose. Wait for an important-seeming person to walk by and then push your glasses up and say "Furrier Transform" -- this is a much faster way to a promotion than coding at your desk.

Be wearing a slim-fitting hoodie if at all possible. If your MacBook doesn't already have stickers reflecting which causes you SJW on reddit, get some now!!!!11

> "Furrier Transform"


I can't quite tell if you're mocking InclinedPlane's comment or the mentality it points out.

Sad though it is, there is a lot of cargo culting around startup office management in SF these days - and presumably elsewhere too. I doubt people really think deep down that having the cliche startup office - tightly packed open plan desks, plenty of microbrews in the fridge, a few bottles of expensive whisky, a wall of snacks, a hoverboard or two - will make or break the success of their compamy. But no one wants to be the first to try not doing it and find out.

Not mocking. Just sardonically lamenting.

Much of that cargo culting is driven by idiotic investors who want to be able to pop into the office and gawk at a veritable army of hoodie-clad brogrammers who look like they came from someone shaking a VHS copy of Hackers a little too hard. As sad as it is, founders and start-up executives often choose these knowingly-dysfunctional offices because it's the most rational choice they can make under the constraints that dummy investors are placing on them. If they go to the investor and say, "boy, for 4x the rent and a buildout cost of $500k, we could really get the product teams humming at a fast pace" they'll just be told to hold onto some ass pennies [0]. But if they say they're going to turn the entire office into one large lazy river waterpark ride, where developers get their own inner tube and a waterproof laptop and everyone wears GoPros all day which will live stream their entire workday to their new spinoff business Constagram ... well now the investor is listening.

But I agree that in a huge number of cases, it's just cargo culting for status. It's probably even damaging their ability to recruit workers, but the cargo cult status matters more.

[0] < https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DO1Q7F23DxM >

+2 for perfected sarcasm.

Depends on where you work.

Where I am we have stunning giant metal photo prints covering most walls (and floors and ceilings), mostly-private offices (metal mesh walls with doors that close, and often with giant photos covering the mesh to make it more private).

Everyone who sees it seems to think it looks a helluva lot cooler than a generic open floor plan.

Every employee also gets a modest decorating budget for their offices, so the insides of them look pretty cool too. More importantly, it sends a signal that we respect people's need for quiet and private personal space to get work done. We have shared spaces as well for those who want to be more social, but we don't force it.

Seems to be working well for us.

I'm waiting to see how Facebook's giant bullpen works out. They built, at great expense, one of the largest bullpens in North America. The largest single open office in the world may be be the call center of C-Trip, China's largest travel agency.[1]. They at least give everybody a sound partition.

[1] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/regional/2010-05/01/content_980...

I've suffered in open office environments, and I really want to believe that a private office would benefit the company as well as me, but I'm afraid that might just be wishful thinking on my part. Can you back up these assertions with references?

But in SF and NYC you are not only paying a ton for rent but you are paying a lot more in salaries. Most people are willing to work for less from home especially if they don't have to commute to an expensive place. You can also hire from much further away.

So you would rather have a real office with a door and window and all those other holier-than-thou emphasized goodies that is still in a corporate gulag where you have to worry about face time and butts in seats, instead of working from the comfort of your own home or wherever else you choose? Why pay absurd rent for an office designed to optimally isolate you from your colleagues? Did you even read the article and understand they work remotely? Shameful that this is the top ranked comment.

My personal belief, after having had a 100% remote job, is that there is a lot of value in having people physically co-located at the same physical office.

This isn't always true and I would never want to enforce it dogmatically. For some people / teams / companies, significant remote working is very successful. I just don't believe it's always or even frequently better than a physical office with adequately private and quiet working conditions.

I do believe fully remote working is probably better than the shambolic open-plan disasters that are common these days, so if someone makes you believe in a false dilemma pitting fully open-plan versus fully-remote, then fully-remote is probably the lesser of two evils.

I did read the parent article. I responded as I did because I am dumbfounded that the idea of paying for the cost-effective extra benefits of private offices is not really even considered -- we've come so far on the path to destructive workspaces that we don't even think about it any more.

Ok that is a valid argument against remote work.

I still don't agree. In my experience, the added productivity gains from working in a Peopleware-ideal office, where I could occasionally stop by a colleague's office to ask a question, were not much greater than what could be accomplished through video and chat. The personal "comradery" gains were slim to nil as well.

The negatives are tremendous. Wasting time traveling to the office. Wasting time appearing to work, which is probably 50% of the average office workers day if we're being honest. Having to arrange your life around work instead of the other way around.

If nothing else, I think a fully broken-down cost analysis of your office layout plus the higher cost-of-living expenses built into employee wages when hiring in a big city would convince you that remote is the way. Probably looking at 30-50k per employee savings for hiring remote vs SF, and getting happier, more productive employees.

You make many good points. However, I find that some of them still affect remote work too. For example, people still make efforts to "appear" to be working. They will make spurious commits to version control. They will ration out a series of questions or emails that could be more concisely sent together. And god forbid the company uses Agile/Scrum, which is a Pandora's Box of ways to appear to be working without working at all.

Still, your points are well taken. On the other hand, if a company is really looking at fully-remote work as a way to avoid paying higher wages, that would be a red flag for me. I'm very good at what I do, and even if I'm not co-located in Fancyopolis, I expect to be earning a competitive wage based on the value I can add to the business, not how much a gallon of milk costs for me. It comes off as extremely petty and divisive for a company to intentionally play cost of living to their advantage like that. And further, what stops a person from choosing to live in a more expensive place? Your company is in Milwaukee but I want to live in London and work remotely.

The kinds of risks that employees face are very asymmetric when compared with what employers face. For a lone employee, the single number that is your annual compensation is a big deal. Other companies might force you to tell them that number if you seek a new job. And whatever that number is, that's going to determine your pay. Those other companies won't give a shit about cost of living.

