Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Apple staffers reportedly rebelling against open office plan (bizjournals.com)
405 points by V99 164 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 391 comments



Working in open office plans is simply awful.

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.


No, it’s not simple.

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.


If you are a developer who has to check in code, then you need a quiet place for focused work. You can try to argue that some developers don't need that, but those who can achieve peak concentration while context switching and talking to others are biological curiosities, if they exist at all. I haven't met anyone like that.

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.


Hypothetical scenario here:

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.


That five minute question may well save you an hour of work, but it's just as likely - I'd say_more_ likely - to steal an hour of productivity from the person you ask.

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.


Agreed. I think teams need the discipline to _not_ just turn around and start talking, but to message on Slack/etc. However, once that has been done, having the person right next to you can make the process of answering the question much quicker and easier when they are ready.


That's the theory of why open plan is good.

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.


Interrupting other people to ask your question doesn't mean that you are engaging in collaborative coding. Collaborative coding in the sense you describe, doesn't really exist. What does exist is multiple people working on the same project, with their code communicating via interfaces, etc. Each person needs quiet focused time to do that.

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.


But there is the whole glass castle principle you forgot to me too. That 5 minute break does not take 0 minutes to recover from in some cases. You need to rebuild your glass castle in your head over and over again. So in reality it might take just as much time to go back to full productivity.


The main problem is that everyone around you hears the question and the answer. This can create more discussions but it probably disturbs a lot. Especially when you place different teams in the same open space. Suddenly you are disturbed by all kinds of discussions that has very little to do with _your_ job.

I basically think it disturbs more with questions in an open space than when you go over to a cubicle/room.


Reducing interruptions from people is a feature; not a bug. Maybe you would only do it when it would save you an hour; more commonly, people have a much lower "interrupt someone trying to work" threshold.


Civilized people use email or whatever is the asynchronous communication medium du jour


save it up and ask them at lunchtime


I've wasted entire days answering a few five minute questions and not being able to get anything done. IF you have a question, email me and I'll look at it when I can and maybe arrange a time to talk about it. Being randomly interrupted because it will save an hour of your time means I'll never get any work done at all (and get none of the credit for your work).


How would pair programming work? Wouldn't that contribute to a noisy environment as the two developers talk to each other?

I don't like large open plan offices, but I think a small room just for my team (6 devs) would be helpful.


> If you are a developer who has to check in code, then you need a quiet place for focused work

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.


> When I need to buckle down and get some 'serious developing' going on, I just put on some headphones

More proof that a noisy "collaborative" environment is not conducive to work that requires deep concentration.


>When I need to buckle down and get some 'serious developing' going on, I just put on some headphones

by "serious developing", I'm guessing you mean "actually programming".


those who can achieve peak concentration while context switching and talking to others are biological curiosities, if they exist at all

You've just described everyone who has ever programmed against the clock in a hollywood movie.


> 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.

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.


In my experience, non-managers are all 2nd class citizens. Given the option to remote full time for 5 years at company A vs. be in the office full time at company B and be a 1st class, 2nd class citizen, I'll chose A.


The trade-off is the medium-sized office: a room containing up to six people who are all part of the same team.

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.


Noooo! You still get the chatter and it's harder to ignore if it's familiar people talking about semi-relevant stuff.

Also, it cements the idea that things are done by teams, not individuals.


Things are done by teams. They are also done by individuals within those teams, but any given feature is likely to have quite a few fingerprints on it.


Yes, this can work well. You still have to be careful and not mix people that has to do a lot of phonecalls or loud discussions in the same room as developers.


That's a good middle-ground in my experience, if a larger hybrid office space isn't possible.


I think if a company offered an open office plan with the option to remote full time, you might be the only person in the office. :)


I own/run a co-working space which is almost entirely open plan. Many people here elect to work in this sort of environment rather than at home. People use headphones if they need to focus.

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.


Out of curiosity, what percent of them are developers?


3-5 are programming. Others are architects, marketers, etc.

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.


isn't a factor that the "open office" subscription costs typically an order of magnitude less than the private office?

(thinking of wework)


Apple has a lot of experience with people working in offices. You'd think this experience would inform the "pod" design. But they also do high fidelity prototypes, at least for product.

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.


And when you've built this office and nobody chooses to work in the open office?


Then you haven't done your homework by talking to your people and should be ashamed that you have designed it like that.


If you're working for a much-desired company rather than building crusty wordpressers then that "home 10 min bike away from the office" is going to cost you more than half your salary


It's sort of telling how far out of my way you went to form an argument against something you manifested all by yourself.

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.


For you. I have a really long commute, and I can work from home if I'd like. I still prefer coming in to my open-plan office. I think his point was that it's not this simple for everyone, even if it is for you.


You are allowed to have your opinion on what it's like to work in various kinds of offices. I absolutely, 100% accept that people have different working styles, and one of those styles is those who prefer to work in a more isolated fashion.

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.


Sure, sure. I only rejected the implication that I was somehow ignorant of the factors involved and just la lala painting with a broad brush of simplicity and righteousness that was somehow at odds with your perceptions. Apart from that I'm pretty much in agreement with your opinion. The reality, for most, is that remote is still the black sheep of options and that only if it's an option. I have zero against an open office plan if those that provide them embrace all the options. I am fortunate enough to have exactly this situation. I have a haul into the (open plan) office, which I love (the haul), mostly because I have three pedals and fast roads but the burning of a few of the days hours to get there and back is more wasteful than not. Far too many are put into the position of long commutes and, omfg, astronomical costs of living to get just a teensy bit closer. I think my only real point, apart from providing just another opinion, was that if capable employers embrace these options in totality then the human condition could be a bit better off for it - open plans or not.

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?


I totally see the issue with open offices, especially if they're densely populated. But I think home office has certain shortcomings as well: Communication quality is not as good over video or text chat as IRL, nuances are missed more easily and sharing a whiteboard is harder. In addition, I have the impression that some people slack off much more because they feel "unwatched".


If employees are measured correctly, it is impossible to slack off. In engineering, measuring hours is silly, measuring output and throughput is what determines performance.


And what do you propose is the correct way of collecting these measurements?


I think by defining a set of metrics and company principles that employees can measure themselves against. Furthermore, by taking into account peer evaluations which reflect on how valuable you are to your team.

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.


Results. Delivery of requested work products on schedule with quality.


> Results. Delivery of requested work products on schedule with quality.

Because we all know that software estimation is a solved problem. Particularly with non-technical managers.


>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
  then?
You can do estimates without thinking they're accurate enough to let you detect high- and low-performing employees.

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.


If you actually had solved this problem you'd be a trillionaire, alas.


LOC /s


You measure your output in lines per second?! It's clear you are more productive than me then.


/s is the way to say you're being sarcastic on Reddit. So they probably meant that lines of code measurements are popular, while they shouldn't be.

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.


at a risk of dropping below the HN value threshold:

whoosh


I got it and appreciate the mutation of my statement.


I mean you know who is good in your team don't you? It doesn't have to be on a spreadsheet, qualitative results still count.


I generally agree but without some set of metrics/principles to measure against it can become a contest of favorites easily.


>it can become a contest of favorites easily.

I'm afraid that is unavoidable. Any metric you track can and will be gamed before the first collection period.


I work most efficiently when I don't have the stress of having the amount of work I'm doing measured. In my experience the more trust given by the employer that employees are working, the better and greater the output.


If I make 90K a year salary for a company and contribute significantly to projects that bring in > 1,000,000 and increase efficiency and deploy times to hours instead of days as one of my functions then the days I slack are paid for.

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 don't need your corporate propaganda and hustle.

