Personally I believe remote work, for any tech-enabled employer, makes the most sense. The impact on infrastructure by removing commuting alone could maybe help save the planet. And our collective sanity.
Wouldn't it be nice to have ISPs that can provide an infrastructure that could actually support that? I think so.
The hideous effects of cluster-fucking hundreds of thousands of people daily just needs to stop. Tech companies are guilty. They're huge and, humbly opined, are idiots for making it worse and not really needing to. Top that off with an open floor destination and.. damn, work is beat.
I am awfully bored of these “everything is simple, open offices are uniformly awful, everybody should be remote” arguments. Yes - this works for some people, in some workplaces. In other cases, it doesn’t work. I’m fine with my open office space, and I prefer working from an office - which is a bike ride away and better equipped than I am.
How about instead we accept that there are almost certainly trade-offs involved in these areas, and that maybe building an office space that works for everyone is important? Provide open office space for those who thrive in that environment. Make sure there are private areas for those who don’t. Establish a culture that supports remote workers, and encourages good behaviour in shared areas. That, if anything, is simpler.
Now most employees working in tech companies are not developers. There is a whole "developer abstraction layer" (https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2006/04/11/the-development-ab...) but tech companies should at least have a place for all of their engineers to do quiet, focused work that is free of distraction.
I would also say that many people who are managers and do marketing also need a quiet place for focused work. So do QA people, infrastructure engineers, etc.
A larger point is that there are so many easy ways to communicate and collaborate now that to fix the physical plant to optimize for communication is just plain nuts. Why not use something that is very expensive to change, like the architecture, to meet needs that can't be met with software. Software can let you talk to someone easily, but it can't give you a quiet space. Only the architecture can do that. So I would err on the side of giving everyone an office with a door and then creating some common meeting spaces for them rather than building the office to have open offices and then adding a few multi-use closed door areas.
Lets say that you have a 5 minute question, that would save you an hour of work.
In a closed/cubicle style office, you may be less willing to bug your expert co-worker. In an open office, it may be perfectly normal to turn to your left, and quickly ask you question.
Sure, you are taking time out of your co-worker's day, but even so, on the net whole, asking the question is probably a net benefit time saver to the company.
In closed-style offices, it is a big gesture to walk into someone's office and ask a question. I'd feel less comfortable doing that.
Even sending a slack message still feels less comfortable than just turning your head and asking a quick question.
Coding is a collaborative process to many people. I don't want to schedule a freaking meeting for my simple question, or walk into someone's office. I'd probably just not ask if I felt like I was bothering someone.
Just send them a message in slack. Don't be so obnoxious as to assume that whatever's bugging you at this moment is automatically more important than whatever your co-worker is on.
I don't know why it feels weirder to slack them then it does to turn your head and ask. One demands immediate attention, the other allows them to answer when they have bandwidth for it. It seems obvious enough to me which is more polite.
In practice it doesn't pan out that way, because most 5 minute questions don't save that much time (answer was a 2 minute search away), don't take that much time (take much longer), and overall cost much more time (due to loss of flow).
Most (if not all) programmers need a state of flow to write quality code. Achieving flow after an interruption can easily take 15 minutes or more. If the environment discourages a state of flow by having frequent brief interruptions, the quality of the code written in that environment will be poor. If you had the ability to collect the right metrics, you'd probably find that bugs disproportionately are written right after an interruption.
The other issue you raised is that sure, your productivity may go up if you interrupt someone and get a question. It's clear that we don't want to optimize for that, because the interruption may cause someone else a loss of 30 minutes before they get back into the zone. It's not just 5 minutes. And 20 minutes into that recovery of concentration, someone else will interrupt them and ask another question. And they will also interrupt you. That creates a very frustrating experience. So it's better to ask your question asynchronously. You will get your answer when the person takes a break and relaxes their concentration. Both of you will be able to exercise control over when you can concentrate on getting your work done. Having that sense of control and ability to concentrate is critical to being productive.
I basically think it disturbs more with questions in an open space than when you go over to a cubicle/room.
I don't like large open plan offices, but I think a small room just for my team (6 devs) would be helpful.
Don't talk on behalf of me.
Maybe because I'm relatively younger and I've mainly worked in open-plan offices, but I have zero problems with them. I'm not so easily distracted that simply having someone else's presence is enough to throw me off. When I need to buckle down and get some 'serious developing' going on, I just put on some headphones and listen to The Social Network soundtrack. I am more productive by having my colleges around me so I can easily pair-program or pair-design.
The point still remains: everyone is different and what works for one person won't work for everyone (I for one could never work remotely for any serious period of time). Again, we need to make sure we're building office spaces that can adopt to these different people and the ways they work.
More proof that a noisy "collaborative" environment is not conducive to work that requires deep concentration.
by "serious developing", I'm guessing you mean "actually programming".
You've just described everyone who has ever programmed against the clock in a hollywood movie.