Let's say you used to live in SF and made X-thousand per year. Then you took a new job in Austin, TX, and someone convinced you that you should accept something like 0.7X per year, because Austin is cheaper and 0.7 still leaves you quote unquote above market there.

A few years later, you're looking to move to New York, well guess what, you're salary is going to be pegged to 0.7X, not X, and you might have to negotiate hard even just to get it back up to X in New York, let alone arguing for whatever premium the 0.7X might have been above market in Austin.

That's just how these things work. Have you negotiated pay when considering a move from a major city to a city with lower cost of living? I have before, and one of the major points of discussion was that salary actually should not decrease in response to cost of living changes. That's just an unpleasant side of it that the hiring company has to eat. The risks facing the lone employee are too high that they'll never recover the "downward adjustment" amount if they ever find that they need to move on to another area again.

When I speak with HR reps about this, I've never had a problem. Sometimes they will say they are not looking to pay in the range I am seeking, but they universally understand and fully expect it when candidates say that their salary should not decrease purely due to cost of living decreases.

>Which environment do you prefer, and why?

I don't believe this question is interesting because I think we know that most HN readers will prefer remote working instead offices. It doesn't matter whether it's semi-private cubicles or noisy open floor plans. Offices suck. Commuting sucks too. Probably 95+% would prefer remote work if they could get it.

>Do you think we should have kept our office or closed it?

The more interesting question & answer is how the 100% remote strategy helps your business. Yes, you save $86k/yr in office rent. However, does the remote arrangement boost your employees' productivity so much that it helps Buffer beat other competitors (Hootsuite, Sprout, etc.)? Is the remote productivity enabling the ability of engineers to add features at a faster rate that you noticed subscriptions going way up? Etc.

That's the business calculus that's more interesting to discuss. To be fair, it looks like author Courtney Seiter's background is writing/marketing and not business/engineering so it's understandable if she doesn't emphasize this angle. Also, the blog post is only 4 months old so they don't have a year's worth of financial performance to evaluate its effectiveness.

Well, even though the post is 4 months old, we've had remote employees from Beijing to SF for a while now. The economics of productivity is a super interesting question. And to share my thoughts on that, we have a company that basically never sleeps. At any given time there are a group of people working on stuff there. We have paid for tools that help us communicate in a manner where on a project, I can pick up where someone else left off. Whether we've beaten our competitors is a question I admit I Dont know the answer to. And I'm not sure if owning the entire space is something we want to do either. One of our bigger guiding principles is, do we have a solid product that people love using and are they happy with the support they get. On this front we know that the answer is yes. We always want to continue improving but we also are very happy with what we've created and done today :)

The business calculus is extremely interesting.

I know some HN'ers like to pit this as BigCorp simply trying to save money/control the workers, but in fact, if you're a true knowledge worker, it might be worth it to build you a small castle with a butler. The leverage a good worker creates is peanuts compared to any kind of working arrangement.

So, as you pointed out, we get to the nitty-gritty part of this: do whatever you want for whatever reasons you want, but at the end of the day, is it helping you execute your mission better? Much better? Then keep doing that until you find your next improvement.

86K/yr for an office is nothing if your productivity suddenly starts tanking, or you're unable to adapt to rapid change. In fact, it's comparing a static number with a highly dynamic one. I'm not sure if such a comparison really makes much sense.

I used to work from my bedroom, in my old home a few years ago. Initially, it felt like the best thing to do. But, as time passed, there were committment issues and potential distractions. Some of them included stuff like answering the door, unwanted guests (and friends) and because it was my bedroom, I just slept more often (no more tiresome 48 hour hackathons).

Then, as time passed, I realized, the distinction between your workplace and your leisure space is an important one. Later, I rented out a moderately expensive serviced office space by one of the local providers and it had served me well. Even the people around you can perceive this distinction and respect your boundaries if you work in an office-like atmosphere that can be perceived.

To be clear, it's not wrong to work from home. IF you have a separate room for your work and you treat it like an office room, it's actually the best way to go (convenience and savings). But if you were in a situation like me where you had to choose between the bedroom and a leased office space, go for the latter and it will definitely add an improvement to your quality of professional life.

I have a very nice custom-designed office at home with big monitors, keyboard tray, Aeron chair, etc. I used to use that as my workplace when I worked from home (which was most of the time when I wasn't traveling.) But, for whatever reason, I've found myself gravitating to just working on my laptop in various rooms in my house. The variety works for me. (I can work outside in the summer but usually don't because of glare, etc.)

In general, I think I needed the discipline of dressing as for the office and working in my dedicated office for a time but feel less need for the structure today.

I agree. Working from home will test your discipline, and I personally cannot work in pajamas and blur the lines between my personal life and my work (though it's convenient to have the option if needed).

Like you, I need to have some variety. Working from home can get extremely boring, and I never really thought that I needed a bunch of social interaction until I began working from home. I really enjoy doing it (been going strong for about 3 years now), but I can't just sit at my desk all day either. I like to get out, go to coffee shops, friends houses, co-working spaces, and even the office about 2-3 days a week.

I personally see working from home not as I'm literally working from home, but that I'm not tethered to my desk in the office. As long as I have an internet connection, I can work from anywhere. It's really nice.

It's nice to read comments here as people are writing they like to work in the office. I also do like it. I am self-employed and in the longer run it is so boring to be alone at home when there is nobody to talk to. Funnily, when I was fulltime I dreamed to work from home.

Fellow self-employed here, currently sitting in the office of one of my clients (as I do 2-3 days per week) despite them being more than happy for me to work from home. The fact that it's a small office with 4 other people (and they're great people) and a 20 minute commute through the countryside probably helps a lot, but I much prefer this setup than sitting all alone in my small home office all day.

The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it?

I can't imagine anything lonelier.

I was beginning to think I was the only technology worker who likes being in the office!