- 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


I know I'm weird, but I don't recall ever in my career wanting to use a whiteboard


I hear they are great for asking how merge sort works during interviews for a CRUD application.


I've used one precisely once in my career to date and that was only to make modifications to something someone else had already done on there.

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...


I do use it from time to time, especially when trying to get a common understanding about a fairly complex problem with other devs.


I'm a Solutions Engineer and whenever I have to get on a sales call or demo at my desk it's a disaster - it's simply far too loud and too much background noise is heard on the call.

This is just one more complaint in a long-list that I have with this arrangement. Makes me miss my cube!


Why not use a headset? They work really well at blocking out background noise (we use the plantronics ones). Worth every cent.


Those don't block out your sound, the others in the same room still hears you and get disturbed.



Can you use a conference room?


Speaking as a designer who works close with devs. I think a lot of people championing remote work who are remote workers themselves don't seem to realise how frustrating it is working with them.

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.


Interrupting someone at their desk might take 20 seconds of your time, but it is easily a 10-minute interruption of their work.


I work remotely too and I often think about how much this has reduced my environmental footprint. It would be interesting to see some figures on how much of a positive impact it has.


I worry about how much it increases my environmental footprint. I have an entire house of climate control being used for the sake of one person. I have lights in the house being used for one person. Sure I don’t commute by car, but I’m willing to bet commercial HVAC systems are more efficient per person and commercial lighting systems are more efficient per person and all of the other things that go into an office are more efficient per person when they’re being shared by 100+ other people.

I haven’t done any math on it, but it’s something I do worry about.


This depends on a number of factors, including where you live and how long your commute is.

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.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_California


Turn off your central and get a window unit and a desk fan for your home office. I don't run central most of the time because it's expensive.

You could always cool of the way God intended, sweat your ass off. :)


It sounds like most of what you're worried about could be mitigated pretty simply.

Use a smaller heater, solar panels, LED globes etc.


I mostly work from my home, which is self-sufficient for water (rain tanks) and heating (firewood), produces its own electricity (solar), has its own septic, produces some of our fruit and veggies and all of our eggs, with virtually no food waste that is not fed to the animals and low amount of landfill waste (you really think about it when you take it to the tip yourself). I occasionally commute to the local coffee shop by bicycle, or drive to the beach, and work digital-nomad style on mobile internet.

Then I jump on a plane to my employer's office every few weeks.

I wonder how that stacks up?


Depending on how far you going (size of the aircraft and its occupancy) it is like driving all the way to your employer in a car that gets 2.4L/100Km [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_economy_in_aircraft#1.2C0...


Well that is way better mileage than my car gets so at least I know I'm getting there in the most efficient way.


Train!


Environmental arguments are silly when living near the office will likely use public transport and remote workers are usually out in the countryside so will likely use 2 cars extensively compared to a city worker using public transport 100% of the time.


> remote work

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.


Have a kid or know someone who does? Get that kid to do the work at all 3 houses. That way only noise one at a time and probably after school 3-5pm-ish


Open office plans are awful, but I hate remote work. It's nearly impossible for me to concentrate at home, and being able to get facetime with collaborators as and when it's needed is valuable.


Nah, it's fine. If it gets noisy, put on headphones or go sit in a different place for a few hours. Individual offices can be awful and isolating. Cubes can be an acceptable compromise but it still kills a lot of spontaneous conversations.

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 don't want to gel or socialize with my colleagues. I want to work with them. If we become friends, we can socialize outside of work.

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.


> A few emails, echats, and meetings are sufficient.

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.


"Nah, it's fine."

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)


Just use mothballed planes as offices. A steward could come down the isle every couple hours and give us snacks and drinks. When the build breaks, they can turn off the air as punishment.

Hook them into some sort of huge ferris wheel, saves on space and keeps attrition low.


And have a mandatory seat belt rules, and disallow restroom 45 min after work begin and 45 before end of work time.


You are contradicting yourself. More interaction leads to more noise and now you are advising people to put headphones on or leave the place entirely. How are you supposed to culturally gel and socialize under such conditions?


I strongly feel the best option (if remote work is not a possibility) is individual offices with team designated collaborative work areas. This allows people to quasi self organize, with the default option being that they have their own space.


And for those that find headphones distracting and for which there isn't a viable "somewhere else?" Such casual dismissal.


Sadly, I'm still looking for headphones that can be comfortably worn over my ears + glasses for more than an hour at a time. In-ear ones have other comfort issues.


I expect this will depend a lot on your frames - if the arms on your glasses are thick it'll be more inclined to squish into your head.

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).


Yep, I also have this problem. The only (wired) headphones that are big enough to fully circumvent your ears and thus comfortably sit for an hour or more, is the Sennheiser HD 558. Unfortunately, it's wired.

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.


Look up the Sennheiser Bluetooth ones.


I have a set of Razer Krakens that are pretty comfortable even if I wear them all day, and I wear glasses.


> If it gets noisy, put on headphones

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.


So I'm supposed to pack up my computer, a couple of monitors, my notebooks and stationary and move it all whenever the noise levels are distracting me from focussing?

Sounds efficient.


As someone who has never worked from a private office or classical cubicle I tend to agree, but maybe I just haven’t had a chance to experience the productivity explosion that comes with those options.

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.


IMO it depends on the job. Open floor plans are good for ops roles and some front end roles where teams of people are engaged in substantially similar work driven, especially event driven work.

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.


Well you can put a team in one room, and a kitchen to cater for several teams - like design studios actually. IMO that's the best balance, but maybe that's a bit luxurious, cattle pen-wise.


> but it still kills a lot of spontaneous conversations.

Yes, I think that's the point.


That's some fine sarcasm you've got there. That said, there are apparently people defending this opinion.


I wouldn't be so quick to think of it as sarcasm.

"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.


"Keep collaborating you peasants."


Are you sure your parent post is sarcasm? The sad reality of the modern tech industry is that I actually think that is a serious response, though I wouldn't be surprised either way.


If it gets noisy, put more noise into your ears?

> 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.


You should be more wary of Poe's law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law) in the future.


My company only has offices for upper management. Everyone else is at a table. Tables are arranged in groups of four.

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.


Yeah about the headphones. I remember in one workplace when my manager expressed concern that I wasn't interacting and open enough solely because I had headphones on most of the time. What. It never occurred that I needed it to cut down the background noise, just so I can focus on my work? And I thought lunch time is reserved for casual conversations?

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.


Also, all of the people talking about headphones as a solution are sadists. The non-stop ringing in my ears from years of headphone use should serve as a warning that headphones are not a solution.


Or it should serve as a warning that you need to turn the volume down.


Well, I had the volume to a level to eliminate distracting noise. The latter comprised of stand-ups not associated with my team, random interjections, people discussing their dating experiences, scraping of bowls, etc. I guess I was trying to work as best as I could and listening to white noise to drown out the open-office cacophony was my attempt to earn my paycheck. My attempts to complain to the teams and their managers fell on deaf ears. I now have lifelong tinnitus.


I suggest using Hearo's 32 NRR earplugs under the headphones. When people approach to bullshit with you, ignore them for a little bit. If they persist, make a show of taking off the headphones and extracting the earplugs. People will soon learn to leave you alone when you have your headphones on. At least, it worked for me, mostly.


> People will soon learn to leave you alone when you have your headphones on.

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.


If that's the company's reaction, it's time to find another company. I don't use the headphones to ignore colleagues desperate to talk about work out of preference. The comment to which I was responding was specifically about people wanting to shoot the shit. If your company, like you, can't tell the difference, I would say you are well suited to each other and not to work nor work with me.