Yep. This is what needs to be done. One thing I'll note is that in my experience, remote workers are 2nd class citizens unless the company is a remote-first company. And if the company is bought or gets new management, the remote workers are the first to go.
You get all the advantages of being able to talk to people, and none of the disadvantages of conversations drifting over from the rest of the office. And there's more of a chance that if your immediate co-workers are discussing something then it's actually relevant to you.
Also, it cements the idea that things are done by teams, not individuals.
Personally, at home I am too easily distracted - I can pick through the fridge or cupboards, or read news sites forever. At the office, my screen is visible and as such I'm more likely to stay focused. I vastly prefer the incidental social interactions in an open plan office too.
Not everyone loves open-plan, but if it was truly a disaster, the space wouldn't be full.
In a previous iteration of the same space, there would've been anything up to 75% programmers but the bulk of them bought and moved to another open-plan office.
(thinking of wework)
Further down thread, someone quoted the WSJ article:
The WSJ article said Apple prototyped one work area, and then multiplied it across the available space.
"Having settled on an overall shape, the team then broke it down into smaller parts. “One of the advantages of this ring is the repetition of a number of seg-ments,” says Ive. “We could put enormous care and attention to detail into what is essentially a slice that is then repeated. So there’s tremendous pragmatism in the building.” The ring would be made up of pods—units of workspace—built around a central area, like a spoke pointing toward the center of the ring, and a row of customizable seating within each site: 80 pods per floor, 320 in total, but only one to prototype and get right."
Prototyping one version seems un-Apple. I would have expected them to have prototyped many office layout options, had people work in them for six months each and rate them or otherwise measure quality.
I wouldn't be surprised if Apple's choice here is actually quite good, but perhaps I wouldn't be surprised by the opposite.
You're a bike ride away from the office that you prefer? Fantastic job of deflection.
It's rather obvious that there are trade-offs, isn't it? It's pretty clear to me, at any rate, and there's nothing inherently wrong with providing an office. Shame on your words coming out of my mouth.
In relation to the expense of providing "office space" for several hundred the cost of a fat pipe is pretty darn cheap, were that it existed.
If you don't have the need to live where you work there are "simple" choices any given person can make that will make their lives easier, happier and, hopefully, more fruitful for both themselves and their employers.
And besides, having worked in offices (real ones), cubicles (and half-ones), bullpens and open spaces (including fields) I feel I am more than qualified to provide my own opinion on the matter without implying that my "simple" opinion is somehow not compatible with your own.
Open spaces suck to work in. It's that simple.
But, like I said, I'm annoyed that it's become obvious accepted wisdom that "open offices universally suck" – because it's emphatically not that simple. I respect your need to work in a different environment, and explicitly advocated ensuring that you are able to do that – so please respect my preferences as well.
These are just opinions, right? Right. We both have valid ones that are actually pretty closely aligned. We seem to both appreciate our fortunate circumstances which are, for the most part, at opposite ends of the "we're fortunate" spectrum. I regret having inadvertently annoyed you, but, in all respects, you shouldn't be annoyed with anyone's opinions simply because they seem to not be like your own. I think we're good here. Are we good here?
An example might help demonstrate my thoughts: Last year I worked on a new UI for customers and went through 7 failed experiments. Does this mean that I suck at my job or that our designer dreamed up a failed interface or the business never should have started this initiate?
The designer designed what the business gave a green light to, I wrote the code to put this in front of customers. Are we all failures or is one of us a failure? My opinion (at least in this situation) is none of us failed.
Why? Because the business justified the project based on a need customer's were showing from data they collected and evaluation of the market. The designer created something that after a handful of iterations was green lit for an engineer to build. I was measured in terms of how difficult iterations were. For example, did it take an entire re-write to go from experiment x to x+1 or did you as an engineer anticipate some possible future directions that project could go which made iterations more easy to integrate into existing code.
Some of this is subjective, some is objective, but your peers (team, stakeholders, and adjacent teams) all have an ability to measure and provide feedback to you.
Different jobs require different types of assessments but I focused directly on software engineering since I have best frame of reference.
Because we all know that software estimation is a solved problem. Particularly with non-technical managers.
Oh wonderful. They don't do estimates at your company then?
This was explained to me by one of my professors 20 years ago. There are two types of company mentalities:
A: The high school mentality. You show up 8 to 5 but it doesn't really matter what gets done.
B: The college mentality. You pass or fail based on how well you do on the test. Show up if you want, or don't.
The way I see it, if your manager can't tell if you are productive, he or she has no business being a manager and they are the problem.
Oh wonderful. They don't do estimates at your company
Intern Ian's tasks are simple and well documented - so they always have good estimates. Veteran Victor is great at complex, poorly understood bugs - but he often takes longer than estimated to fix them, as often the cause is hard to find.
It would be a foolish manager that would punish Victor for performing worse than Ian.
It's difficult keeping up with the internet lingo.
For what it's worth:
* You can simply see on Slack if the person is set to Away. In that case they're busy, so don't bother asking them any questions in a traditional open office plan.
* A better open office plan has a quiet room where people can collaborate in quiet. You can just send someone a message, asking them if you can ask them a question when they have time. You take your laptops with you into the quiet room. Then you keep the quiet in the office itself.
* A good manager knows what people are up to, and how they do it. It's part of their job. They also talk to employees face to face, individually, so they have better understandings on matters. If your manager is not a good manager, then no fancy metrics will help.
* Remote working is fine, and especially in the tech industry I find that there are more people willing to work remotely. I am fine with people wanting to work remotely, and everyone is abroad at times, or needs some time alone for deep focus. I do like to see everyone come together regularly, even just working together in quiet builds up a bond, and periodic informal tea & coffee on the work floor makes people a lot more open in approaching me and trying to test ideas together.
I do understand that commutes can be problematic for people in certain areas, and that some people really like peace and quiet during work hours. During job interviews, people try to see if you are a good fit for where you are going to be working (I can't speak for everyone of course), but it never hurts to ask if you can meet the team before signing a contract, if for some strange reason you weren't introduced already.
I'm afraid that is unavoidable. Any metric you track can and will be gamed before the first collection period.
IMO a much better model than 'sit in this cube and make noises while I (manager) am looking at you'. That is the reason IT is broken + interminable process improvements like agile culture.
I've been in multiple openoffice and cube environments and I sort of laugh. I can do more in 25 minutes than most 5 year experienced people all day (without google and copypasta). I don't need your corporate propaganda and hustle. I have my own and mine is productive and gives me a life and nice things + actual enjoyment of the process and product.
- I've never worked in a company with 100+ people so far
- All the teams I've been in were fairly small (6 people or less), with flat hierarchies and little formality
There's a huge one to the right of me which hasn't changed once in the 6 weeks I've been here - although since it says "NEXT SPRINT: [project X]" and Project X still hasn't really started, I guess it's always correct...
This is just one more complaint in a long-list that I have with this arrangement. Makes me miss my cube!
Fumbling around getting them on call every meeting, having to have them ramble on about something wasting peoples time if they misunderstand something because they're not in the room and we're all too polite to just tell them to shut up and move on, having to take special time out of my work to go on a 10 minute call that could be sorted in 20 seconds standing behind sometimes desks.
It's a very engineer-centric idea that they can just solve everything remote but if you're building a product that relies on design and more human focused work it can be an absolute nightmare having to work with a remote engineer.
I haven’t done any math on it, but it’s something I do worry about.
In California electricity is increasingly generated by renewables (~25% in 2016) with the goal of hitting 50% by 2030, which looks achievable. We actually have a surplus of renewables during the late afternoon that can cause power prices to go negative. Between this and conservation measures like insulation the impact of home energy use does not look that high. It's also getting better over time.
The big problem in California is transportation, which is still petroleum-based autos. You don't commute by car but many people do. Knocking that out is one of the best things you can do to combat global warming. For example my commute, which is about 50 miles generates between 60 and 80 pounds of C02 daily assuming 3-4 gallons. That's assuming a fuel-efficient car. (Fortunately I only do it a couple of days a week.) At some point the car will be electric but mass replacement of the fleet is still a long way off.
You could always cool of the way God intended, sweat your ass off. :)
Use a smaller heater, solar panels, LED globes etc.
Then I jump on a plane to my employer's office every few weeks.
I wonder how that stacks up?
It doesn't help if you're in the Bay. Home, road, sewer, curb, sidewalk construction, 3 neighbors with leaf blowers regimens nearly ever day...
And that's just this year.
You gain a lot with open space plans: more interaction with coworkers, cultural gel and socializing. And of course, the company can cram more people in the same place.
I'm not paid to chitchat or stand around eating birthday cake. I don't need to love people to work with them. For the most part, even as a systems architect, I don't even need to talk to them. A few emails, echats, and meetings are sufficient.
This may sound harsh, when I heard they were pulling down the cube walls, I threatened to walk. I got to keep my high walled cube, but everyone else was surprised one Monday with low walls. A week later, after the whole office rioted, everyone got their walls back.
If you need/want company, go sit in a common area. But don't take away my isolation. And tell those kids to get the fuck off my lawn.
As a sysadmin, I overhear a ton of stuff that people don't put into chats. I like being in the office and being able to hear what people are talking about in the workplace; it helps me do my job better.
Yeah, I don't see the problem either.
In fact, I don't understand why companies don't just install long airplane style seating rows in their open office plans and have everyone work from laptops literally on their laps... that way we'd be able to cram even more people in the same space, and just think about all the useful socializing and spontaneous conversations that would occur as co-workers were climbing over each other to head for the restrooms.
/s (just in case)
Hook them into some sort of huge ferris wheel, saves on space and keeps attrition low.
That said I'm really happy with my Logitech G930s - I usually use them wired to keep the charge (the usb cord length is _very_ generous) but they're just fine wireless too, and do a good job staying put if I'm moving around a bit.
My only complaint is that they seem to be sensitive to 2.4ghz interference, which can kick them off the wireless connection. Since there's no wired override (plugging in is purely for battery) this means plugging in can't save you. Once I switched my devices at home to prefer 5ghz wifi, it went from 5-10 times an hour at its worst to once or twice a month (and I can maybe blame that on the neighbours).
There doesn't seem to be a bluetooth alternative. The newer Sennheiser models like the 4.50 are not as big as the HD 558. There's a dongle-based wireless headphone, the Logitech G533 which is big enough. It's meant more for gaming, and looks like it. It may only work on Windows, though.
Headphones only go so far. If you don't have good headphones (or, gasp can't afford good headphones, or don't have the time or money to shop around for good headphones), then you end up with a band-aid that doesn't really work because... well noise bleed is real. You either still hear what's happening around you or the people around you can hear your music. So they talk louder, because they need to make sure they're heard by whoever they're talking to. They don't stop the distraction of someone walking by. They don't stop someone from trying to start a whimsical conversation just because they walked by you.
I think open office is fine so long as the density is not too high.
Ive seen conditions where you are shoulder to shoulder with your co-workers, which seems awful.
I have always had around ~8 square meters of space in my open office layouts.
I value being able to casually converse with my nearby colleagues.
Lower density low cubes are ok. Offices are great for managers, PMs or professionals like attorneys, engineers or accountants.
From my perspective, remote works if the culture is friendly to remote or conditions like traffic make commuting a misery for everyone. As a manager of managers, we historically have had a lot of problems with remote employees compared with people in the office.
Yes, I think that's the point.
"Ask IT for headphones" and "find a quiet spot in one of the lounges" are almost direct quotes from the CEO of the company I work for. In the few years I've been working here I have seen the CEO at his reserved seat in our open office area once, and the CFO twice. Not one other C-suite have I seen at their reserved seat in the open office area to do work.
> more interaction with coworkers, cultural gel and socializing.
Yeah, I like wasting time as much as anyone else. It's still bad.
Good work interactions either happen better in offices, or are meetings.
Now, I get it, some people like open office environments. Good for them.
Me? Well, I've told many coworkers that I can't work from home because I wouldn't work from home. There are too many distractions at home, so I need to be at the office to be productive.
But this open office?
There are days where I am convinced I would do more work, be more productive, and feel more satisfied if I worked from home.
I went and bought some noise cancelling headphones. They help, but definitely not enough. My table is by the main door. With a room of 40+ engineers, there's constant distracting traffic. Some people make snide comments about my choice of operating system, keyboard, language, editor, typing noise, attire, whatever. Or to chat about the games that I missed last night, something happened at the not-company-sponsored-happy-hour that I didn't get the invite to, or something about lunch that, you know, you should have been there and if only you wouldn't leave the office for lunch. Or about how your racing car is in for the shop because, well, actually I don't even care why. It's just in the shop (I know! you told me!) and you expect me to care about car parts too, and shame on me for not knowing the difference between a maserati and a miata.
On the other hand, any time I mention to my boss that I'd like at least a cubicle the response is "it's not going to happen". Thanks, boss! I'm glad you've got my productivity concerns on your plate. I'm glad they can just, you know, be heard. Not addressed, just heard. It's really helpful to be heard. All day. It's real helpful to hear everyone's discussions while I'm trying to do work.
Honestly, guys, if you like an open office environment, that's good for you. Not everyone wants one and not everyone works well in one.
There's another thing about open plan offices: too much visibility. I can't even get away to a quiet area without someone chalking it as suspicious. And it's easy to assure everyone else that I'm a pro, I just need to open two laptops with lots of notes and wiring on the desk.
I still don't regret my decision to become a contractor.
Or there will be enough complaints about Hnrobert42's reluctance to engage with co-workers that all headphones and earphone will be banned.
That's what happened in an office in which I worked.
After all, you're not there to work for yourself; you're there to benefit for the company. If the company determines that assisting co-workers is more important than your personal solace then so be it.
I bought a pair of Bose QC35 on Sunday. Over-the-ear headphones. Their active powered noise cancelling feature works well enough for ambient noise such as the air system, but not so much for voices.
If there's an over-the-ear pair of headphones with active noise-cancelling feature that blocks _all_ noise instead of just ambient noise and has great sound reproduction, that would be peachy.
The solution I've found to voices is IEMs, those in ear headphones. I'm currently using a pair of Etymotic ER4SR with the foam tips that came with them and I can't hear a thing when I'm in the office. They're not as good for deep ambient noise like the rumbling of a bus or train engine but I haven't found anything nearly as good when it comes to voices.
The stock foam can get a bit uncomfortable for a while though so I'd recommend getting some Comply branded tips, which I find much more comfortable and close to as good. In the end though, I ended up paying for custom molded silicon tips, which by all reports I should barely be able to feel at all, let alone experience discomfort with. Still waiting for them to arrive though.
The problem is that engine noise is constant where as voices are unpredictable.
Number 1 is vibration and physical movement. I've had a desk environment where two folks would be sitting on opposite sides of a wide table, so there's one shared and non-isolated surface that both people work on.
Every time my coworker would stand up, they'd brace themselves on the desk and shake the shit out of it, and I never learned to filter it out. Headphones don't help. Lots of big monitors don't help.
Or when the hardwood floor has enough flex that you can feel people walking near your desk. Ugh.
We do have decent-sized desks, so the open plan isn't too bad. It's actually pretty good as these things go, although there are no kitchens in which one can make a proper cup of tea.
No proper kitchens for tea-making.
We're in England.
Admittedly this is a German company I'm working with at the moment, but still, the office is full of Brits.
Open plan is perfectly normal here, but I still hate it. Especially the ones where they put really loud people near you (but you can't make a seating plan based on how loudly people tend to talk), or when there are people whose jobs involve loads of phone calls and who shout down their headsets, in the same open plan space as a highly technical team who really need to concentrate and occasionally have a quiet conversation with each other.
No one space works for everyone. It just doesn't. And that's not even taking into account personal variations, as we've seen from these comments some people like the open collaborative possibility and some feel the need to hide away and bash the keyboard for hours at a time.
I have days when I want to do one, and days for the other, so I really don't know what kind of office I'd like!
It's because the insurance on offices without kitchens is cheaper. They save money, and we get wet mud in a plastic cup from a machine.
Then of course some PM would swing by and talk to him about stocks or something silly. The PM didn't have anything better to do.
We were also right by the break room, so people would constantly be chatting.
I think you should just put developers and only developers on a floor. Everyone else who needs to chit chat and only has to attend meetings can go on another floor.
Not too mention I reflexively am willing to snark at anything I hear, no matter who's speaking. That can get uncomfortable, too, but in different ways.
That's one of the reasons I wave one of those tech-broad-brush-anti-social banners around - Internally I'm interacting with everything around me. That can be hard. I demure when the option is available if for only to manage my senses. I'm so misunderstood.
P1 P2 P3
P4 P5 P6
in pods, and if P5 turns and looks at P4 or P6 to check if they have headphones on, that person will obviously see the movement, possibly get distracted, remove headphones...it's not just a noise issue.
I don't know of anyone that prefers an open office.
Most people here are reasonably sociable, but also focus on their work well.
I would really dislike being in a private office, solo cubicle or working from home day after day. (I've experienced each of these in the past.) I enjoy coming into the office even if it means a commute, not having endless snacks at my disposal, etc.
Open office for regular employees, offices for managers.
That's kinda on you. Discipline is something that can be learned. When I first started working from home almost full-time, I found it quite difficult to separate work life and home life - I deliberately set up an office space in my house that only had my work laptop, and work essentials. My home machine and all my fun toys were elsewhere in the house. By doing this, it helped me focus on just doing work related stuff - any time wasting I did do, was on par with what I would do in the office anyway (reading tech sites etc).
Over time, once I got into a routine, I reintroduced personal stuff/kit into my work space, and although my productivity took a bit of a drop, I also knew I could fully focus on work if I had to.
WFH is not for everyone, and nor are Open Plan offices. The thing is, as many have already said,
you need to find what works for you... We're all different ("I'm not!") and employers should acknowledge that if they want to retain good talent.
I’ve been back in an office for about six months now, and even with the noise and potential for distraction, I find I get more done there.
Could just be the change that I am benefiting from. 10 years is a long time for anything.
It's fine that lots of people here have the opposite opinion, but they shouldn't assume that their opinion is objective truth.
See, this is exactly what's wrong with open plan offices in most places. If a CEO honestly believes open plan is better for collaboration, then they need to eat their own dog food. That CEO needs to be sitting right in the middle of things. If they find they can't get anything done as a consequence of the collaboration they are in the right place to take action to fix that. And if they are able to achieve productive outcomes, they are also in the right place to argue against people who say it's not possible. Letting upper management avoid all the downsides of the open plan layout causes problems with it to fester and will bring overall worker satisfaction and productivity down. In short, it is bad management to treat management in a special way.
Then, I got to travel to a QUIET remote office with only 10 workers and no noise generators for a high-stress, deadline-critical project. The headaches disappeared immediately. When I got back to my normal, headache-inducing office, I clocked the baseline noise level at 50-60 dB.
Any company that thinks those things are a valid solution to noise issues is very, very wrong.
It's hard for me to believe that there are techies who haven't ever heard of Peopleware, have never heard of Joel Spolsky and his FogBugz offices, and have never consulted even a single authority on what makes software developers productive. It's even harder to believe that those people are responsible for diverting giant sums of money towards making palatial office buildings that will house thousands of such developers.
For what it's worth, Atlassian's NYC headquarters is… our Fog Creek offices, complete with private offices for coders. More about that here: https://medium.com/make-better-software/apple-is-about-to-do...
(Source: I'm the CEO of Fog Creek.)
so I'd be surprised if it hosts a signficant percentage of their development workforce. As far as I know their Sydney office is really the heart of their operation and it's very open plan.
Here's what that's like:
You're looking at your monitor and in your peripheral vision, just above your monitor, is someone looking at their monitor. You're basically looking at each other.
They answer their mobile with their head phones on.
It looks like they're looking at you and you never saw their subtle click on the inline toggle below your view.
Person on mobile points to their earbud to indicate they're not talking to you.
Later the same person gets an email that pisses them off and exclaims, "Are you fucking kidding me?"
It looks like they're scowling at you.
All day. Everyday. Fun times!
Hmm, I wonder why?
Where are the white boards to write notes on?
I guarantee in a matter of months engineers will cover all those clear glass walls with posters and other things to block out all the obnoxious sunlight that will be coming in to blind them on their screens.
Other nit-picks, will Apple no longer all engineers the option to pick their own chairs? Those in the photos look like generic shitty conference room chairs and not ones I'd want to spend all day on.
Also, are those not sit/stand desks?
Assuming the cubicles are walled off, it'll just feel like a college library meeting room.
1. No separators -- you see everyone, everyone sees you. All the time.
2. No separators between neighboring desks, thus every flinch your colleague next to you makes distracts you.
3. No shelves and drawers. Where do you put all your papers, books?
4. At least based on the pictures, reflections of light, coming from every single angle.
5. The tables are way too small. There is just no space for multiple monitors to be put at a reasonable distance, which fucks up the eyes really fast.
I hate that if I want quiet I can't have my monitors, keyboard, or mouse. And if I want those I'm sitting directly next to the loud and noisy office cafeteria between my very loud teammates.
This is _after_ I asked for a quiet location and they told me "it doesn't matter cause you never sit at your desk anyways" even though everytime they move me I find _one_ quiet spot and sit in it until the next move. But even if I sit there _every day for months_, apparently "I don't sit at my desk".
Combine that with a "no WFH" policy, commuter trains that have been declared to be in a "state of emergency" by our Governor Cuomo, and a no reimbursement for headphones policy and it's no shocker our retention rate is absolutely abysmal.
I just do not understand who thought to themselves "well, we're gonna have to hire a bunch of very talented people who need to abstract extremelt complex data flows day after day, so I suggest we put them in the middle of a _fucking zoo_".
I find myself constantly exhausted by days end as my brain copes with constantly trying to churn out work while being inundated by constant distractions and blasting music.
How about the people who come up behind you and shake your chair while you're in the middle of things to get your attention when you _don't even know they're behind you????_
Or the people who see someone with their headphones on and just walk up and start chatting away, because why could what I was focusing on be important, it's just a quick question, what's it matter if I get jarred out of my workflow?
Open offices are an absolute fucking travesty. I will never work in one again after this job.
Compare that to when I work from home, I get more done, I don't feel bad about resting for twenty minutes and coming back refreshed, my ears don't hurt, I'm not exhausted.
What a shit show.
Edit: I very rarely swear in my hacker news posts, but the amount of stress and misery and grief these layouts gives me, some one who just absolutely loves engineering complex software solutions... it kills me.
Remember being in college, up late night, working on some project, and you look up and four hours had gone by without you noticing? Remember that flow? That rapture? That concentration?
Now ask all your open office colleagues how many of them ritually experience that same solace, that same unbelievable connection with the work and problem you're solving. Why in gods name would you hire people who could experience that and rip it all away from them? Why would you make it impossible to get there?
I have worked in a similar situation, you DID get used to it quite quickly.
>A section of workspace in the circular, Norman Foster–designed building is finally move-in-ready: sliding-glass doors on the soundproof offices, a giant European white oak collaboration table, adjustable-height desks, and floors with aluminum-covered hinged panels, hiding cables and wires, and brushed-steel grating for air diffusion.
>The first prototype was ready in the summer of 2010, with pictures of trees on either end of the central area to evoke the landscaping and proximity to the outdoors. Jobs himself set the precise dimensions of the openings from one end of the central area to the other. The team quickly discovered that early versions of the small offices on each side of the central area were noisy—sound bounced off the flat wood walls. Foster’s architects suggested perforating the walls with millions of tiny holes and lining them with an absorbent material. In the completed section of workspace, Ive snaps his fingers to demonstrate the warm sound it creates.
Sounds like (pun intended) that they've made it more like a concert hall. Instead of white noise with all the reflections you get to hear everyone in your jail block, er, work area nice and clearly.
I personally find that hearing a clear conversation beside me to be a bigger distraction as I tend to "lock on" to it instead of thinking of the problem at hand. So your damned either way, loud but more noise like or quieter but more distracting.
Here in Australia all new offices are equipping standing desks for OH&S laws and workspace regulation compliances.
Open office floor plans are the worst.
Definitely a negative to productivity on my individual work because it's so much noisier in here.
>Before drawing the plans for its new Santa Teresa facility, IBM violated all industry standards by carefully studying the work habits of those who would occupy the space. The study was designed by the architect Gerald McCue with the assistance of IBM area managers. Researchers observed the work processes in action in current workspaces and in mock-ups of proposed workspaces. They watched programmers, engineers, quality control workers, and managers go about their normal activities. From their studies, they concluded that a minimum accommodation for the mix of people slated to occupy the new space would be the following:
- 100 square feet of dedicated space per worker
- 30 square feet of work surface per person
- noise protection in the form of enclosed offices or six-foot high partitions (they ended up with about half of all professional personnel in enclosed one- and two-person offices)
I'll take a cube farm with 5 feet walls any day over an open office.
Open floor plan is reminiscent of those days, but it isn't working. And I cannot figure out why. What's missing? Intensity? Work? Stress? Team building therapy? Or just trust? Whatever it is I hope we figure it out.
In my open plan office I have:
- People walking past my desk
- People walking behind me
- People walking in front of me, over the "wall"
- A team that regularly has stand up meetings behind me
- Coworkers that talk loudly at their own desks, near mine
- Coworkers that talk loudly in a small more private area, ~10ft away
- A small meeting room with a door that doesn't isolate noise very well
- A kitchen ~20ft away with a loud espresso machine
Plus, I'm in a large room and can hear conversations up to 50ft away. Given the number of people, there's nearly always one happening.
In a library, you've got a quiet space with an expectation that people will keep their voices down. Study desks often have high walls in the front and to the sides, to block out visual noise. They're also often isolated from major traffic areas.
Libraries are designed to optimize intellectual work and study, open plan offices are absolutely not.
In the company's mind, everyone in the office is there to focus on exactly the task at hand all the time. In reality, it comes in spurts and each person has those at different times. When people are in there unfocused, they just distract the people who are focused.
But I think it also helps that most of the other people in the library are probably strangers, and if a couple of them are talking it's probably about something quite different from what you're working on.
"Team" conversations that might possibly be relevant to your stuff are the worst distractions.
If you want to focus on your work and take breaks to do the rest you go to the library.
I always chose the coffee shop, so open offices don't bother me hugely. The caveat is that a good pair of headphones is a must.
This is the key thing--our brains process familiar and unknown voices differently. Recognition of a familiar entity and the ensuing reactions are automatic, and they all have a processing cost.
In the workplace, they are, unless you have an office with a door you can close.
There's a pretty happy medium, 2-10 person offices (with 4-5 being the most common size) with glass walls. Google used to have a lot of these before completely open plans became en vogue, and it was very rare to hear complaints. They allow frequent interaction with your most common collaborators while blocking out conversations from distant teams. They reduce visual distraction while still allowing in lots of natural light and inviting conversation. Doors were usually left open, so it was pretty comfortable to walk into another office and start up a conversation.
With the giant, open, chicken-farm style floorplans, people feel too self-conscious about dozens of people overhearing to have small 2-3 person conversations near their desks, which means more formal meetings with all the associated overhead, and fewer impromptu questions like "hey does anyone know of a tool to do X?" And then you're still more distracted anyway due to all the typing, people walking by, large groups being loud when gathering to eat lunch or go to a meeting together or whatever.
I only see two advantages of completely open floors: slightly cheaper (glass offices can be made almost as dense, but not quite, and I guess the glass partitions aren't free), and better circulation to dissipate bad odors more quickly.
Any Apple employees interested in this should contact Maciej Ceglowski on Signal at +1415-610-0231.
Also isn't "unionizing" a quick way to get a black mark in Silicon Valley? I vaguely remember Michael O. Church was essentially exiled just for accusations of unionizing.
- keeping user history around forever
- donating more from the company PAC to Republicans than Democrats
- keeping engineers in open plan offices
- providing services to election campaigns of anti-immigrant politicians
- not paying the same amount of money to men and women for the same work
- provide less-than-livable wages to cafeteria staff
Is to form a union and strike or negotiate for more worker-friendly policies.
Notably no one is suggesting striking for higher engineering wages, just the avoidance of bad policy and a say in the company's future direction.
As to your second point, I can't speak to that, other than to say it's illegal to retaliate against someone for discussing or organizing to form a union.
I urge anyone interested in learning more to contact me or coworker.org, who have experience running successful employee campaigns, and understand the tech world well.
Oh, such a wonderful working environment. To have the privacy and isolation from distractions and interruptions that a cubicle gives. What I wouldn't give to work in such a great office space.
Management loves open plans because it's the cheapest seating arrangement. They claim that it will increase collaboration while exempting themselves from having to deal with the environment. The truth is that just being able to see someone without walking over to their desk isn't going to magically make you communicate with them more or make your output higher. Some people like open floor plans but it's been my experience most people don't and just grin and bear it while slowly dying inside.
And notice how managers always arrange to have their screens hidden from others view, while most people feel a constant sense that someone is looking at their screen.
This is just an overused cover-up story to avoid stating the real reasons which is cutting costs and monitoring employees.
They use "collaboration" so that you can't voice your opposition to it easily.
If you do that they will beat you with the "not a team player" and "not a culture fit" sticks.
Then in reality unhappy employees sit next to each other with noise cancelling headphones whose job has been unnecessarily harder than it already is because now a part of their mental focus and capacity is actively going towards ignoring distractions.
One office, with desks for 80% of the staff (because the other 20% need to take the hint and resign). Each desk only has one monitor, keyboard, and a mouse. If you've got certain ergonomic requirements, or need a colour accurate monitor, or a large monitor, or several monitors then you're just a naysayer who is obviously not productive enough to understand the ways of the future.
No one 'has' a desk, instead you grab your laptop out of your locker each morning and go find one. Or you might be allocated a desk via a morning raffle, not sure on this one yet. At the end of each day you clean every surface with alcohol wipes, which you then queue up to place in the singular bin that services the 300ish staff. Anyone who sits at the same desk twice will have to complete "Activity Based Working" training, in much the same way intoxicated road users may attend a DUI class.
There will also be no car parks for staff, who are being encouraged to use public transport. The fact that this public transport doesn't actually exist yet is just a "growth opportunity", but who's growth we're referring to here is not yet clear.
This might all sound like a joke, but the sad thing is it's 100% serious. Literally all of the above has been set in stone by minister that our department reports to.
Because private offices offers control over your working environment; if you need to collaborate, use a conference room, if you need a quick discussion, call them up on Slack.
I'm not going to touch wether or not the CEO has earned the best working environment, but let's bring attention to the fact that the CEO is promoting less control over your working environment for his employees and claim open-office plans offers all kinds of benefits, while the C-level management chooses to opt out. Either that's very noble of them to sacrifice all the benefits of open-office, or they're being a bit disingenuous about why almost everyone else gets an open-office plan.
Why don't they want to be as productive and collaborative as their reports? Conference rooms and phone rooms are just as available to them as they are to the rest. They can probably even afford much better head phones than the rest.
I just don't see enough of a difference to justify it.
Say you need to be on the phone all day talking about privileged information like the upcoming earnings call or a major business deal. Even at lower levels than that, maybe someone wants to come to you in private with a complaint or maybe you need to tell someone they're underperforming. You could do these things in meeting rooms like everyone else but if you're doing it 75% of the time you're working, you may as well have a private meeting room (i.e. office).
There's also security. People with higher privileges have more sensitive information that needs to be better protected. Yes workstations should be encrypted and confidential paper documents shouldn't be laying around the office but defence in depth is a thing.
Efficiency is another concern. The time of people at a certain level is extremely valuable and it can be wasted on suboptimal collaboration. Their time needs to be planned very carefully.
And finally, it's just a perk.
When I had my own office, I was able to do things like coordinate health care, talk to my wife, and eventually the divorce lawyers, but with the knowledge that I could close my door and have privacy - now I have to escape to a staircase to have a private conversation.
Plus, I'm terribly annoying to be around. From my mechanical clicky keyboard to a desk overflowing with artifacts and fidgets of various ilk, sharing a workspace means subjecting everyone else to my idiosyncrasies, mumblings and offensive body oder.
From what I've observed of such high performers, they are not anti-social nor anti-collaborative, nor are they "crippled" in either respect. Rather, many of them are the most capable in these areas, because they actually pay attention and focus on getting things done -- and done as well as time and resources allow.
The fact that Apple, like many workplaces I've observed, chooses to ignore this and push a paradigm that increases their stress and decreases their effectiveness and efficiency?
Well, as I learned in my own experience, over the years: This is just a fundamental level of dis-respect.
I don't know anything about Apple work internals, specifically; the last time I intersected with those peripherally was in the early '90's.
But when you blatantly disregard what employees tell you -- and in this case, "professional" employees who have a high degree of training and awareness about the tooling they need, including their work environments, to be most effective. Well, that's just disrespect.
And employers who persistently engage in such, deserve what they get. I hope -- because at some point, this counter-productive... "ideology" needs to die.
P.S. Those employees that want cubicles or open-space? Fine, give it to them. I don't want to dictate environment, either way.
Trust your employees to select what works best for them.
And measure the results. Objectively, not in the typical performance review ex post facto rationalization and justification.
In my own experience, top performers cautiously (politics) leapt at the chance to work from home and otherwise gain undistracted blocks of time to adequately focus on complex problems and program management.
Those who embraced the cycle of endless meetings, interruptions -- including environmental -- and superficially-addressed delegation? They faced the same problems, month after month, cycle after cycle.