I have the option of working from the office or from home, at least 2-3 days per week depending on what I have on. I much prefer working from the office. I enjoy hanging out and talking shit (and working) with my colleagues/friends, grabbing coffee, lunch somewhere nice, and when I leave at the end of the day I can flip from 'work mode' to 'home mode'.

at the end of the day I can flip from 'work mode' to 'home mode'.

This is by far the most important decision criterion: the psychological cost.

I was doing a text search in the comments for "lonely" and this was the only hit. Absolutely! My social life at work is very important to me. I like coming into work every day and seeing people I know, commiserating our challenges or celebrating our successes, joking around at the office, going out and having a good time outside of the office. Many of my best friends now are people I work with, and if I'd been working remotely (whether at home, in a coffee shop, etc) all this time, a natural introvert like me would have considerably fewer friends, my successes would feel less meaningful and my failures more personal. I've turned down offers to make more money writing a language I prefer to the one I write in now, because it would mean my primary interaction would be through a computer screen. I'm sure all are different, but I'd have to have a really good reason to have my primary mode of work be remote.

I personally found that hobbies are great for socializing. You get to do something interesting outside work and to socialize at the same time, for hobbies that include other people (outdoor sports, soccer, playing chess with other humans, etc.)

Yeah, I enjoy the company of my co-workers, we have a great time together. Including going out for drinks after work etc.

If I didn't enjoy the company of my co-workers I'd probably just find a new job.

I am an extrovert. I worked in many offices, many of the advertising agencies for most of my career. About a year ago, I started a remote job at Fire Engine Red (another fully virtual company), so I can definitely speak to your concerns.

1. Create co-working opportunities. I have a standing co-working day with a group of other work-from-home'ers every Monday. Sunday afternoon we text to coordinate where we're going to meet up. Its reliable. Its social interaction. We have an in-group. On top of this one, I have a couple other people I less frequently co-work with, both coffee shops and kitchens.

2. Its not all about work. This WFH shift for me has given me an even stronger excuse to get out and do my group hobbies even more. For me, its performing in a comedy group. Nothing more social than getting people to laugh.

3. Yes, it is a bit lonely. Happy hours are less likely to happen. But when they do, its with people you actually wanted to hang out with, not just whomever happened to be at the office that day. Casual desk drop-by's are mostly gone, and I actually like that.

All in all, not that lonely, unless you let it be.

Yep, you can find local dev groups and get a similar experience. Plus it's more fun to hear about what other people are working on instead of only hearing about stuff from co-workers that I also work on.

I just joined a local group and they do lunch meetups, happy hours, etc.

Same. I love being in the office despite the 30 mile commute. If you need to work with people it also makes it a lot easier.

I still have a life and family away from office, and remote work doesn't mean "don't leave the house".

Something that's totally understandable. Remote working is not for everyone for sure. At least, not yet. My personal belief is that there'll come a day where creative work revolves around spaces that aren't part of an office. Co working spaces, coffee houses etc. There's a lot that needs to grow to make this a reality (eg: I could find only one co working space within 15 minutes travel time around me). But my point is, once these co working spaces, studios, and coffee shops built around the theme of creative work really start to show up, remote work will hopefully no longer be a thing of loneliness. Best of both worlds where you sync with your fellow workmates in a fluid fashion. Morning might be a great time to socialize, but when you want to dive in, you move to a quieter more private working space. That's the future I believe in :). Yes. I'm bullish on the future of remote work and the end of the traditional office space :D

Why do we have offices to begin with? Because they provided value. Past tense. Sure they were always expensive, but without bringing people together physically, it was nearly impossible to accomplish anything. Humans have a difficulty, rooted in the fundamental structure of our brains, to hold both the benefits and the costs of a situation in mind at the same time. Once we determine that something provides greater benefit than cost, the costs just disappear. It's a pragmatic shortcut, but it falls flat when the underlying assumptions change.

The underlying assumptions have changed. The myriad costs associated with offices are no longer outweighed by the benefits they provide. That's partially due to the development of technology, and partially due to other changes, such as the adoption of productivity-poisoning 'open plan' offices. Our whole setup of how we work is based on manufacturing, and it hasn't been adapted to the very different work being done now. Even though technology has made individual workers so productive that the company can survive an open plan office and still not be able to provide most workers with enough to do to fill 40 hours a week, we still force them to have their butt in a chair for those 40 hours - more often more than that, the majority of which is done solely for appearances sake.

They still provide value, but in different ways. There are still things that can be accomplished far more effectively in an office than remotely. However, there are things that can also be achieved better remotely than in an office.

There are many factors at play here, and a mix of this must be made by each company to suit its industry and personnel.

Hi all, I'm currently with buffer in the bootcamp period. I've loved every moment of it. Agree with a lot of the sentiments here, especially the separation of personal and professional lives. Working with the buffer team has allowed me to pick where I work from each day. Some days it's a coffee shop, a lot of days it's a tiny co working space I've found. Sometimes that space gets a little noisy, so I move over to my friend's office. I've got about another 4 places that have open invitations for me to drop in and work from there. So overall, pretty awesome. Would love to answer any questions too :)

A startup with little brand recognition posts a blog entry concerning a topic of general interest to a demographic whose attention it seeks. A predictable discussion emerges with the company as a backdrop. Everyone rejoices that the topic has been broached, because they have well-informed, unique opinions to offer on the subject. Brand recognition is achieved, and because of the photographs of smiling, laid-back young people contained in the blog entry, the impression on the target demographic is a positive one. Everyone forgets it happened, and the cycle repeats again next week.

Do you really think Buffer has little brand recognition? That's very surprising that anyone here would think that.

I don't know. I've never heard of it and I read HN daily. Maybe it's because startups don't interest me. Either way, I just think it's funny how these topics, which people clearly want to discuss regardless of what the Buffers of the world are doing, always have to be centered on a company's PR.