I've had two different earplugs. I don't remember the first brand, it was close to 20 years ago by now. The second pair is a discontinued Skullcandy. They work well enough but they're not really noise cancelling... more like noise blocking. They're wearing out though. Last week I pulled one out of my ear and it left the rubber piece in my ear. That wasn't fun to fish out.

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.


I owned some QC25s for a while and also found that they're useless when it comes to voices.

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 recently launched Sony MDR1000X does the job for me (and also has a voice-passthrough option that is handy at times). It's around the same price as the Bose.


How long have you had them? Any issues with the headband cracking?


Speaking of price, were you able to get them expensed?


Clarity Aloft. They are ~$700. Pilots use them because they can drown out engine noise (part of the cost is the certification). They are in-ear and do way better than any noise cancelling headphones.


But the QC35 (which I also own) absolutely thrives in that same environment.

The problem is that engine noise is constant where as voices are unpredictable.


My Sennheiser HD280 Pros are pretty good, and as a bonus the cable is durable enough that I can use them to lasso uncooperative coworkers while I'm listening to music.


Good lord, your environment sounds horrific. We have open office plan, but it's quite comfortable because it's spread out enough, and traffic is fairly low.


Visual distraction is very real when trying to focus.


Visual distraction is the second worst, IMO, with noise in third.

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.


Where I currently am (I'm a consultant, based mostly in various client offices), the floor has a lot of flex in it. When people walk past, I can feel it bouncing under my chair.

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.

Come on!

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!


> No proper kitchens for tea-making.

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.


I worked with a twitchy guy in the same office. It was horrible. He would constantly be pumping his foot on the floor, vibrating the entire room. After I asked him to stop a few times, he got out of the habit, but damn, it is distracting.

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.


A big issue for me is the office climate. In an open space there's always going to be people who are too hot or too cold. A healthy 30 percent is going to be miserable at any given setting.


For. Sure. I have difficulty with lively sensory input conditions. In a nutshell I will, by default, listen and hear every conversation within ear-shot. It can be a huge effort when attempting to carry a discussion when among many.

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.


This is one of the biggest problems at our office. We respect the headphone rules fairly well, but we sit like this:

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.


True, this is why I work on a 43" screen in an open office. I can't see ANYTHING but screen!


> some people like open office environments

I don't know of anyone that prefers an open office.


Hi! Personally, I really like working in an open office. I'm in a room of ten desks, all small businesses that have elected to work in this space rather than employees forced to. There is background music playing. People occasionally take calls at their desk if they can't relocate to the meeting room. People use headphones if they want to concentrate.

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.


Managers.

Open office for regular employees, offices for managers.


Younger hires fresh out of college maybe?


I prefer an open office.

Thanks.


> 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.

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.


It could be worse. We've gone to hot-desking with a 10-20% overcommit. Good luck finding somewhere to work in the morning!


If you can work from home, try it. It's not that bad.


I worked from home for 10 years, and I thought it was pretty good. Then my company changed policy and I had to find a satellite office to commute to.

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.


Counterpoint: Working from home is awful. In contrast, open office plans are pleasant.

It's fine that lots of people here have the opposite opinion, but they shouldn't assume that their opinion is objective truth.


Doesn't hurt to try it and find out for yourself. I never said it was a panacea.


That's fair.


it sounds mgmt wants you guys to work from home.


Apple has insisted in presentations to the city of Cupertino that the open floor plan designs are conducive to collaboration between teams, per Bloomberg. But the high-level executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, are exempt from this collaborative environment and have offices on the fourth floor of the new building.

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.


That jumped out at me as well, it's always the folks in a private office touting the virtue of an open plan


possibly irrelevant observation: it was normal to find Steve Jobs eating with Jony Ive among all the employees in Caffe Mac, but I never saw Tim Cook doing so, though he was personable and even kind. Different personality or something...


Hopefully, more and more companies experience backlash from this. It is a horrific mistake to add distracting elements to most programmers environments. Even worse, in my open office plan, they put our very loud finance group right next to us. Absolutely no thought of noise management was considered, except for putting in horrible "white noise" generators that set off my tinnitus Thankfully, my direct manager is understanding and let me turn off the one directly over my head. And by directly over my head, I mean about 4 feet.


I worked for a company that did the noise generator thing. For a long time I couldn't figure out where my headaches were coming from and chalked it up to job-related stress.

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.


Fuck, that sounds awful.

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.


The problem with the Spolsky example is that Atlassian with their huge open-plan offices completely overshadowed Fog Creek in just a few short years.


In some ways. They did raise $60 million, too, which didn't hurt. I think we're doing just fine having a successful business on our own terms.

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.)


The NYC 'headqarters' is not even on their list of locations

https://www.atlassian.com/company/careers

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.


I don't think he is saying Atlassian HQ is _located_ at Fog Creek, but that Atlassian HQ has a similar office plan as Fog Creek, "complete with private offices for coders".



Economic success is not a proxy for doing things properly. Many dysfunctional companies are very successful otherwise.


I don't think that's a problem, more a question of leadership's priorities.


It all seems so backwards. Instead of having collaborative working spaces with private rooms for meetings, doesn't it make more sense to have private rooms for working and collaborative meeting spaces?


The WSJ story has some pictures of what it looks like [1]. There seems to be offices with doors, but they look like it seats about 20 people. There are also common areas with long tables between them.

https://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-UF776_0817CO_1...

https://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-UF775_0817CO_1...

https://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-UF777_0817CO_1...

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-jony-ive-masterminded-apple...


Oh boy, two desks facing each other with low walls.

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.

"Hey"

It looks like they're looking at you and you never saw their subtle click on the inline toggle below your view.

"What's up?"

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.

"Huh?"

"Nothing, sorry."

All day. Everyday. Fun times!


Let's not forget the constant awkward fleeting moments of eye contact with someone you barely know and don't wish to talk to.


Why do you "barely know" the person across from you?? What, no team building budget?


Haha. In my particular case I was at the boundary of two departments. To make things worse, turnover was high.

Hmm, I wonder why?


the quick semi-smile meant to acknowledge the other person without starting a conversation that just makes things more awkward...


Looks like the ministry of information in a sci fi dystopia.


Or a large airport business lounge.


Honestly, given that it's an open floor plan, it looks nice to me.


John Gruber, the blogger mentioned in the article, thought the same thing:

https://daringfireball.net/linked/2017/07/27/video-footage-f...


WOW, Holy Shit! Nothing about that office space looks remotely warm or inviting. Was this really the plan for that new campus all along???

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?


I don't get the complaints, that looks very cozy even if you have to share with what looks like a total of 4 engineers per room which is a reasonable number for collaboration. The second picture makes it look greater than 4, however.

Assuming the cubicles are walled off, it'll just feel like a college library meeting room.


Ok, just at a glance:

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.


6. One person gets sick and sneezes, everyone gets sick.


I basically had to put up with that every day in the college library. I don't mind glass offices until I get the itch to pick my nose. I get that the optimal environment for programming work is at home or in a private office, but they did what they could at what appears to be an economical compromise. I agree with the desk space, there doesn't appear to be any room for an external monitor at all.


Pick your nose and pick it boldy. Catch someone watching you pick your nose? Just pull out a booger and start examining it. Make them feel uncomfortable for staring at you doing a perfectly normal thing.


The thing about the college library is everyone knows that you're supposed to be quiet there. Open offices, I find, are much more akin to the dormitory cafeteria than the library.

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?


What a joke. Now I love my large private cube even more, lol.


Surely they will put monitors or machines in there, so there will be separators.

I have worked in a similar situation, you DID get used to it quite quickly.


Cozy? Looks more like a morgue to me.


Looks like an Apple store. Bet it's going to be as noisy as one.


The WSJ story says the offices are soundproof:

>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.


That would be nice if people had private offices but it looks like a dozen or so to each enclosed area.

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.


Those desks on the renders don't look like standing desks, but rather height adjustable desks.

Here in Australia all new offices are equipping standing desks for OH&S laws and workspace regulation compliances.


These are actually way nicer than I expected. I've seen much more distracting open office layouts.


I suspect the thought process is something like, "Collaboration makes the office more productive. Therefore, if we force the employees to collaborate all the time, we can maximize productivity!"


The most productive days I've ever had at my current employer -- by a significant margin --- were when most of the company was not present (off-site or holiday). Being able to come in those days and work in a distraction-free environment was amazing.

Open office floor plans are the worst.


RIP July 5th when no one came into the office. I'll miss you till next year.


My company moved engineering into the same open office as sales and customer support, we can collaborate with everyone all the time!

Definitely a negative to productivity on my individual work because it's so much noisier in here.


Yes, they put our desks right next to finance, with that one person who is our "laugh really loud, laugh at everything and I mean _everything_" person.


We should make an audio output for our build scripts to play a really loud woodchipper sound. "Sorry, can't be helped, part of the process, the machine has to grind the source code up into small bits to fit into the CPU."


At least that way you can hear the sales staff selling features that have not been developed yet.


I suspect it's much simpler than that. Open floor plans give less square footage per person so you get more people per building. It's just cheaper to build open floor plans.


The "it's cheaper" argument for open-plan offices only really works when the company hasn't spent $5bn+ on the building. They could probably have quadrupled the floor space for the same price.


They'd have to sacrifice their avant garde spaceship design, though.


This is enabled by the fact that, despite how hard we try, we don't actually know how to track productivity, say nothing about changes in it that can be traced back to organizational decisions, or have anything approaching a model of productivity so that we might start to have predictive capability for how decisions impact it. So lacking a real metric that means anything, we cling to the ones that don't and as long as the lines move in the right direction nobody cares.


We've known, at least since the 80s, the aproximate amount of space people need to work effectively. Chapter 9 of Peopleware [1] talks specifically about this:

An excerpt:

>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)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peopleware:_Productive_Project...


You and I both know that no MBA with delusions of grandeur is going to pay attention to Peopleware.


Collaboration is essentially contention, like CPU threads racing for the same memory location, needing synchronization. Synchronization kills parallelism.


Depends what you mean by "make sense". If you mean save money on office space per square ft, probably not. If you mean fit into Jony Ive's elite design sensibility, also probably not.



It's really kind of amazing to me how in 20 years we've gone from laughing at the cacophonous, claustrophobic, diseases-transmission-inducing, open office plans of other economic regions (ex: the traditional Japanese office http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-CadIFZ3h638/T7yGtzdxVDI/AAAAAAAABe..., or the Wall Street trading floor), to precisely emulating their layouts (with better superficial aesthetic design), inheriting both their economic efficiency and productivity inefficiencies.

I'll take a cube farm with 5 feet walls any day over an open office.


Historically, a cube farm is an open office plan in architectural lingo. About twenty years ago, there was a movement toward movable furniture and hotelling and removing the cubical walls. For what it's worth cubicles were generally considered an improvement on grid layouts of desks.


I worked at Apple during the years when the company designed and built its first campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino. As I recall, Apple R&D employees were considered stakeholders and participated in the design of the interior spaces. Apple wisely decided to give each engineer a private office. There were open areas near the offices with comfortable furniture and whiteboards for engineers to meet and collaborate. I worked in one of these buildings from 2001-2007, and I can confirm that the work areas were beautifully designed and ideal for fostering productive work. It's sad to hear that Apple apparently abandoned this approach in its new campus.


Yes. The Infinite Loop space was designed really well, and each of the buildings was somewhat different with some character.


Ah! I noticed this interior layout in more than a few buildings but didn't realize the backstory. Thanks for posting!


Interesting. When I display my threads in HN, this comment is now hidden. Why?


I am fairly close to someone who works at Apple. His team is avoiding the new spaceship building. He mentioned wanting to keep his office, but that was just one part of several different complaints, including just "it turns out that the building isn't big enough for most of the people who work at the HQ in Cupertino," and "My team would probably have to split up in awkward ways because not everyone would be able to work in the spaceship (due to space constraints)."


The building looks gigantic but most of it is empty space due to the donut shape. I wonder if they plan to ever build in the middle.


Man, I remember in college when we would be working long hours in the library on a computer lined up in a row of computers. Every one would be intensely working on what they needed to. Sometimes two would work together. This was especially true before presentations when we were trying to put our stuff together. It was neat. It was collaborative. It was fun. And we were happy.

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.


Perhaps it's the expectation of near silence (you might work together but you'll keep your voice down) and lack of visual noise in the library?

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.


IMHO, I think what's missing is focus. In college, people in the library were there to get stuff done and would leave when they were done or needed a break. In today's workspace it's less likely that everyone is completely focused on doing work every hour of the 8 to 5 work day, and that's what creates distractions.


You nailed it.

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.


For one thing, I'm guessing you didn't do all your work there, only specific things for short time periods. If you worked in that environment all day every day, the fun would wear off eventually. Also, as people relax, they'll get noisier.


Probably the fact that in a library, there is a cultural expectation of quiet, built over the years by librarians shushing loud people. Thus, if you want a quiet place to work, you go to a library. I need a librarian in my (open) office.


The comments about library etiquette are on to something.

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.


Agreed - I liken it to my college experience: if you want to eat or drink anything other than water, or talk to other people, you go to the coffee shop.

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.


> ... other people in the library are probably strangers

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.


The default being quiet, and respect for others doing focused work and trying your best to not distract them, was certainly a key ingredient.


In library you are not supposed to make noise. Go outside to have a chat. Proably that helped.


In college, nobody was likely to walk up and interrupt you.

In the workplace, they are, unless you have an office with a door you can close.


Open offices diminish workers to cattle status. Most work, even the kind many developers would not think of as being so, in tech companies requires thoughtfulness often and collaboration less often. I consider open office plans to be disrespectful and an indicator of second-class status.


I also see them as a lack of respect.


Another point of view would be that by having 'senior management' in the same rooms, at the same desks in an open office, they are more human and there's less of a perceived barrier between them and everyone else - which could be seen as a positive.


I've actually seen that reasoning also used in support of these plans. My experience is that these senior leaders rarely occupy their desks. Instead they have permanently reserved meeting rooms or even private offices in addition to their reserved open area desks.


Managers often end up commandeering a meeting room to get around not technically having an office.


Sure, and I wouldn't want meetings taking place at desks anyway as that would be disruptive, but having the CEO at a 'normal' desk like everyone else, and having them there for any time they are doing tasks alone, I think humanises them more.


Headphones are a poor solution to the noise problem in open offices. I find it uncomfortable to wear them for 8 hours at a time, and it means I can't overhear the conversations I do want to overhear. Sitting elsewhere only works if I have a task I can do on a laptop; for serious development work I need a lot of screen real estate. That solution also has the same problem as headphones where I might miss important conversations because I'm too busy hiding from noise created by people doing work completely unrelated to mine.

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.


One solution to this problem would be for Apple employees to form a union and collectively bargain for better working conditions. Probably just threatening to do this would lead to significant concessions.

Any Apple employees interested in this should contact Maciej Ceglowski on Signal at +1415-610-0231.


Interesting you'd recommend him, I enjoy his writing but didn't know he had expertise here. Any reason why?

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.


Maciej (and others) believe the best way to get your company to stop doing things you may not like:

- 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.


Forming a union is a big step. You can fight for these things through concerted collective action, and still enjoy most of the protections of labor law (especially against retaliation). The point is to organize so that a large group of employees is speaking with a single voice about the workplace issues that matter most.

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.


I recently watched the movie Office Space.

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.


It's funny that the work environment became worse than Mike Judge imagined it would be in Office Space. Wait till that happens to Idiocracy!


My company recently switched to an open floor plan. It's done nothing but increase distractions and office gossip. Everyone I know tries to get away from their desk as often as possible. Ducking into side rooms, attempting to work from home, and just plain using any excuse to escape the zoo.

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.


It's worse than that, managers like open plan because they can "feel the energy" of people working, subconsciously they want to see all the work being done, and to know who leaves and arrives when.

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.


> open floor plan designs are conducive to collaboration between teams

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.


We're going one step better at my work with our new/future office, "Activity Based Working". All the trappings of "open plan" but with even more features to make Government work more soul-crushing and complicated.

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.


That sounds infuriating. Have you started looking for another job yet? I know I would.


I'm hanging on until I can officially pad my resume with all the office-move stuff (network redesign being a big one), but the second another job comes up after that I'm out there.


"But the high-level executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, are exempt from this collaborative environment and have offices on the fourth floor of the new building."

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.


In (almost) all open office environments, people above a certain level have private offices.

Why?

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.


I don't really buy it but a potential reason is that people above a certain level have a business need for a private space.

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.


I wonder if anyone will make a claim about necessary workplace accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act for ADD/ADHD. I already take medication which makes it almost OK for me to share an office - a recent change for me after 20 years. But I'm still freaked out by someone literally 3 feet away from me. My social anxiety and borderline asperger's really make me seize up until I can be alone in the late afternoon / evening.

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.


Apple has the money to afford whatever it wants. If it's like any other place I've seen, I expect there's longstanding communication of one or another sort from high performers that they want distraction-free environments.

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.


Good architecture does not come from curved glass and 1mm joints between materials. It comes from human habitability. Why build a building that makes people unhappy? It seems to miss the point.


Hubris, narcissism, God complex.


I'll never understand the fascination with firms repeatedly going for the open office plan. I remember seeing pictures from the early 20th century where such offices existed full of people typing away. I don't know how they handled the noise or the fact they couldn't isolate themselves to do their work whether it was repetitive or novel in nature. It just seems like firms think of labor as a singular mechanical process and not as something that's done in an irregular and discoordinated fashion (as I've seen in my personal experience from working in factories and currently working in software development). I really think managerial practices need to update with the facts instead of forcing the facts to fit with their expectations.


Every article I've read about this building in the past has gone to great pains to point out the artistry, elegance and taste that was applied in building it.

I now find it highly amusing that at Apple, form over function won out yet again.


It seems a lot of managers live in that phantasy world where people do nothing but collaborate. Do they really think that code gets written that way?


Managers mark their value by how many meetings they attend. If their calendar is booked all the time (even with pointless meetings) it's because they are valuable.

Developers mark their value by what they create. Unfortunately people tend to think everyone is like them. In this example, managers tend to think since their value is through constant collaboration, they think everyone is valued in the same metric.


That's what the managers have decided...while sitting in their closed-door office meetings.



they heard about git once I guess…


Every single company does this now and it's a fucking nightmare. They'll give you a million useless and stupid perks, but they won't give you a fucking place to actually do work. It's infuriating beyond words.


from the story ... "Prominent Apple podcaster and blogger John Gruber passed along rumors that some high-level Apple staffers are unsatisfied with the company’s open floor plan — which has many company engineers working at long tables with co-workers, instead of in cubicles or offices."

wow, "long tables" for lots of devs to work at, what can go wrong right? and i thought Microsoft open space had its issues, this sounds much worse.

When do people focus again?



At least in those days they didn't pretend like that was a beautiful thing.

Now we have these charlatans who not only want to push these concepts. But also want everyone to acknowledge just how great they are.

And not to mention the proponents are never seen working in one for a single day.

It's only good for the peasants.


Surely, they'll all realize that it takes courage to embrace the office layout of the future?

Jokes aside, this was a problem five years in the making, and as far as I can tell there was no secrecy about the plan. I'm surprised the complaints are only coming now.


And it's such a privilege to participate in the dialog between architecture and society.

(MIT dean of architecture on why inflicting a Frank Gehry building on CSAIL was worthwhile.)


You see ... all that precious space inside the building ... we just can't have private offices if we want to move forward and make great things happen.


I've worked in both, and both have their benefits. However, my evaluation of open office may be biased because we also use slack.

Regarding open office plans: Focus does suffer in an open layout. Creativity does suffer too. In the face of a fire in production, an open office creates a low friction environment for task distribution to handle it. A factor that makes up for this is that we can work from home one day a week. I find these times to allow me to be most creative for planning long term solutions. Occasional remote work is possible and effective thanks to several technologies including Slack.

Regarding individual or paired offices: focus is easy to accomplish, and it is easier to be creative. It can be quiet, but it sure feels lonely when my team members take 3-6 minutes to walk to. Unfortunately, meetings, ad-hoc visits, and email were the communication methods here. Remote work was near impossible and impractical with just email for peer involved processes. This was also in a very corp-legacy environment and my ability to make an impact was unsatisfying. So I feel my creativity was often wasted and unvalued.

Overall, I think I like what I have now, which is mostly open office, but still occasional time for individual creativity.


I knew this was going to happen when I saw some of the office picture/renders a few months back.

Highly relevant article: http://timharford.com/2017/02/what_makes_the_perfect_office/

And for a bit of history about cubicles, their first incarnation was actually a developer's dream: https://www.wired.com/2014/04/how-offices-accidentally-becam...


Bench seating, work tables and open cubicles.

Apple? Famous for not letting their developers talk to people outside the project?


Oh, upper management is even more paranoid than that. It's what made this such a strange move for the company.


Does it maybe work like the Pentagon, where you can't just randomly enter any area?


I hope they win, open offices are the stupidest thing since cubicles.


And yet I would personally prefer cubicles to an open office plan. At least cubicles provide visual interruptions, reduce the overall noise, and provide a space for you to personalize.


I totally agree. Every argument I've heard against cubicles were actually arguments against poor lighting and lack of windows -- a well lit, green, many-windowed office that had cubicles would be much more preferable to open office plans.


Cubicles may be better than open space but offices are still much better



Office Snapshots here.

Direct links to those "hut" images for those interested (many of you). The above link goes to to the entire gallery of images:

https://officesnapshots.com/photos/16797/

https://officesnapshots.com/photos/16765/


As a current Pixar employee, the open office trend has unfortunately spread to our admittedly beautiful campus. You have to be fairly senior to get an office around here, lowlifes like me get stuck in shared open hallways and the like.


Investing in everything but the people who work there.


I don't think that was the intent.

My guess is that this was planned in an era (sadly now) where open space is portrayed as the "cool" way to work.


I'm sure Jony Ive has an office.


Yes. Once I see all the big shots sitting elbow by elbow at a long table the whole day I will revise my opinion about open offices.


Musk and Zuckerberg "sit" among the peasants. It makes for a good photo op but in reality they have to spend very little time at their desk. At that level, they probably spend most of their time in meetings, and even when not, it's not like anyone would chastise them for behaving inconsiderately to other people in the office, or taking over a conference room as their impromptu office.


Same with Jack from Twitter. At that point it's just an empty gesture.


Pretty much, the open space hype seems to have peaked in like 2010-2012, now we live in an enlightened time where even corporate leaders (gasp) are willing to admit different things work for different people.


My company has an open office plan and I feel like the area directly behind my chair was designated as the company's unofficial meeting space, but no one ever told me.


Oh man. About 10 feet behind my chair is where another department likes to have their meetings. And for whatever reason, they also like to stand there and swap gossip about all the employees.

I mean seriously. I DO NOT need to know any of those things. Especially while I am trying to work. Please go away. Of course they talk really loudly too.


In one job, the group mine sat next to all had phone headsets but they liked to join conference calls by one of them putting it on speakerphone and the rest of them shouting at it, some from 20-30ft away.


Ever walked into a Starbucks with those long communal tables and 10 people on laptops, with two people having a conversation, and others walking past every now and then? And you go to get your coffee and turn around, and now you're looking in the direction of 12 people, some of whom look up from what they're doing because they wonder what you're looking at. You go find a place to sit, set down your coffee, get out your laptop, and log in - only for Frank, the retired cab driver who is a regular here, to immediately strike up a conversation with you about "those fuckin' contractors who won't get shit done on my addition".

It's not as cramped or loud, but it is awkward and distracting. It's definitely not the end of the world. But if working in a coffee shop full of people you see every day does not work for you, this is an unproductive floor plan.

They had enough money that they could have built 10 different kinds of workspaces spread out in a building with five times the work space on the same property. Instead they built a hollow glass donut. Because: Steve Jobs.


I will take $20,000 off of my pay if you will give me my own office with a door I can close.


Don't give them any ideas. The whole open office dumpster-fire has probably been a cover to further reduce software engineer salaries. Edit: added probably.


But that's my point: I put a dollar value on an office. I think 20k/year could pay for an office, eh?


Since when has anyone reduced software engineer salaries?


One way I can think of is this (slightly applies to me): when my large company with generous benefits and RSUs went to the open office plan, it (amongst other reasons) caused me to leave. They were likely able to hire more junior staff to backfill (as was their practice) netting them a net reduction in wages.


Everybody arguing for open office plans and stating that they or "some people" thrive in such environments should finally come around to read Peopleware [1].

Although they might base some statements on assumptions I do not fully agree with all the time, and before reading I was had not decided if I was strictly for or against open office plans, their conclusion is spot on: open plans do not foster collaboration or communication. They may cause a constant buzz and seem productive, but nobody will be smart, creative or productive in that environment, compared to a silent, uninterrupted workplace.

All you multitaskers and procrastinators (including me): You are lying to yourself.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Peopleware-Productive-Projects-Teams-...


I might add: I honestly do think we thinkers, developers, programmers, researchers, etc. do not talk enough and communication and exchange is important.

That being said, the open office plan is not the solution to that, it will kill every possibility of focus, and make the lives of people seeking it miserable - because there needs to be communication, but it should not interrupt everyone especially if not actively participating.


I'm happy about German regulations. This would not fly for long in any company with a Betriebsrat ("work council" is apparently the English word) once noise levels get broken.


I'm sitting in an German open-office setup right now. There is nothing in the regulations to forbid these (and most of these Arbeitsschutzgesetze only are applicable to industrial settings).


I have heard that open office plans are justified by decreased cost. Does it make sense that they would build a 5 billion dollar office with open floor plans? I suppose given that large price tag there would be motivation to cut costs that way other than the fact that the open office plan as a fad still exists.


Maybe the justification is density, not cost. The floor space of the spaceship was finalized years ago and maybe Apple is trying to shoehorn more employees into that space.


John Kullmann, who ported OSX from PPC to x86, was able to work from home. I wonder if it's set up so that when you need to get shit done you work from home and when you need to collaborate you visit the spaceship?

Or perhaps only the superstar engineers get to pull that kind of thing.


As I remember, that was a special-case arrangement for some kind of family reason (and after he had worked in Cupertino for several years). There are current Apple engineers with the arrangement you describe though, I know of at least one on Twitter.


Open office spaces is something that will be laughed at in the future.


In the future when I do my next job hunt I'm giving serious extra consideration to any company with private offices or high wall cubes even if the comp is worse. Open office plans suck. It's time these companies start being penalized


I guess there will be two classes of people at Apple. Those with their own office, and those without. Although it has its rough edges, I am becoming a big fan of Swift. I hope Chris Lattner has his own office.


Chris Lattner hasn't been at Apple since leaving for Tesla back in January (he has recently left Tesla, as well).


Just read up on the whole thing. Yes, I remember now that he went to Tesla. I think it is unusual for a programming language guy to do machine learning. Not surprised it didn't work out.


Oops. Maybe he can go back to Apple now :D


I'm ok with an open office, but my job is to be interupted. It's less good for deep thinking jobs, or heavy phone call jobs. Our engineers don't seem to mind though, maybe they just plug in their headsets?

Joel Spolsky wrote about this [1] though his main citation is experience at Microsoft.

I do have to admit Open Floors are a shift for a company focused on secrecy.

[1] https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2008/12/29/the-new-fog-creek-...


> Our engineers don't seem to mind though

Eventually you just seem to attract the people who can tolerate such conditions, or who are happy to keep up the pretense.


I'm sure Jony Ive's office is nice and quiet.


The new building is based on his ID lab.

https://www.cultofmac.com/303396/design-studio-behind-iron-c...


IMO, it is all in the execution. Open offices can be terrible, but they also can be good, just like private offices.

There's a huge difference between a few dozen desks in a bare concrete hall without any dividers between desks or a few dozen desks in a room with sound-dampening dividers between desks and lots of sound proofing on the walls and ceilings.

I work in an open office, and barely hear it when people three meters away make a phone call.


The open office arrangement works for some industries but for others, each company would need to evaluate how specialized their workforce is to choose a suitable arrangement.

I would prefer a glass office with the freedom to have it closed much of the day without any "judgement".

I am developer with an office now, but if i close the door I seem to be keeping people off, and not "social" or "accommodating". Leaving the door open exposes me to a lot of distractions (noise, visual-people walking etc, people just stopping by or spying on me) which are unhealthy and reduce my productivity. I have since learnt to ignore as much distractions as I can.

Working previously in an audit firm, the open space worked well, because there is constant collaboration with multiple audit colleagues and all tasks complement each other hence the need to constantly keep tabs. But in development,if I have my specs or requirements , I don't need to keep in touch unless when giving updates, requesting for a resource, asking fr help or something else that is really pressing.


"Gruber continued, “When he [Srouji] was shown the floor plans, he was more or less just 'F--- that, f--- you, f--- this, this is bulls---.' And they built his team their own building, off to the side on the campus … My understanding is that that building was built because Srouji was like, 'F--— this, my team isn't working like this.’”"

Ya, what that guy said ^^.


My main disappointment with most businesses that implement open office plans has been the lack of choice. Everyone (except management) is expected to work in the open environment regardless of personal preference or the negative way such a setup impacts them.

I personally struggle to be productive in an open office environment, but time has proven that there's very little that I as a non-managerial employee can do about it. I've tried:

- Using noise-cancelling headphones. They kind of work, but I don't want to listen to music all the time (hurts your hearing after too long of exposure) nor do I want to wear them all day (uncomfortable for 8+ hours).

- Moving to quieter locations around the office. Yes things are quieter, but my assigned desk is set up the way I like it - HD monitor, RSI-preventing keyboard + mouse, my Varidesk, etc. If I move to a different location, I lose all of the above and my productivity and happiness suffer.

- Asking for changes (i.e., 1/2 height cubicles). "We'll see," or, "We can't afford that" were the two responses our team got from management despite numerous requests from multiple employees.

In the end, I decided to lobby against open offices the only way I could - by voting with my feet. I quit my job, making sure to share my dissatisfaction with the work environment during my exit interview. I now enjoy a fully-remote development position where I can work from the comfort of my home office.

However, I know there are only so many such jobs and that they're not ideal for everyone, so I come back to my original point: The fact that the vast majority of businesses don't make at least some sort of effort to provide their employees with options for their work environment that will allow them to do their best work is sad. Doing so just seems like common sense, which I guess is really not all that common after all, especially when it comes to open offices.


> Apple has insisted in presentations to the city of Cupertino that the open floor plan designs are conducive to collaboration between teams

Oh, please. A trip to Wikipedia would have told you that[1]:

> A systematic survey of research upon the effects of open-plan offices found […] high levels of noise, stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover. The noise level in open-plan offices greatly reduces productivity, which drops to one third relative to what it would be in quiet rooms.

> Open-plan offices have frequently been found to reduce the confidential or private conversations which employees engage in, and to reduce job satisfaction, concentration and performance, whilst increasing auditory and visual distractions.

Further, open office plans spread disease more readily[2]:

> elevated risks [for disease] were found among employees in all three traditional open-plan offices

An open office floor plan robs you of the ability to control the noise level in the environment. There is literally no way for me to convince enough of my coworkers that they should:

* Either take their phone with them, or silence it if leaving it at your desk.

* Stop having meetings in the aisle immediately next to my desk.

* If you're going to video conference in the meeting rooms, and have the other end at full volume, close the damn door. If you don't know enough about video conferencing to understand what a feedback loop is, and want to spend the first 10 minutes of the meeting generating them, close the damn door. Stop looking at me like I'm rude when I close the door for you.¹

Calling people out gets a typical "oh, sorry", but not an actual change in behavior.

Maybe it encourages me to talk to the team nearby. Maybe. But is it worth the losses? No. (The team next to me is sales. They're not bad people, but they are fairly noisy. (And I'm sure they'd say the same of us, in fact!))

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_plan

[2]: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00140139.2013.871...


Open offices are a direct manifestation of Satan's plan.


We have screen walls (~2 meters) around teams of 2-4 people. I think 2-4 people is a decent compromise, you get friction-less cooperation with the people you work with but you don't get to overhear 20 different conversations about what someone did on their weekend.

I am still bothered by other people's conversations across the screen-walls though, and I prefer to not listen to music all day.

Our CEO is sympathetic to the issue with open offices and maybe if we move to another place it will have a different layout, but converting an open office to separate rooms is not that easy. Does anyone have any suggestions when management would actually accept taking measures to avoid the negatives of open office plans?

Are there 4m high screen walls, with doors..?


they screwed up my award winning office design. common section down the middle with individual offices on opposite walls, large enough for pair programming, one end of the alcove has windows above shelves, other end has multimedia. offices to be used as small conference rooms and manager offices, without windows, are in a perpendicular central hallway. i designed this over 10 years ago and a virtually identical design was used for my company's buildout the following year. no one is assigned to the common central table. offices can have the door open or closed depending on the occupant need/desire to be heads down or passively participate with others. each alcove houses a functional team


Hmm. In a field like software development, where the good people work wherever they want, this means they will lose their best staff.

Time to take a look at current desktop Linux again :)


I worked at a place that had the floor to almost ceiling cubicles. It was nice and quiet. Then we went to the open floor plan. Then the Nerf guns arrived.


As a freelancer I'm looking forward to the day my customers will accept that I'm just as effective (actually more so) sitting in my own shared office space located just a short commute from home rather than their own desk and office, alas a grueling journey away.

I guess they don't trust us children doing the work we are assigned and want to smell us sweating away at their stinky enterprise codebases


Apple is famous for pixel perfect prototyping, of numerous possible solutions, before choosing.

Did they prototype and test various office layouts? If not, why not?


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.


One of the perks of working in defense is the office buildings you wind up in are usually either all offices or a series of very small cube farms because the building organization needs to be capable of supporting teams working with materials of various levels of sensitivity. Even for unclassified work most stuff is "don't share this if you don't need to".


> instead of in cubicles

Wait, I thought cubicles were open plan, in comparison to offices? This sounds like super-exposed office planning.


Open offices is even-cheaper cubicles.


Putting on headphones and listening to white noise like rainfall blocks out just about everything for me. I don't like open floor plans due to noise when I'm not wearing headphones, but with them on it's fine. When I don't put my headphones on it allows me to engage with my team when I am not hyper focused on something.


When was the first "rebellion against an office plan"? Can anybody link a report from the early 1900s? The 80s?


This is only a rumour, I would wait for some photos to appear to confirm this.

Anyone got any recent images now people have started moving in?


The reaction from the troops is a rumour. The fact that almost everyone has to work in open space is not. It's well documented fact.


I was under the impression that when John Gruber quotes a 'rumour', it's because someone at Apple has personally given him complete, direct, but off-the-record information. He seems very well-connected.


> bench seating

Wait long tables is one thing, but what on earth does bench seating mean? Like it's one long picnic table?


"Benching" refers to a style of desk system that connects into a row.

Example from Steelcase: https://www.steelcase.com/products/benching/frameone/


God I hate open office layouts. The only job I've ever had with a proper cube was a marketing agency, and it was glorious.

My team recently got little flags for our desks that explicitly say "open for business" and "busy, come back later"... but even with those people still bother you!


'peopleware' by demarco and lister, goes over this and lot of other issues in great detail. imho, it should be required reading for s/w managers at the very least.

edit-001 : added author info for the book.


I wonder how many Apple employees will be fired for speaking their minds (or writing 10 page documents) about how much they hate open office designs...


They should rebel collectively, through a union perhaps


OT, but is there a good book on the history of offices, at least in American workplaces? What existed before cubicles?


Don't have a good book but a quick search led me to this Wired post: https://www.wired.com/2009/03/pl-design-5/

Anecdotally, when I think back to images from the early century, I'm led to believe that open plan with higher level employees in private offices is actually the historical norm. While the actual nature of work of course has changed, I'm not so sure that everyone having their own private office has ever been a reality other than a select few employers.


Private offices for managers and more senior types, desk farms for the hoi polloi, and a separate, deafeningly loud typing pool. Very much like today's open plan, but with individual desks with some separation rather than long benches.



Well I would also be pissed if I had an office and then was told to give that up.


If you do open office plans then everyone should do it including the executives


Good. I wish this happened more often. I would be much more productive with a little more privacy. Open floor plans are awful.


(if I may repost a comment I wrote here before...)

We have an open floor plan, and it works like this:

* Desk area is for getting work done. Everyone agrees on this.

* We have "phone rooms" for small discussions. But we limit those usually to 1:1s or discussing office politics.

* Try to limit all discussions at the desk area to 5 people or less.

* If someone sighs loudly as they put on their headphones when you're having a discussion right behind them, then that is their signal to you to keep talking loudly, as their noise-canceling headphones will eliminate any trace of your conversation.

* You can usually carry a conversation at your desk at any volume, because other engineers will let you know if you're being too loud. Engineers tend to be extroverted and won't hesitate to let you know if you're bothering them.

* When someone first sits at their desk, it's polite to immediately engage them in a 30-minute conversation about their weekend or what they did last night. It eases their transition into work.

* A person working without headphones on, signifies that it's ok to tap them on the shoulder to ask them a question.

* A person working WITH headphones on, signifies that it's ok to tap them on the shoulder to ask them a question.

* If someone usually works off in quiet parts of the building, one should always remind them "you're never at your desk" with an accusatory tone.


> if I may repost a comment I wrote here before

Please don't do that. We have too much repetition on HN already, and copy-paste doesn't go well with thoughtful discussion.


You can improve upon this by giving everyone VR headsets to shut out visual noise. You'll still need to come into the office though. Face time is important.


I can already imagine the future where someone slacks me "hey" in order to start a five-round conversation about if I'm busy and if it's OK for them to ask a question only to find out they were standing behind me the whole time.


Ironically I have a Vive at home and it would be one of the reasons I'd never get much work done


Mostly, in my experience, the struggles of working from home are precisely the opposite of that, in basically every way - people half-jokingly half-enviously chuckle about how many video games you're playing, because that's what THEY imagine they'd do if they worked from home, and they've never actually put themselves in the position to find out.


Or I could just work from home I guess.


Well played! Just don't forget that there are too many people on the internet (including HN) who don't understand sarcasm if it's not explicitly marked as such.


Sarcasm that's marked is not sarcasm.


idlewords or not, that’s not true. Verbal sarcasm is usually 'marked' by its delivery. (Can you hear Homer Simpson's sarcastic voice in your head?) In my experience, seeing an explicit (sarcasm) at the end of a post has never ruined the post for me. Certainly I spotted the sarcasm here myself, but clearly many didn’t.


Verbal sarcasm being marked by its delivery as per Homer is a very US thing, in the UK (or at least in my life experience) sarcasm is supposed to be subtle, otherwise what's the point? To put a special voice on to denote sarcasm would be roughly equivalent to carrying a small drum-kit around to play 'badoom-tish' whenever you say something wry or funny.

The function of sarcasm almost seems to be a kind of social 'weeding'... "Do you think so badly of me that you don't realise that the horrible thing I just said is the opposite of my real view?" / "Are you too stupid to know when someone's being sarcastic?". The deliverer of the sarcasm gets confirmation that people know she isn't that much of a dick, the recipient gets to demonstrate that they 'get it'. Validation all around.

I think the cues are still there in physical interactions over here, they're just not as garish as a Homer Simpson sarcastic voice. "American-style sarcasm" exists as a phrase :) I realise the rise of internet/text communication will dilute these subtleties out of our lives but for now I'm one of the people who finds the /s tag very disappointing.


Oh, look at me, I’m American, I sound just like Homer Simpson! /s


It's infuriating, as a technical pre-sales resource I get interrupted INCESSANTLY throughout the day by rabbit hole "quick questions" and calendar management. Some of my colleagues were moaning about the constant growth of our team and the fact we'll have to move to hotel desks, I reckon it's the best thing ever.


>>It's infuriating, as a technical pre-sales resource I get interrupted INCESSANTLY throughout the day by rabbit hole "quick questions" and calendar management.

This was my old job. I don't miss it...


Me too! I hated the environment (not the job) in every bone of my body.


This.... is quintessential open floor plan. I feel like you are actually me.


That sounds horrible.

Also extroverted vs assertive, I would lean towards engineers are assertive but not extroverted. There is a whole lot more to extroverted that isn't included in speaking your mind, and that speaks directly to why open floor plans can be horrible for many introverted people.

* A person working without headphones on, signifies that it's ok to tap them on the shoulder to ask them a question. * A person working WITH headphones on, signifies that it's ok to tap them on the shoulder to ask them a question.

This is sarcasm right? right? please tell me its sarcasm!


I'm fairly certain entire post is sarcasm, including extroverted engineers, headphones making it OK to keep yelling, and quiet/meeting rooms being used for unproductive purposes :)


I thought so, but at the same time I've seen not sarcastic approaches to open office plans that aren't that far off.


Their _entire_ comment is sarcastic. Even "Try to limit all discussions at the desk area to 5 people or less" - all it takes is 2 people talking to ruin the environment for everyone else. Scratch that, it takes 1 person - someone on the phone.


And I am sure you have handy flow charts printed out so people can figure out what to do when 6 people at a desk have a discussion while wearing headphones.


Noise cancelling headphones really don't seem to be tuned to 85-250 Hz (human voice) in my experience, so you don't have to actually talk louder.


I have a patent pending that uses ML to read lips combined with aggravated deep learning to generate specific noise canceling wave forms for people within visual range. It can also mask obnoxious follow on affectations like filler words and laughter out of visual range once it has locked onto a conversation.

The next phase of research is for an inanity filter, predictions are that it will mute most of existence.


They have that nausea-inducing sound beam thing. I was wondering what a head-mounted version would weigh. Maybe integrate with an eye-tracker.

Or a decibel meter hooked up to some old hag librarian robot that rolled around shrieking "SSSSHHHHHHH!"


Here's a classic from when Silicon Valley made actual silicon: the Widlar Hassler

http://www.analogzoo.com/2015/01/building-the-widlar-hassler...


Let us know when you can detect people who start every sentence with "So" and tune them out entirely.


>Try to limit all discussions at the desk area to 5 people or less.

How about zero or less?


I think you missed the sarcasm


cleverly sarcastic!


> Engineers tend to be extroverted and won't hesitate to let you know if you're bothering them.

Might be the first person to claim engineers are extroverted.


Engineers are also well known for being unable to effectively communicate sarcasm in written prose.


Nah, in this case it's good sarcasm, if someone doesn't get it they need to work on their sarcasm detector:

http://www.wikihow.com/Detect-Sarcasm-in-Writing


I come here for intelligent discussion not useless sarcasm. This is HN right, not Reddit?


That post was sarcasm, but it was incredibly intelligent sarcasm. Irony tends to be one of the higher forms of comedy when well executed.


Prose don't communicate sarcasm easily without explicit notice. Check out The Beggar's Opera (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beggar%27s_Opera). It's actually really funny. Reading in college, no idea. Thought it was boring and everyone was bitchy. Seeing it college, lols. It's the play that inspired the play that brought us Mac the Knife and inspired Mac Tonight.


You might want to read the replies on his previous post

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14395204


Not everyone at Apple is a coder. Not every job is the same.

Note how designers and architects work in teams, in open work spaces.

I have seen communication in a PM group go to shits because of a move from an open layout to a walled cubicle garden. PMs were avoidig their cubes, sitting in the cafeteria as they enjoyed the "coffee shop hum".

Reality, as always, is nuanced.


I might be in the minority but I HATE cubicle farms and love open office design. Just give every a sound cancellation headphone if they complain. To me cubical farms are depressing.


There are many of us who code in spurts, and spend the rest of the time goofing off on Reddit or hacker news. At the same time, we'd prefer not to get judged on what percentage of time we have Facebook open on our monitors, and more on the work we do. But when everyone can see what you're doing, it's hard to get rid of the nagging feeling that you're being watched.


It's not really goofing off, I absolutely work in several focused spurts during the day. Which is also why I'm never that fussed about turning up on time because I never do any real work in the morning anyway.

Can't dig it out now but John Cleese did a good talk on creativity explaining why this works and how brains solve problems in the background which is why inspiration hits in the shower and on the train. By alternating between focusing then procrastinating and ignoring work you can force a decent cadence of creativity into your work.


That's why working from home is the holy grail :D


The thing is sound cancelling headphones tend to cancel out noise, not conversation. So they actually make things worse for those of us who need to think occasionally.


For me, its not just about the sound. I can easily lose focus by being visually over-stimulated too, and there's no way to fix that except for cubicles.


> Just give every a sound cancellation headphone if they complain. To me cubical farms are depressing.

Just give everyone some anti-depressants if they complain?


Just give "them a good whack" if they complain. FTFY


> Just give every a sound cancellation headphone if they complain.

God dammit.


The "I don't like open spaces, so therefore my team doesn't" is the same failure as "I don't like an office, so my team doesn't get offices".

Developers are humans, and not all humans have the same preference. I personally prefer to work in an enclosed space that includes all my team. Open spaces suck for me. A closed office with just me in it also sucks, for me. If anyone on my team is more productive in an office, I'll do my best to get them an office.

There are two fundamental problems that always show up on this issue:

1. Believing that "I am human. My preference is X. Therefore X is the preference of all humans", and

2. "Office as a signal of seniority".

If a team can get past both of those, they should be good.




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

Search: