"What about a health clinic? Or a coffee bar instead?"
I found as many studies as I could about how awful these open office plans are, and printed them all out, and left them there. At the end of the day, on a whim I checked the recycle bin in the conference room they were in. Anyone want to guess what I found?
When I die and get to hell, there will be a Hermann Miller chair in an open office waiting for me. With free snacks and drinks in the kitchen.
I find that when you're constantly around people, you are less reflective/creative and more prone to getting caught up in hype cycles and group-think.
My biggest problem with open offices is the constant stress that comes with people walking behind my back every few minutes. It's paranoia-inducing.
You'll be allowed to wear headphones, and Hell will have a Slack channel, but instead of using the Slack channel, everyone will just walk over to your desk and talk to you.
While you're debugging.
Although, I kind of like open office plans. Definitely better than cubicles, which have relational isolation but no sound isolation. So you feel disconnected with everyone, but you have to hear them anyway.
Mid-level executives waste a massive amount of time "commuting" between conference rooms on the hour every hour.
I had to check your username to see if a) you're me or b) you're one of my co-workers. This exact same thing happened to me. I'll admit that our new office looks quite nice, but it is more-or-less impossible to actually get any work done there. Every conversation destroys the entire focus of the entire team; every personal tic annoys dozens of people and destroys their focus. There's no peace, no quiet and precious little productivity.
I honestly don't know why they bothered having those meetings. Did other folks say, 'I'd love something pretty, but I don't want to ever complete any actual work'? Did someone request an office which looks great in a brochure? Did someone say, 'I want something which makes an awesome gallery — don't worry about making it an office'? Enquiring minds want to know.
Everyone who gives presentations around lunchtime inevitably has to apologize to the audience for the beeping microwaves and chatty employees.
This building is like 3 years old and cost tens of millions of dollars to build.
But if those are my only choices, after 30 years in the biz, I'll give up on software. That's no way to live.
The cure for that was pretty straightforward: Leave the damned house.
All those annoying chatty people you encounter during everyday errands? Far less annoying when you're starved for social interaction, engage them. Have interests? Turns out there are meetups for all sorts of interests. I walk into one, find a small cluster of people, and introduce myself. "Hi, I'm tbyehl, crowds of strangers are about my least favorite thing so I need to make a couple of fast friends" is quite effective.
Need more, uh, intimate social encounters? Treat yourself to a couple nice outfits, find a nice barber, and read up on /r/seduction. I'm obese and my personality is something of an acquired taste but I've hardly spent any days alone that I didn't want to.
There are +/- 72 waking hours a week that you aren't scheduled to work. That's plenty of time to build a social life that isn't dependent on commuting to a crappy office environment 5 days a week.
You also have to be realistic about slacking. I can let in service people and rotate the laundry and cook dinner in less time than my (few) smoking coworkers spend on smoke breaks. Also the world is full of people who take an entire sick day to let the cable guy in or something like that, so a work at home dude stealing 5 minutes is 7 hours and 55 minutes more productive than the fake sick day slacker.
I guarantee my coworkers are going to waste at least two hours tomorrow talking about the superbowl. Working at home, I have no one to talk to, and if instead I post for an hour on HN I'll still be ahead of the office grinders.
Many people don't understand that everybody is slacking. In general though, the good remote workers spend less time slacking than everybody else. And that's what makes the difference. They are more productive because of the freedom.
I also had to explain money to my kids. All that stuff they enjoy - we only have it because I can sit here and work. Once they understood there was a reason I wouldn't drop everything to play Mario Kart all day - life is good. That doesn't mean I can't take a break to have lunch with the family and take a break for a few laps of racin.
I find that it is easier to control the distractions at home than it is at work. People at work have work related things that they think are important, but aren't really. It is much harder to train them than it is my family.
My favorite part of working from home. Take my morning break and cuddle with my daughter on the couch before she heads out to the park/YMCA with mom and play 15 minutes of Minecraft or see what art project she's been working on.
I honestly thought I'd miss having a more defined separation between work and personal life, but being able to blend them together has made me a lot happier, especially getting an extra 40-60 minutes a day with my family from not having to commute.
If you aren't in a situation where you have someone home with you or they can't comprehend that WFH doesn't mean you have to work your 40 a week then sometimes you have no choice but to just put the kids in daycare - which stinks because it robs you of a valuable perk of not having to commute when you have a family.
The reason I wasn't more responsive to his complaints was that I'd watch him spend his entire day at his computer either browsing facebook or reading sports blogs.
It feels so backwards.
EDIT: p.s. if it wasn't clear I no longer do the 1pm->1am schedule. That was when I was young with no other commitments. It's not the healthiest schedule ;) Now my hours are more conventional but still reasonably flexible. I work for a large tech company and no one cares when you come in or leave as long as the work gets done.
WFH always seems appealing from my open office station with my back to twenty other people and a walkway next to my desk.
Then I work from home and in the middle of presenting during a conference call, one of the kids gets home and starts ringing the doorbell incessantly, the dog starts barking and my spouse doesn't come answer because they know I am home.
The only time I can get work done if from 8am until 10am in either location.
Just like people at the office dick around in a hundred different ways while they work.
I had to have that talk with my roommates when I worked from home. No, I won't be solely responsible for the dishes because I'm "home all day" when Im working 50-60 hours a week and you're working 40.
i know it wouldn't have helped, but did you point anyone at Joel Spolsky's old blog post about designing an office for software development?
Also, some people cough mostly millennials cough really do thrive in these spaces, and some truly enjoy a social dimension like this for their engineering. I don't thrive in it, I loathe it, and I spew profanity like a WWII sailor trying to work in that environment.
So I try to work from home the most I can. I acknowledge some people cannot motivate themselves to do so and I recognize that's why they're resistant to letting people work from home.
But since open office isn't a 100% harmful thing to do, I agree the war is over and we lost. Start your own shop or go do something that doesn't make you miserable like this does.
I know this won't be popular here, but I find private offices problematic for a few reasons. First, they hurt collaboration and social interaction quite a bit. This is ok from a single developer's perspective (heavily skewed audience on HN), but it shows on cross-functional teams. I know this can be hacked into a private office setup ("my door is always open"), but in my experience there is a clear difference in collaboration when there is no physical separation between people who are working on a project together. Also, private offices create a hierarchy where some people get big corner window offices while others are in shitty interior offices or cubicles. My favorite thing about the trend towards open offices has been an egalitarianism where the CEO and founders sits at a similar desk as the interns.
Like a pack mentality.
If it doesn't work out, it can quickly develop the same appeal as a holding cell in a jail - all of the drawbacks of an open office plan in a confined space.
Programmers and engineers are professionals, and in my opinion, it's very unprofessional for a company to provide less than a reasonably private work environment. That means a large cubicle, at minimum. For collaboration, there should also be several open or group spaces. Requiring too much "togetherness," however, is just a sign of poor management and lack of respect for employees.
In theory, I like working at an office, quite a lot, but the open-office does not work at all for me. Cubes are even fine, but that open elbow-to-elbow thing? Nope.
Ideally (for me), we'd have 2~3 person offices, relatively plentiful small (5~8 person) rooms scattered through, and a large gathering space with white-boards all around (and not dominated by ping-pong).
Apparently, it's how it worked in the 1960s too. My group just never went through the various workspace fads because we never had enough money to move or reconfigure the building. I guess that's one upside to moving as slow as the gov't sometimes does.
I did have a cubicle while working with another division, but they were still fairly private.
The downsides: infrastructure is equally as slow to get updated...
The benefits of a shared office are quite nice, but they can be made up for in a variety of ways. There's no way to make up for the lack of natural lighting and windows if you're stuck in an interior room all day long, every day.
 - http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.p...
If I can't have that, I'll take a small private office with a door that closes. Although the least time I had that was, I think, in 2001?
As a result, on a typical day at the office I would hear one coworker yap on personal calls (wife & home renovation) for half an hour (per day!), another coworker talk about company work for an hour on the phone with a distant teammate (with many words related to my work that trigger my attention), and the sound of phones ringing about 10 times (which is never my own phone).
Hearing all the office noise day after day, I thought about a notion called reverse privacy: If your conversation/notification doesn't concern me, then I don't want to hear it. I don't want it to grab my attention, be aware of it, or have to filter it out.
The visual limitations of cubicles help here, because you have a little bit of privacy that motivates people to respect personal space. I'm quieter in cubicles, but not everybody else is, but in open-plan I have to adapt to everyone communicating loudly by being loud myself.
Can shoehorn IoT in there somewhere, then you have metrics for everyone in the place and who is doing the distracting.
Could even have a red light on the top that goes off as well.
(Clearly I'm joking..but only just.).
Though actually a distributed noise sensor that reports via a simple interface might actually be a useful thing for businesses.
Giving you a continuous background awareness of what's happening in the company around you ... isn't that part of the claimed benefits of open offices?
I think the real allure of open offices is how they look. Open offices look modern. They look like the kind of working area a hip, young, collaborative, industry-disrupting company would favor. But that's all bullshit. It's just a fairy tale that fools outsiders. Open offices look great to someone coming in for an interview or an executive visiting from company headquarters 3 states away. But at this point I think we can be reasonably sure that that's where the benefits end.
I don't think this change will damage my productivity much. I'll have headphones on all day, instead of 10-20% of the day. Seems like a lot of trouble for that kind of outcome. I'll probably enjoy shopping for some new headphones though.
It basically allows you to play a configurable mix of background noises; e.g. Wind blowing, rain faling, white noise, train tracks.
Heck, writing this makes me want to try it tomorrow
Noise-cancelling equipment isn't as effective for human voices, so I've used low-to-high volume music to mute out my coworker's voices. This works great until early afternoon when. I. am. Just. Acoustically. Exhausted.
I'm susceptible to music and can only use it as background for 2-3 hours at a time.
The other day I came across HN user's grahamburger's suggestion to "add in some white noise on top of" using over-the-ear noise-cancelling headphones. 
So, I did some research/shopping and am going to experiment with audio tracks from "The Very Best Sound of Nature - Birds, Waves, Rain (with Forest, Creek, Wind, Thunder) [Sound for Relaxation, Meditation, Healing, Massage, Deep Sleep, Yoga]".
Also, as a result of your suggestion for Noisli, I'm going to try a background-noise generating application. Thank you for the suggestion.
For one it makes "meta" discussions about the workplace not happen except out of office. I've seen over time there's a lack of office improvements in open office situations compared to places with private spaces. People also treat others with a bit less professionalism.
Yes, and perhaps the factor underlying that truth is that corporate management types are deeply and essentially conformists (selection pressure alone results in that). Management is almost entirely fashion-driven (which incidentally explains the egregiously semi-literate, antiscientific, ahistorical crap that dominates business/management best selling book lists).
Open office allows companies to save dozens of dollars per employee in rent per month, which is visible and measurable.
Creativity and productivity, on the other hand, is not.
They look like "open plan" offices from the late 19th-early 20th century .
(I'm using a throwaway because my main is tied to my real-life identity, and I'm not comfortable talking about my current employer where anyone can google my username and find out what that employer is. And that goes double when I'm talking about my employer's politics. I hope that's OK with the mods.)
I guess this is why I'm strongly drawn to companies that are socially and culturally conservative.
I work in a cube farm at a mid-size (~500 employees) company in a conservative industry (B2B telecom). The TVs in the break room and the reception area are constantly tuned to Fox News. At the last holiday party, the VP of HR gave a speech where he went out of his way to say it was specifically a Christmas party.
And I love working here. While I'm politically liberal myself, it is my experience that the most conservative companies are the best companies to work for. They actually, you know, take care of their employees. That my company is conservative makes me like them more. I'd rather work in a cube farm at a conservative company than in an open office at a liberal company (because I love cube farms and hate open offices). It's a great working environment. And you know what? They never had a single problem with me being trans, which is more than I can say for the freewheeling liberal startup I worked for two and a half years ago.
I look for liberal politics in my friends and conservative politics in my employers. It's worked out pretty well for me, in terms of both friends and employers.
I worry about the damage that my office headphones have on my hearing. I wonder if there's some sort of OSHA regulation regarding it, and if I have recourse against my employer because I am forced to don headphones are be distracted.
/cool decision process
For example, my current employer has wide-open office space with pods of desks, but they also offer numerous privacy rooms for escape. As a mild to mid introvert myself, this allows for the best of both worlds the majority of the time: I can benefit from those casual, spontaneous conversations that pop up in the open space, but I can also grab my own room for an entire afternoon to crank out some heads-down work.
I think what's most important is for companies to acknowledge and respect the variety of working styles of their employees, along with the trust that--regardless of how chatting in a pod or hiding away from others might appear--more often than not they're getting shit done.
that might work for people that work only on laptops, but it's not going to work if you have multiple monitors and towers, and ergo keyboard and so on
Or have the employee keep a container of them at each station (if they don't already, which IME many do).
People share equipment in every office everywhere. Germaphobes will need to disinfect some stuff, they can't have private everything, and they can't demand that people stop sharing things. Oh well, them's the breaks!
Basically, I often labor under constraints that make it unreasonably expensive and difficult to make workstation hardware interchangeable like that.
My dev environment would be difficult to virtualize as well. I've dealt with pre-release software, pre-release OSes, and any VM based solution would need to give me proper GPU access. I'd need to develop tooling to help manage constantly reconfiguring my tools to point to whatever devkits are local as well. Syncing data is another problem - right now I often abuse symbolic links to move 'cold' projects and tools off of my SSDs, as 2TB SSDs only recently became affordable.
It makes it much easier for independent developers to compete with large corporations.
*Owns shares in headphone company
*Empowering open offices with $300 noise cancelling headphones since 1964.
And those who still object to wearing those are considered as retarded by the headphone crew: just look at any Reddit thread about this matter, and you'll see hundreds of guys who think that it is the normal situation and will thrash anyone dares say otherwise. And they truly believe that's cool and they're cool... Perhaps battery cattle think they're cool too, dunno.
I've had both and I feel there's so much more collaboration happening in an open office. I almost see it weekly that there's a LOT of learning through osmosis, listening in to conversations, ...
I guess I have a pretty easy time keeping up concentration/flow. So in this case, it "works on my machine" :)
My employer is moving to an open office. Truly open, one giant space for 100+ developers, plus managers.
Half my team is remote, as are about half of the teams I work with. So, we are all on the phone/Skype/something all day long. And not with the same people. It's going to be like the Tower of Babel in the new space. I'm not looking forward to it.
Also: nobody really takes calls from their desk.
If you want to do a VC call, you get a conference/interview room.
Same for long-winded discussions or whiteboard sessions. You start conversations in the common area, but if it's a larger undertaking people might move into a designated space.
Having said that I tend to stick to working in small companies. Not sure I would like an open office of 100's of people.
The problem is that every time we have tried to study it, the opposite has been true. Are you sure your feelings translate into actual productivity improvements?
That being said: I am having a better time compared to sitting in a 1-2 person office room. So for me it's a win :)
He goes over how horrible the work conditions were,
with open offices, bosses always watching you,
no fixed assigned spacing, first come first serve
everything being tracked by computers. If you are late
everyone knows it because your sit in the boonies.
When I read it for the first time I remember feeling a revulsion at it. Now when I read it, I was like
"Um.. that is my job now"
At my company they have, /on purpose/ too few spaces for the number of employees. So early birds get all the spaces with powerplugs, monitors, network etc. The rest must fight it out on bench seats with no power etc.
I guess for the big bosses who spend all days in meetings its ok, but for grunts it sucks.
They had a weird back-story vignette told by a character in a novel called "Market Forces" by Richard Morgan like this. There was an economic downturn, and the bosses decided that instead of picking who got fired, to just reduce the number of desks from 10 to 8 and let the workers race into work for them. Too late, too many time, and you're out. The races to work for those last desks soon got fairly bloody...
Do these companies get payoffs from head phone manufactures?
I worked in a call centre a long time ago. At the end of each row of desks was an elevated desk where the team managers sat, precisely to enable them to watch each person on their team.
It says a lot about folks desperation for a job to deal with a boss with that mindset. Sure, I'm fine with observation posts if I'm in danger and might need help pronto. By all means, have an observation desk if I'm feeding crocodiles, but not to monitor my daily work.
I thought have a cubicle in an office area built inside the old fuel bunker for a power plant 50 feet underground where radio and cell didn't work and you heard a wind noise beyond the wall to clear the air of potential fumes sucked. I guess I was wrong.
I feel the same way about this as McDonalds managers directly observing the kitchen and cashiers: nothing at all.
private offices > open office > team rooms
Now, let's look at completely open offices and team rooms. In both environments, I have to deal with add conversations, people chewing with their mouths open, doors opening and closing, and so on. In both environments, I pay a cognitive price. But, in a completely open office, I might overhear interesting conversations from other teams and become aware of interesting developments. In a team room, I'm isolated from everything except my team, so I don't learn much.
I'm very skeptical of the idea that team rooms facilitate collaboration. I've never been much for low-level high-frequency collaboration --- pair programming is punishment in the afterlife. Collaborating at a high level is fine, but that kind of collaboration is best done asynchronously over some kind of durable medium like email, not synchronously by shouting across a room.
If I can't have a private office, I'd prefer a completely open warehouse-like environment that at least maximizes the benefits of an open office. A team room has most of the same costs and few of the benefits.
I've never working in anything other than an open office, but the level of noise has varied a lot. Some offices have a culture where it's common for people to make a scene, ie when something happens people gather round a TV and start talking.
One place I worked at had a guy who would stand up and start a discussion about politics every day, and it wouldn't end until he was right. It's somewhat fun to have the old oxford union style banter, but it's a time sink and generally doesn't move anyone's opinion.
By contrast where I am now is as quiet as sitting alone at home, even though it's still in the financial industry and there's actually more people than the place I mentioned earlier.
One place was a macho atmosphere (all traders), and the other is intellectual (all coders), they both perform the same function in the market (market making). They both looked the same though; at least three screens per person, a wall of screens some places. You're close enough to touch your neighbour on either side if you stretch out your leg.
Your workload is triple the juniors and it takes you triple the time as them to get your work done?
That's exactly equivalent to the productivity of the juniors. You just grind more hours. Maybe you need to look for a more junior role.
Like when people pretended they liked standing desks because they spent $1000 in one. Imagine standing still for eight hours a day.
Imagine sitting perfectly still for eight hours a day.
I just imagined both, and I preferred the standing still nonsense to the sitting still nonsense.
I'm also not a developer though, so I don't need to be in focus mode for long periods of time.
Teams work better when everyone's in a room together. Alas.
Also, if you have problems with interruption: stop being macho and write some fucking notes while you work. Don't keep that shit in short term memory.
The 1980s represented "peak cubicle". The tech industry ushered in open plans in the 1990s.
All I'm claiming is you pour the innovation out of Google Corp Hq into a bucket and, um, how about MIT Media Lab into a bucket, and measure the two buckets on a scale. I feel MIT wins handily. But for the sake of argument lets say Google kicks the MIT Media Lab's butt to the tune of 10x as much innovation. There is still a slight problem in that the MIT lab is about 100 people (to one sig fig) and Google Corp is just under 60K according to a Google search. Assuming similar quality of "human resources" Google should be consistently producing 600 times as much innovation per year as MIT Media Lab. Maybe when you factor in Google's company purchases, after which all innovation at the purchased company traditionally ceases...
Isn't Google fundamentally on the scales of justice more of a profitable advertising sales boiler room than a source of innovation?
If as a company, its mostly about being a sales boiler room, then it should look like a sales boiler room, shouldn't it? Perhaps there is less inconsistency between what is observed vs theory after all.
The essence of making workspaces work is minimizing distractions. Any layout can work if you take the chatter ELSEWHERE.
It takes a while to get a space ready, and it's also not easy to just expand around existing offices when they're already quite large.
Admittedly, much of this would probably be solved if they were more OK with remote working, as there's a high emphasis on in person collaboration. I suspect they've done some studies on this matter though.
I work for Google but opinions are my own.
I know I got used to a lower productivity after spending some time in open offices. Then one day I was sitting in a private office again and felt my productivity surge and felt: "WOW! This is the way programming should feel like!"
(Ideal is the combination of open space with numerous meeting rooms and smaller pods for phone calls and occasional privacy.)
Productivity is not that important if you are producing the wrong thing in the first place.
Some of my coworkers are a lot less social so they get annoyed with everybody around them chatting. They probably get more work done than me, but thankfully being less social means they get worse peer reviews than the rest of us.
I think open-office is a great concept that just needs to be refined a little: i.e. stricter enforcement of phone/loudness etiquette.
They have nowhere to isolate because it's a f------- open office.
... or hire Terry Tate, office linebacker:
Yep. Never seen an open office company with enough of those. It's a curse.
I'll push back with a quote from Richard Hamming's famous talk "You and your research" (as I'm sure I have before): http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.pdf
"Another trait, it took me a while to notice. I noticed the following facts about people who work with the door open or the door closed. I notice that if you have the door to your office closed, you get more work done today and tomorrow, and you are more productive than most. But 10 years later somehow you don't know quite know what problems are worth working on; all the hard work you do is sort of tangential in importance.
He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important. Now I cannot prove the cause and effect sequence because you might say, ``The closed door is symbolic of a closed mind.'' I don't know. But I can say there is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder. Somehow they seem to work on slightly the wrong thing - not much, but enough that they miss fame"
Are there any of these anti-open-office pieces which explicitly mention "I might not like it and might be less productive short term ... but that still could be a net win long term" ?
In 1986 it mattered if Einstein had a conversation outside your door, it mattered in a big way, but decades later in 2017 it matters if you read Einstein's blog and follow him on twitter.
Also note the rise of groupthink because in '86 only you had Einstein standing in your doorway and only your doorway or at most a couple people, but in 2017 "everyone in the field" and lots of people outside the official field read, perhaps, Aaronson's physics (although lately mostly politics) blog.
The push comes from expansion. If your company is poorly run maybe with enough whipping everyone in the open office you'll survive maybe even thrive. But if you want to succeed at the multi-office class of size, you'll need competent management, and those along with the line workers are repelled by open offices and can get jobs at non-open office employers. An open office selects for a company that will struggle to survive past 100 people.
The biggest recent change I can think of is at the last open office I worked at, it was a fireable offense to wear headphones; the company paid a lot of money for the remodel and refusal to collaborate is being directly and intentionally insubordinate. The beatings will continue until morale improves. I admit I'm completely mystified, from what I read here everyone is visually in sight "to collaborate" but everyone puts on headphones to drown out the noise so they can work in order to eliminate all collaboration in practice, which strikes me as complete nonsense.
Intense display of social signalling via architecture, the non-living parts of the office are all open and free and the living parts of the office all have headphones on and shush anyone who speaks, library style.
There might be an aspect of reverse psychology going on, with the whole "shush people into silence" and headphones movement, open offices are knowingly anti-collaborative and perhaps management wants it that way to eliminate palace coups or something. I mean, they can't be so stupid as to think it increases collaboration or productivity, so they must intentionally be sabotaging those characteristics in favor of ...
I'd really like to see how they define "office"
I personally find high value in that anyone I work with I can walk up to without going through a maze, or if they're next to me I can just talk to them as well and figure out what we need to do.
Of course my office doesn't look like the one in the article, we have our own desks still, just no heavy walls between us. There's also plenty of room between employees, personal space should not be overlooked.
If people are loud, you talk to them about it. It almost never happens since your coworkers are respectful and since you've obviously kept the more noisy jobs in a different part of the office from the engineers.
It seems to me that single person offices will suffer heavily from Conway's law.
But we'll see. It looks to me like where I've just moved to has no call rooms and no separation between engineering and the rest, so I'll see if those factors alone will change me from pro-open-office to anti-open-office.
The open office I work in has 30-ish desks in a room; the room has windows on two sides, uses lots of sound-dampening materials, doesn't do double-duty as a corridor, has good lighting, and has six adjoining rooms to go to to have phone calls or meetings or to work individually. That, to my surprise, works fine.
(It shouldn't surprise anybody, but it isn't in the USA)
It will seem more bizarre and alien to them than the Salem witch trials seem to us.
Then again, I don't see the Salem Witch Trials as that alien either.
I think offices are too isolating. They emanate a "fuck you; I'm busy and important; don't talk to me" vibe, in my opinion. If I wanted 100% isolation from people, I would rather work remote. If I form a company large enough to require a decision like this, that is what I'll offer.
It's not always super great, but it's way better than having an open plan where you're told where to sit, or an open plan where you don't have any continuity, just a bin of stuff, like you had in grade school.
People who work in coffee shops do so for a short time, not 8-10 hours every day in the same shop at the same desk with the same people around for the entire time. They know that nobody there is talking about work so the background conversations are never going to be relevant or important. They know that nobody is walking up to them to interrupt them, so almost any motion they see can be ignored. They know that anybody looking at them is not a manager judging their productivity right now. Big parts of their brain can relax.
// ok, that's not the only - or even primary - reason, but it is probably a larger factor than we realize
Some managers who manage no people have to do reports for other managers, they badger people for data and then their final work - the report only goes up the chain. All of this activity can be removed if the report is fully automated and cc'd to everyone in the team. That day a month (or days) doing reporting now gone. Then make all those things that needed to be reported on not need to be reported on by automating even more. Reduce human tasks to simple yes/no approval buttons.
User experience matters too, reduce the need for anyone to call by making sure the website has the information they need, sure in the knowledge they will look there first.
A good ticketing system also helps, try and get other teams using the same tools with simple forms for the wider company to submit problems that need fixing in such a way that all useful information is given, e.g. dates, codes...
In my experience it has not been a problem automating large chunks of work or backward processes, once the changeover had been made it then seems a ludicrous idea to go back to the old way, plus the staff resources have gone.
Admin jobs can be automated in such a way that the computer does all the required filtering before sending an email on to whomever needs the information.
Depending on your product, whole sales teams can be eradicated with a really good B2B site.
Managers with staff can also be made surplus if they no longer have teams of people to manage. Whole mini-empires can also be bypassed by the computer doing the reporting and sending it out democratically, without manager input.
So, if you want a less bothersome office and are prepared to put in the required work to get things automated then you can eradicate whole swathes of surplus people. This is never really as miserable as it seems, automation is necessary to scale that aspect of the business and those 'surplus' people can move up the value chain if they want. Also, if the business grows (because it can) then the remainder of their work that cannot be automated will grow to become full time skilled, pro-active work, not reactive or mundane dogsbody work.
In this way I think you can transform an office of lousy noisy timewasters into something more like a university library... (I often whether the noisy people in the office are the ones that never sat in university lectures).
That said, this particular article was on HN 20 days ago and generated 116 comments: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13425159
It's been featured on HN quite a few times in the past:
Kinda amazing that this submission already has over 170. I guess people have a lot to say on the topic.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13575388 and marked it off-topic.
However we are extraordinarily lucky. My mother, for example, was a single mom who sometimes had three jobs just to make ends meet. She didn't have any real choice. She was exploited by the system and her ex-husband both.
You assume too much and know too little about the situation to make the comments you're making.
You're not painting the Mona Lisa, you're working on some app or spreadsheet. It's called work for a reason. Learn to make do.
Companies that treat their office as a selling point for employees should expect to be criticised when that selling point falls short in the most important area of all - where the people they are trying to attract actually sit and work all day.
Ah nice k-cup machine collection but no k-cups have to bring those from home. Nice bar with beer keg tap, pity its a firing offense to drink on the job and that kegger is only for sales execs to woo customers. Nice couches in the meeting rooms, those managers and directors sitting in meetings sure look comfortable sitting there. I worked at a place with a genuine foozball table and getting caught playing foozball was a euphemism for getting downsized the next quarter, the thing seriously had dust on it like it was cursed. Maybe it was. All of that stuff is supposed to be for the trendy software dev, but its not.
Its sort of the democratization of the executive washroom. We no longer have solid marble and gold plated toilets for the executive washroom, that's so last century, today we have couches that only director level and above can sit on during meetings and kegerators that only customers can drink out of and foozball tables that no one uses. Looks nice though, doesn't it?
Taking notes does jackshit. Best I could muster were construction noise isolating headphones.
Mona Lisa was a one time, frontend job :)