For what it's worth, you're not the only one. I read HN for technology oriented news and interesting articles and because I live in Silicon Valley part of the year. I've never worked for a startup and probably never will and I've never heard of Buffer.

It's a little startling when that much truth is not only posted to HN, but not greyed out.

OK, reading through all this, I'm wondering if there isn't a compromise approach needed. For myself, I go in each morning for a couple hours. If there are no meetings that require my physical presence, then I drive home, and work the rest of the day from there. Sometimes that means home at 10am, others closer to 3pm, and occasionally 6pm. But it means I am available to comingle when it makes sense, available to be run into for at least a couple hours a day, and almost always home before traffic gets bad. It also means I don't mind working past 5 most days as if I was in the office I wouldn't get home until then due to the traffic. Maybe this kind of half and half approach would be ideal for others?

This is my ideal as well and over time I've been somewhat able to implement in practice. I much prefer the lack of distractions etc, vs. the open office at work but I also must begrudgingly admit that there are many times (especially in the mornings for whatever reason) where I overhear things and address problems much more quickly as a result.

That sqwiggle tool they use (described here https://open.buffer.com/remote-working-means-tools-use/) sounds pretty creepy. A software taking a pic of my face every few seconds and broadcasting it is almost as annoying as having someone in your back all the time, I think.

absolutely. it's horrifying... the cheery PR around all of this is what I'm finding to be the most disturbing

Having worked remotely for over 6 years and then having run my own company, I can easily say that there are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches - office and fully remote. It really depends on the industry and the team.

I have found that offices do tend to improve communication through instant access to people and feedback, whereas remote work sometimes requires incessant scheduling of meetings. Instant messaging and such can help, but it is not as immediate nor is it a replacement for face time. However, working remotely is a great feeling of freedom and control over your personal environment, which can lead to better personal productivity, provided the person has enough discipline to ignore distractions (if the office is one's home).

It is also a personal preference. As a software engineer, I loved remote work because I could code in peace without distraction. However, some personalities could never stand this much solitude and prefer the hubbub of a traditional office, however distracting it could potentially be. I even knew people who worked remotely that would venture outside and chat at length with neighbors just to have that feeling of human contact that is sometimes lacking with full remote work.

That being said, with the industry I work in, my customers expect a traditional office. So, implementing a mix of remote and office time has worked best for us. There are some stipulations, however, for remote work we enforce - such as childcare must be taken care of by someone else (e.g. school, daycare, spouse, etc.) while working remotely and background noise is to be minimized so as to treat it as a true professional environment. Nothing is worse than when you're on a conference call with major clients and hear crying or barking in the background. And I say this as someone with children and pets myself.

It seems that they don't have a very good idea of where their employees are located exactly: http://i.imgur.com/XCHQstM.png

Remote is good for some people and bad for others. At big companies there will be enough of both groups that going one-sided in either direction will hurt some people, and ultimately hurt the company (COUGH YHOO). IMO the best solution is a flexible working environment that can support everybody, especially in large cities where the commute can be an absolute grind in and of itself.

Note: the article was posted about 4 months ago. (Oct 2015)

One apparent consequence of all-remote working for Buffer is that having all the employees meet in real life is incredibly expensive and logistically complex: https://open.buffer.com/remote-work-retreats/

No way it's more expensive than paying rent for an office in a trendy city and commuting to said office.

That's not what I was implying. I noted the Buffer retreat since that's a hidden cost of remote work I haven't seen people discuss.

It's a completely optional cost, though, not a hidden cost. Plus it sounds like they allowed everyone to bring their partners and families, too. And, most companies that have physical offices also have corporate retreats or events, so it's not even really exclusive to companies that work remotely.

> most companies that have physical offices also have corporate retreats or events

Citation needed. I'd never even heard of a corporate retreat before now.

Valve flies out the entire company with families on vacation once a year.

Actually, if you look at the data they published they show that the retreat was much more expensive than their rent.

    Retreat: 5.2%
    Office:  2.1%

But they were never renting office space for their entire staff. If you really wanted to compare apples to apples (i.e., "Should everyone have an office payed for by the company" or "Should we have an annual retreat for the whole company"), a bit more analysis is needed.

Breaking down costs like that (per end user payment) is awesome; I'd never thought of doing that. (It's not very accurate in a lot of businesses, but it's an interesting way to think about things, so it's a useful tool.)

Our team is remote and we're 9 full-timers with a few contractors in the infosec space and it works incredibly well. I want to add that the main reason to work remotely isn't really about saving on office rental. We take that cash and put it back into our employees home work environment and tools like awesome hardware.

The biggest benefit for us is that our team is able to have a better work-life balance and keep a high level of productivity. e.g. One of our engineers used to have a 40 minute commute either way morning and evening. Now he works from home and can spend more time with his family instead of in his car.

It also lets us hire from all over the World. Our full-timers are all in the USA and we have people in Ohio, Florida, Maine, Washington and Tennessee. So it's a really diverse group but we're also very tight knit even though some of us have never met in person yet. Several in our team work in small towns so they enjoy a slower pace and more quiet time which (coming from a small town myself) I think lends itself to solving complex problems.

I'd agree that it's all or nothing with remote teams or you risk alienating half your workforce.

The best advice I can give any company going remote is to get Slack or an equivalent like IRC. It does a fine job of replacing the day to day contact you have with team members. Also twice weekly all-hands calls to sync up are great - we do voice not video and we go around the room and everyone updates us on what they're working on. In a way we have a greater sense of what everyone is doing than some brick and mortar companies I've worked for.

I think for software businesses remote working will be the way everyone works 20 years from now. It'll take a while for larger companies to make the shift because there is no very large company that does this yet but there will be and they'll prove the model and the imitators will follow.

It's also way better for the environment.

Tried reading this on my phone, got three paragraphs in and then got slammed with a full screen advert for buffer.com. I mean, what's the point in advertising the site that you are already on?

I have no idea what the rest of the post was about but I'm pretty sure that I never want to deal with buffer.com again.

we noticed that office space was a not-insignificant element of our overall expenditures each month—more than we paid for health insurance, or advertising and marketing.

Office space cost them 2.1% of all of their monthly costs.

This is "not-insignificant"

Am I reading this right? If anything, they are under-paying for their office space.

I think they obviously were underpaying compared to their total number of employees, since they only had one office in San Francisco, and as far as I can tell they never had more than half of their employees living in SF.

Here's why: cost!

To be clear, I find it refreshing that they just come out and say it. It seems obvious to me that when you work remotely, you're paying for the office space, and any company that believes the savings in pushing the office-space expense onto the employee outweighs the benefit of holding offices will start moving in this direction. (Since this particular company pays for coworking space, they're not pushing the cost to employees. I'm speaking more generally)

Having worked remotely for a substantial portion of my career, I have found the best for me is a mix of working at home and working from the office. That's my personal feeling, but still I think there are more downsides to remote work than many would like to consider.

What are the downsides in your experience?

Mostly around communication. Slack and IMs and video chat are great and all, but you can move way more information and have it be received much more clearly in person. There also can be a feeling of isolation, depending on how teams are structured and how many employees at the company are remote.

Also, there is no "going to the bar after work for a couple beers", which for many is fine. But still humans require some measure of being physically near other humans, so you need to be much more proactive about socializing and seeing friends/family. If you aren't diligent about this you can become kind of a hermit. If you have young kids this is probably not a big deal, you'd be too busy anyway.

Plus, like I mentioned before, you're now on the hook for the office space. Working remotely can lead you to justify paying for more house or apartment than you otherwise would have, because "well I need an extra room for my office". The freedom it affords is quite nice, so many would probably be fine with the extra outlay. But you should be clear about what you're paying for, and why.

Hey there. Those are some awesome points you make and something we definitely try to be mindful about at buffer. Before I jump into them I'd love to note something about the parent post which talks about cost being the reason. While cost was definitely something looked at, I feel like the overall decision was much greater than that. It was a commitment to being a fully remote team. Like the post mentions, mixing remote and non remote might not be a great idea since communication can suddenly happen off the remote channels. And that's lost information. (That's just one reason :D ) It's perfectly natural for that to happen and ensuring we all truly embrace remote working was I believe the true deciding factor for this. Cost was mostly an awesome justification point to close the case.

So about the disadvantages :).

Having worked in multiple types of non remote places (closed plan, open noisy, open quiet), my feeling so far is that the information flow has never been inferior. It's been equal and in many cases better. A lot of this boils down to the hiring process that buffer has where over a 45 day trial period, we ensure people can handle this type of work style. A lot of the focus during this period is communication. Even the parts about isolation. We like to ensure that people have found their stride in this aspect and they know how to handle it. So far, I believe it's worked. When I have something immediate to ask, I jump on slack. When I have something I'd like a more asynchronous communication to happen around, we use discourse. Our team discovered that we are more productive by ditching the daily video call in favour of using a daily updated Dropbox paper. So that's how we've tackled this very valid concern and so far, it feels like it's working well.

About being diligent about not turning into a hermit, spot on! Many of the team members take breaks during the middle of the day to shift locations, do a run, or even pop into a fitness training/yoga session. It's encouraged and it works well.

About being on the hook for office space, if a co working location works for you (or sharing office space) buffer even offers to reimburse this (including additional net connectivity that you might need to get to ensure smooth communication as you move around).

So yea, all valid concerns and these are how we move around them. Would love to hear your thoughts on this. It's a lot of work for sure, but we do love it and we all jump in to make sure everyone has a good time. The company is extremely supportive and I think that's essential for remote working environments like this :)


Regarding coworking reimbursement, what are the bounds? It's possible that you could easily go over your prior office expense of 7k/mo.

The average WeWork space is 600-900 USD/month for a single-person office in NYC and SF. And there is a lot of turnover amongst coworking businesses that offer space for any cheaper. So, below 600/mo does not seem to be viable, at least in these two markets.

If you offer to reimburse all employees' coworking leases, at an average of 600-900/mo, then your total office expense would exceed your prior 7k/mo after about 10 employees.

Automattic, another distributed company, offers a stipend of 250/mo toward coworking rent. Basecamp (aka 37signals) offers 100/mo. In both cases, these are certainly better than nothing but are only a fraction of the market rate.



My guess is any cost you incur from the home office would be offset by travel cost to/from work and you could probably write off a home office.

is this opposite day?

Am I reading this right that 9 people are making an average of ~222K? edit: ~290K


No. It is more than 9 people.

    Dependents: For every person that depends on your income (kids, husbands, wives,
    significant others, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.) we add an extra $3,000
    per year in salary.
That's not kosher. You're not even technically supposed to ask if your employee has kids or is married.

Whoa, I can't believe their lawyers approved that.

Also a good reason I would never work at Buffer (beyond their generally low pay). My pay shouldn't depend on who I support.

Wow, yeah I never noticed that.

I'm not sure that is legal either.

Wow that's a great link! Cleared things up :)

I don't think so. 9 people was mentioned in 2013. Tallying up the costs seems more current and the picture of the team shows 50 people.

That's per month, which would be very roughly 290,000 per year I think, before taxes.

My bad, not sure how I got 222K. I don't get these numbers, if you assume it's for 9 employees, it's too high. If you assume it's for the 50 employees that they say they have, it's too low.

If we assume it's 50 people, that doesn't seem too crazy to me. That yields an average annual salary of $53k, which seems insane.

Remember that Buffer underpays their engineers and also has a lot of non-engineering employees.

Could some one explain why accounting/legal and payroll would be 5K per month for a company this size? It seems high to me.

I wish world realizes this makes this happen.... I think for manufacturing work and so on it made sense build cities.. now if we make as much as work from home then the villages and towns will keep its face and continue have facilities and will grow. Cities wont be over crowded, less traffic etc.. i think there is value to coming to office and social network and so on but i also it is based habits so once majority works from home (with video etc..) then it will become norm... In countries like India we can easily tap top talent which is actually women(in the schools).

I work for myself and finally got an office after 2 years. It's so much better than working from my home. Less distractions and I can completely separate home/work.

When I was working for someone, I hated working from an office because I had no freedom and the bosses/managers constantly watching me. It was stifling and I felt like I was in a prison.

It's funny how things change.

I too like many others work from home and to complicate it I own my company... so I have very little separation of work and personal life.

But I love it. One of my favorite things is I can play my own damn music as loud as I want!

And yeah It may not be psychologically ideal but humans are pretty adaptable. You just have to develop new habits and behavior.

Some of the things I do to help the work/life balance:

* My wife calls me at 4:30-5:00pm everyday to tell me to wrap up my shit or else... this is pretty critical as I can easily get in the zone and the heads up expectations for some reason works.

* I try to walk every day on the days I don't lift weights

* I have a home gym. And despite what people think you don't need a lot of space. There are so many space saving products out there (like quickly collapsable pullup/dip bars, weighted vests etc).

I'd love to remote work. But I've learned a lot working in the same office as some very talented developers and managers. I'm not sure I'd get that remotely.

I like this concept a lot! I'm not sure whether I would give each employee money for coworking space, because I think that would make me feel like I need to choose and commit to a coworking space, since otherwise it would seem that I'm throwing away the money. It would also make it sound like it's compensating for not having an office, which I think is a net win for the people who are going to enjoy working at a company with a remote culture.

What about if the company gave each person, let's say, $100 or $150 credit each month towards 'remote work amenities', maybe it has to be approved or expensed, maybe it rolls over, but it's given a very loose definition for anything that could be related to making work easier for you.

So people who care about a separate office could put it towards a coworking space, while others might use it to eat out every day (to get themselves out of the house), and others might use it towards ergonomic chairs/keyboards/etc in the home, another uses it to clean their home once a month, another might use it for a gym membership, essentially whatever is important to the employee to make them feel more comfortable.

Especially expenses that an employee might not be willing to pay for themselves if it was just considered straight up extra income.

I like this idea! Also it would be good to pay for external monitors and keyboards. It would probably be best for them to be owned by the company to reduce costs, help with upgrades, and save tax. Maybe this would be a good use of leasing.

> Not long after we tallied up every penny of what your money is used for when you purchase a Buffer subscription, we noticed that office space was a not-insignificant element of our overall expenditures each month—more than we paid for health insurance, or advertising and marketing.

and here is the real point. We can save money.

I think remote options are a great idea. I also think that forcing workers to take their work outside the office is a lousy idea.

I worked from home for a couple years. One thing that made it work was having a separate work computer with a separate desk. If I'm sitting in that chair at that desk, I'm at work. If you have family they need to know not to talk to you when you are at work.

What do you do if you have a family? I have small kids. No way I could handle working from home.

You can create an space/room that family can't enter (at office hours), or if you want an easier route just work from a coffee shop near you.

Is it common in the US for coffee shops to have decent wifi? The wifi at Starbucks where I live sucks - you have to keep reconnecting every 30 minutes and even during the 30 minutes it's not very stable.

Funny I know a lot of people with remote jobs who have kids. Often times than not the employer will pay for a co-working space if it is needed.

the more startups adopt the open-office model, the more people want to work from anywhere else.

I work at a fortune 500. Most of the dev team I am on work in the same office, but there is zero benefit to going into the office as most customers and project members are remote. The grey cubicle shreds my sole anyway, I love working from home.

I can guarantee that our productivity would drop significantly if everyone at my office started working remotely. Pretty sure this is a bad idea for most companies.

Yeah it varies case to case. Some companies are meant to work together. Some are meant to work out remotely. And some can work both ways. And Some can work jointly part from office and part from remote.

I find it funny that payment fees are double the office rent. And they decide to close the office.

There are no reason why payments over the Internet has to cost that much!

There is if you want to have customers.

Unless you're a niche business, you better accept credit cards.

It's not like credit companies are shipping gold nuggets across the states when you make an online payment. Money is just an abstract value that exist on a balance sheet.

There is no reason why we can't have fast, low fee, micro-transactions via the Internet.

Probably due to the cost of managing the operations including dealing with compliance, fraud, chargebacks, refunds, disputes and suchlike. Also this whole silly rewards points thing that many of the cards seem to do needs to be paid for somehow. And that's just the credit card company, not the processing company taking payment on the internet who will want their cut, and may do their own fraud/refund/dispute handling too.

> There is no reason why we can't have fast, low fee, micro-transactions via the Internet.

Perhaps, but I wouldn't bet your company on that.

Feel free to accept Bitcoin and alternatives, but it'd be suicidal to not accept credit cards.

$6k for legal, payroll and accounting? is this normal for a 6 people company? (I guess it depends on if you retain a legal team)

Working in an office is not the real problem. The real problems are the lack of working hours flexibility and commute time.

Good, why should we follow? Nahhhh

I have often wondered what I would do about the Office Question if I started a company, since any company I might start is very likely to be distributed due to geography (mine and my network's both). Usually I end up with the idea that everyone would work from "home," and would be encouraged to use co-working (company-paid) if they wished; and I might maintain a minimal "HQ" assuming it was more than just me at that location; and I'd build in regular face-to-face team meetings into the business plan, say at least every quarter.

The only problem is, I'm not sure I'd want to work that way myself if I were an employee. I think I'd want an office: preferably one to myself.

I currently work from home, and have previously rented office spaces (both shared and not) at my own expense; and at various times I've worked in the HQ, branch offices, and various combinations of all these things, for a few different tech-related companies.

I would probably rent another dedicated office right now, but my rental apartment has a guest room so it seems decadent. But I'm still tempted, and check the listings every couple of weeks.

I would say that for me, working in software development and also doing "creative" work, having a separate space easily made up in peace of mind and probably in productivity what it cost in money. (In a high-rent zone like San Francisco that probably wouldn't hold.) But I found a coworking space too annoying, and probably would not go back to that if I could avoid it.

I found the big advantages to a rented space were, in order:

1. Freedom from distractions (usually; neighbors make noise too). 2. Work-only nature of the space, i.e. you go there only to work. 3. Ability to set it up as I like (decoration, layout, etc.). 4. Got my butt out of the house and out amongst the humans more often. 5. Your feelings about Home don't get so mixed up with your feelings about Work. 6. You can still opt to work from home when you really feel like it.

Disadvantages vs home office:

1. "Shared resources" (kitchen, bathroom, etc.) might not live up to your normal standards of utility or hygiene. 2. Neighbors pay rent too, and are thus unlikely to change their habits at your request. 3. Expense (though this is very location-dependent). 4. Commute, while probably a good thing overall, eats time. 5. Your landlord, like most landlords, may suck.

None of this in any way contradicts the idea of going all-in on remote teams, but it does raise a question: if you're doing it for the competitive advantage of high productivity, might it be better to spend more on offices that are themselves distributed?

(FWIW: Married, no kids, and neither one of us works a 9-5 schedule.)

I'd just add that I've worked semi-remote for a good decade--in that I've nominally had an office but between travel and working remotely I've been in the office well under half the time. I don't really have any complaints. I live by myself and have a good office setup--though I mostly use my laptop in various rooms these days.

Having said that, and appreciating that both norms and technology infrastructure are much different than they were when I started in the industry, it's really difficult for me to imagine starting out of school as a remote employee. I think I would have found it enormously isolating and difficult.

Why are people in their own cubicles video conferencing and chatting to others in the same office? Because its convenient and saves time, you on-site proponent hypocrites.

If cost isn't the significant factor to being remote then time and convenience sure is. I have two or three extra hours of productivity not driving into the office (no round trip), settling into a cubicle, chit chatting, picking where to go to lunch and of course avoiding tension headaches and sleepiness from sitting in traffic. I also have time to work out that I didn't before. I'm more balanced in my life. I'm 10 years and going strong remote as a programmer/consultant with tons of energy and free time to do what I want while being highly paid. My wife is at home with me along with my kids and the most driving we do is your typical errands. Cost for me is much lower as we only need one car and I can write off office space in my house.

I have a hypothesis about these studies showing that onsite is better aside from being the business culture propaganda it is: People are generally social creatures and find communication most effective in presence as it strengthens learning via increased dopamine response (reward system), however, the outliers in the bell curve don't need this type of stimulation, in fact it may make them less effective.

Several remote workers I've met over the years along with myself simply don't need that and find video, chat, docs and email more effective in communicating over in-person meetings on whiteboards. As a programmer, I care more about the idea being presented or discussed than the people themselves. I find I personally work much more effectively in my own space and I know the remote teams I've worked with find a similar experience. This is probably the outlier which is why these studies find it more effective to the contrary. It depends on the type of person and that type of person not needing social feedback in-person is more rare. I would say I receive less dopamine overall or find the in-person experience less pleasant because of all the extra overhead (time) needed just to start the day. I simply hate inefficiency and see having to go in as very annoying, it reduces the social benefit to being pointless in my case.

Don't get me wrong, I seem very far from a nerd in person and am very successful socially in general with men and women. I'm the type of guy that tells jokes and has the zinger comebacks always on the tip of my tongue, can get everyone laughing and can communicate very well. The thing is I don't even miss any of this as I can do this on video anyway daily. It is a choice for me to come to the office or not and I simply don't choose to 99% of the time.

I am even thinking the bell curve outliers are starting to move toward the center as older people die off and technology becomes more "real".

Awesome. I really wish more companies did this.

Um, I feel like this will have repercussions in terms of staff churn rate. Office spaces are one of the definers of culture, and culture is one of the main motivators for staff. I'm certain that remote working suits many people, but I doubt that it will allow a sense of 'loyalty' to arise in the worker.

I can't tell if this is satire or not. Office "cultures" that involve inane things like alcoholic drinks, free boutique meals, or dog-friendliness have absolutely nothing to do with getting work done. They are things you have to roll your eyes about and put up with. You can't openly explain how unproductive it is, or you'll be labeled as "not a good culture fit" even if you're great at your job and get along with everyone.

So instead, you have to let your frustrations silently brew under the surface, always wishing your company cared more about employees and gave them adequately quiet and private space to get work done, or gave everyone a raise instead of spending the money on video games, gourmet coffee, etc.

Many engineers, especially experienced ones, are fully aware that all of these fringe "culture benefits" are just utter bullshit, and that they exist to try to hoodwink younger engineers into accepting worthless equity, criminally insane working environments, and exasperating, oppressive work culture that doesn't really permit good work life balance.

They aren't fooled or enticed by them. They simply have to put up with them because it's what everyone is doing. And they have to act like yes-men when people ask if you like the new foosball table or that killer company party. And HR thinks it's really working.

Your employees can't really afford recreation or adequate living space or decent meals based on what they are paid, so instead bring the recreation to work, bring the meals to work, and just have people stay at work all the time.

We're aware of this, and unfortunately until people start telling shitty companies 'no' and insisting on being treated better (or software unionizes) it's not going to improve, and everyone's going to continue having insane shitty working conditions, but paper over it with all smiles about how cool Whisky Thursday is or whatever other bullshit none of us actually care about at all.

You don't appreciate office cultures involving alcohol or dog-friendliness, and you roll your eyes and put up with them. Some people do value those things, and they also value having coworkers who value those things, which isn't a surprise because most humans value community (though of course different humans have different ideas about what constitutes community). So when you flat-out lie to your coworkers about your feelings, you're undermining the social fabric, for your pecuniary gain (e.g. because you don't want to be correctly labelled a "bad culture fit", because you like the salary). That deceit is straight-up unethical.

It's also disrespectful to assume that your coworkers don't know what's actually valuable to them. Some people prefer an extra $5k in salary, some people prefer $4k of free meals. Or $6k of free meals that costs the company $3k because of scale. Or whatever. Some people are investing in their long-term growth by deeply immersing themselves in their careers (and perhaps working non-long-term-sustainable hours), and if the company provide some cheap bennies that make that easier to do, so much the better. Yes, the company profits, and no the employee isn't maximizing short-term earnings, but maybe it's still win-win.

If employees really can't afford recreating or adequate living space, then of course that's a problem. I'm skeptical that's a real problem in software, though. And if that problem does exist, btw, then I think the best solution is those employees going and finding careers/lifestyles that fit better.

I want to add that I found this comment particularly startling because most of the comments I most agreed with on this page were also by you, p4wnc6.

> You don't appreciate office cultures involving alcohol or dog-friendliness, and you roll your eyes and put up with them.

I think the OP is complaining about this "culture" being used as a weapon to trick, mislead, and bully people.

> So when you flat-out lie to your coworkers about your feelings, you're undermining the social fabric, for your pecuniary gain

Any company that forces you to lie about your personal non-work related opinions in order to keep your job is incredibly toxic.

> It's also disrespectful to assume that your coworkers don't know what's actually valuable to them.

The problem is non-monetary benefits are misleadingly marketed to prospective employees and are thus very hard to evaluate.

For example I've worked at companies that provide free dinner to employees. In reality if you took advantage of these "free" dinners you were expected to work late.

Likewise I've worked at a couple of places that advertise unlimited vacation days. At all of my previous jobs in tech I have had 4-5 weeks vacation per year. So naturally I'm assuming that unlimited is at least as good. In other words taking 5 weeks off over the year shouldn't be a problem at all. Bzzzzt! Wrong.

Likewise many companies say they offer great career progression and training and very few deliver.

It is false advertising. Plain and simple.

Actual free dinner is easily worth $5k/year to me. The ability to take extra vacation days here and there when I feel I need a break is easily worth $10k/year to me. A serious focus on career progression and a focus on training is worth another $10k/year to me.

Naive sheepmullet used to get tricked into giving up $15k in salary thinking he was going to get $25k in benefits (that only cost the company $5k) and everybody would win.

Jaded sheepmullet realises there is a huge asterisk next to most of these benefits and refuses to compromise on salary unless the benefits are written into his contract.

For example I'd love to take a lower salary for a job that offered serious training and skills development. Lets write into my contract that you will provide me 20 days off work for self-study + 100 hours of 1 on 1 mentoring by my manager + a conference budget + a 10% pay increase at the end of each year.

I like good food, so I wouldn't mind the free boutique meals, but I'm not willing to sacrifice salary for them. Plus, I'm pretty picky so if they get their boutique meals from some over-hyped restaurant that doesn't have anything on the menu that I want (like some weird vegan place), then suddenly that benefit is completely worthless to me.

Alcoholic drinks at work sounds like a recipe for disaster, and a good way to get sexual harassment lawsuits on your hands.

And dogs at work sounds like a horrible idea. The last thing I want to deal with at work is dog barking and dog smells. What a pain in the ass. And what about employees who are allergic to dogs?

As for people telling shitty companies 'no', what really happens IMO is that people leave. Just look at the turnover rates in software. I left a job once mainly because of the lousy work environment; I can't be the only one.

No. That's not what office 'culture' is, that's 'employee perks'.

Employee perks may be a part of the culture, as they famously are in Google. But there are more considerations. E.g. the architecture, the history (important), the campus, (most importantly imo) the staff, knowledge networks, energy, etc. It's hard to imagine what a company like Microsoft would be like without Redmond, or Apple without Cupertino, etc. They're just bricks and mortar, but they've grown to define companies. The culture that surrounds HQs are attractive for potential employees and current employees. Many of these companies effectively have cult-like status, and their office spaces are central to this.

"Office "cultures" that involve inane things like alcoholic drinks, free boutique meals, or dog-friendliness have absolutely nothing to do with getting work done."

Lots of things have nothing to do with getting work done. It's because we're not robots; we're people.

Seriously, if you're that upset with the "fringe benefits", then DON'T WORK THERE. There are lots of places to work that don't have any of these.

Benefits are fine and you should choose where to work partly because you like the benefits.

But when benefits become venerated to the status of "part of the culture" and good employees are labeled as "not a team player" if they don't visibly celebrate the benefits, then it's a problem.

I'm saying the problem is that these benefits are inane when they are marketed as part of the culture and not merely benefits.

Sitting in an open office layout gives me a sense of disloyalty to my employer because it's just plain disrespectful to not see daylight the whole day and sit in a noisy and dull environment.

I have worked with a purely remote company for a few years and I would have stayed with them forever if the business had actually worked out. Interestingly I collaborated and talked to my remote colleagues much more than I do now in the open office.

Obviously, to each his own. Some people like the office and some people like remote.

I would go farther saying being in person is by its very nature, old school. It predates technology. The more real things become via remote, the less it makes any sense at all to argue the contrary.

In my experience, the "open layout" is more likely to be near windows than the offices are.

I can't say I much care. "Loyalty" should not even come into the conversation when talking about work.

Well I can tell you that it must, from the organisation's point of view. Hiring/training/maintaining a work-force isn't free, and the tacit knowledge the employees gain has value, so a high churn rate is bad. Again, from an organisation's point of view.

Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact