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Is the open office layout dead? (dropbox.com)
303 points by Antrikshy on Aug 20, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 361 comments



I've never understood the price issue. Class A in midtown Manhattan is $80 per square foot. That's $8,000 per year for a developer that probably makes well over six figures. Put two in an office that's only $4,000 per year.

I really don't buy it considering how much money companies spend on office space. Like why he hell would you have offices in Greenwich Village (http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-new-york-office-tour...) instead of say FiDi. It's not only be much cheaper, but an easier commute to places peopled live, like Brooklyn.


Law firms are relatively static sized, sign leases of epic duration, and can thus remodel. Startups need to move once a year because they're growing and they keep filling up their space. When you move once a year you're really looking for a sublet, probably already furnished, and choosing from what's on the market.

So at the core, the cause of open floor plans is too many open floor plans. And the more people that switch their space to offices, the more spaces will be available on the market for 1 year sublets. But that's not what's available now, anywhere.


I totally get that there are non-cost reasons, like being able to rapidly expand. I was addressing just the "cost per person" angle. (I basically worked in that scenario before. We started with our own offices, then as we grew we reconfigured to space into large rooms with 4-6 cubes. It worked okay, especially because starting with individual offices enforced a "quiet" culture.)


Expanding rapidly is the very essence of a startup:

"A startup is a company designed to grow fast" http://www.paulgraham.com/growth.html


Have you ever had a bathroom remodeled?

Construction sucks and is both a time and money sink. You can literally have a crew show up and build a big cube farm in 1-5 days.

It's really the same argument as "why would anyone pay outrageous fees to Amazon for slow, shitty VMs?". The answer is that when you factor in the cost of a data center facility and the people to build and run it, it turns out that AWS is a good deal after all.


Are we running new sewer and water lines?

Installing a drain pan? Retiling?

I thought for an office, you need to frame w/ some metal studs and drywall, doors, and maybe blown-in insulation to abate sound.

Not nearly as complex or skilled an endeavor.


I think in this thread people are kind of conflating office construction vs. cubicle construction. It's true that cubicle construction is pretty comparable to open plan in terms of cost and speed, but cubicles have a bad rep. If you're trying to do real offices, individual or small group, the cost goes up quite a bit.

For example, at least in NYC, the fire code dictates you need sprinklers and annunciators in every space, which increases the cost and complexity of the fire system. Plus, HVAC is much more complicated in office setups, as you can't rely on a large mass of air mixing to normalize temperatures, and have to manage longer vent runs with more exit points.

Then there's the problem that in a lot of buildings, particularly in urban areas, there's a relative paucity of windows, and people find windowless offices less desirable, making it harder to design office plans that don't shortchange big chunks of the employee base. One benefit of open plans is its a lot easier to give employees some view of sunlight and the outside.


Not as complex, but: electrics, lighting, networking, phone, smoke alarms, sprinkler system, ventilation, security... it does all add up.


None of which costs more in cubes vs tables.


It's not cubes vs tables, it's offices vs cubes.


It's a pain in the rear. Also keep in mind that you're often stuck with landlord approved vendors some some trades.

Your budget gets wacky when you're stiffed paying $75/linear foot for bullshit like plastic wire moulding.


Yup. Power over ethernet would have never caught on if it weren't for electricians unions and approved vendor/contractor requirements.


I will take a cube farm over rows of Ikea desks any day.


I know for a fact that dropbox, and all other large tech companies, spend a fortune on office buildouts. Offices don't add significant construction expense; it's purely a matter of how many people you can cram in per square foot.


Well, I don't think that for large tech companies that its only about the money it costs to build the office, probably at least equally about the productivity of employees, their creativity and employee satisfaction. (full disclosure, I work at Dropbox)


Sure, but it's clear that privacy and quiet are amongst the most important qualities in an office, yet companies continue to strain to find "creative" new ways of avoiding private offices.

Call me cynical, but it's obvious that per-person cost reduction is the driver of this logic.


Probably depends on the company, I'm sure for some that's the main driver and some of those companies may not even agree that a more open and creative workspace improves collaboration and individual productivity. Each to their own.


10 sq ft/person really? :) make sure to include space for luxuries like hallways and bathrooms, as well as meeting rooms, printers, cupboards etc.


I'm assuming 100 square feet per person. The office rent is quoted on an annual basis.


sorry you're right I can't even math today.


Even at 10 times that (a bit larger than a "middle manager office") the price isn't that bad.

Especially when you consider the base square footage per person in an open office plan is around 60 square feet.


What do you mean by "base" here? From what I've read on this avg square footage per employee has been declining for some time, but from low 200s to high 100s. That includes hallways and conference rooms, but those are generally a necessity for supporting open offices I would assume.


Office design is different budgets than products and salary. And very different people and reporting lines. The office facilitators job is to save money by e.g. open planning and hot desking and is not measured at all on the productivity of the teams.


It's been over a decade since I had so much as a semi-private office (shared with just one quiet teammate) so I have to say the death of the open office is exaggerated. And all of their workarounds assume a laptop could ever substitute for a desktop with an ergonomic keyboard and a large screen.

It's amazing that the escalating competition in pay and perks never seem to include space to get into the zone.


It's amazing when you look at software engineers' value in dollars. If you measured our value in square feet of local real estate, it would be blindingly obvious.

A tech company in a prosperous city can buy you all the 4k Dell Ultrasharps and Macbook Pros a person could want without breaking a sweat. Another couple feet of desk, on the other hand, could turn you from a net creator of value to a net destroyer of value. It's as unaffordable to the company as the salary bump that could put homeownership within reach.

I'd love it if someone would offer me a private office, parking space, and ability to live in a market with closer to median home prices, but the industry is very clearly trending in the opposite direction.


Really, citation please?

I see companies was so much money all over the place that it's a bit hard to believe that assigned desks would be such a hardship for them.


Don't know of anything public. At my company, we have ~5' slices of long communal tables. The figure I got from one of our facilities people two years ago was that these cost $20,000/year each. I'm sure the market is up since then, but I don't know how far.

I think you could fit about four of these workstations into one of our conference rooms. So giving people private offices the size of our conference rooms (any smaller would probably be a code violation, and at least inhumane) would cost about $60k/head extra. Maybe less, since some fixed costs like bathrooms and kitchens wouldn't necessarily grow.

Regardless of how the fixed costs play out, it looks like each 3-5 offices could buy a whole additional programmer. We chose the extra headcount rather than the offices.


That value would put the price per square foot (5" by 5", or 25"sq) at somewhere around $800 annually, around 10x the general office prices for SF or NY. I'm guessing the $20,000 figure is the up-front cost of the entire office, plus furniture, technology, and any building out they did, divided by the number of employees. Which is misleading, since that cost is usually amortized over 5-8 years.

Or your company is really getting screwed.


Office pods seem to be less than $10k, why can't we get those rather than five-foot slices of purgatory?


Probably because the area to pull out your chair wouldn't double as a hallway to access other people's desks anymore. The walls aren't what's at a premium, the floor space is.


I'm lazy today, so I just grabbed this article which describes office space in the bay area for startups [0]. Their talking all the way up to about $70 per square foot. Peopleware says 100 sq ft per person, so that's up to about $700 per month per employee (or $8400).

I honestly don't think that's crazy money, but you also have to plan for growth. This makes things a lot harder. If you think you are going to grow from 4 developers to 20 in the next couple of years, then you need to make sure you have access to space. Moving offices is usually traumatic, so it's a cost you need to balance.

TBH, I've only ever experienced that much space once in my career. Normally I've had about 60 sq ft and I've had much less in some jobs. My experience is that the extra space is definitely worth it. There shouldn't even be a question about it.

I think the problem is more that it is hard for the people-with-purchasing-power to understand that productivity in knowledge workers can very dramatically. Spending $10K per year on working conditions can easily save you $100K in salary (given current SV salaries) -- you can go with a lower head count and achieve the same amount of work.

But it's not just that. I'm a big proponent of small head count. The communication overhead for large teams can be crippling. When you look at trying to increase production by improving code quality -- it's practically impossible with large teams. If you never speak to half your team mates, there is no way to reach consensus on design approaches. There are ways to mitigate these kinds of problems, but I have to stress that I have never seen successful mitigation strategies in non-open source projects. In fact I've never even seen them attempted because the overwhelming bias is that more programmers == more productivity (amongst people-with-purchasing-power).

But even as I type this, I can see how it is scary to spend money on working conditions. Let's say you are bleeding cash (like most startups), or you are eeking out low single digit percent profit (like most establish companies). You've got some cash to invest and so you think, "We need to raise revenue. To do that, we need the product to have more capability". It's a pretty gigantic leap of faith to conclude "Instead of growing the dev staff by 10%, I'm going to spend that money on improving working conditions". And even if you do, you have to repress the very next thought, "Hmmm... dev staff comprises 10% of my workforce. WTF am I going to do when the sales people demand the same working conditions? If I refuse, all the best ones are likely to quit in a huff".

[0] - https://medium.com/initialized-capital/the-outlook-for-bay-a...


> Their [sic] talking all the way up to about $70 per square foot. Peopleware says 100 sq ft per person, so that's up to about $700 per month per employee (or $8400).

$7000 per month, not $700. $84k/year.


$70 is an annualized price


Either way my math is clearly wrong :-) I should be less lazy when I post!


Office space real estate isnot about money. It signals status


Some more traditional companies allocate offices according to the need to have confidential conversations, which usually means management/authority/involved in other people's problems, yes.


I've been at my current company (satellite of a larger company) for a year and a half, we have 8 people in the office, max, every day. There are a couple people who usually work from home, some days it's only one or two people in the office. Our office is 4,200 sq ft and it's an "open office." We're not growing, we didn't just shrink from a massive size -- the company just picked an office and that was that.

I get paid well above market rate, I own a home just outside Boston, my macbook pro had an issue a few months ago and the company just issued me a new one without blinking. The company just doesn't give a crap. Open offices are cool and just what programmers do these days, right?

My last company was very similar. 5 people, > 2,000 sq ft, great salaries, open office. The CEO talked about how awesome it was all the time, and actually said he wanted MORE talking in the office. Annoying as hell.

I don't think it's a money issue. I really think it's a culture issue. The only company I ever worked at that had cubicles was my first job out of college and they were actually relatively strapped for cash. The difference is the founder was in his 60's and they were in business consulting, not software specifically.


I basically live your last paragraph right now. Home prices are lower here than in the rest of the country, but I probably also get paid a lot less than you. So yes, all of the perks, affordable housing, private parking, but lower wages.


It's funny how you classify "space to get into the zone" as an employee benefit, while all that does is increase your productivity. But I guess that could mean going home earlier...


It's an employee benefit because it makes work more enjoyable. Being stuck in a problem that you can normally tackle with relative ease when "in the zone" is extremely frustrating.


Even when you hate the work, getting in the zone and coding makes the time pass quicker.


Sure, but to the employer the primary benefit of this is that people don't get stuck in problems that they can normally tackle with relative ease; the main effect (to the employer) is the fact that they're much more productive, not that they're a bit more happier.


"Enjoying your job" is a perk most people don't get. To them, larger monitors, better laptops, offices with doors, etc are simply tools people use to feel better than you.


Software engineers get to enjoy their jobs, at least in 2017. Until humanity either produces way more developers or makes us obsolete, we're basically free to enjoy our position of demanding work be enjoyable.


How is this relevant?


> "space to get into the zone" as an employee benefit.

A thing that used to be standard is now a benefit. Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining.


Well, some people do like the work they do. Doing work you enjoy is even better when you can focus on it without distractions, and frustrating when you can't.


A laptop is a great substitute for a desktop if you have a dock. I just place my laptop on the dock, it clicks into place and I have a couple of big screens, a full size keyboard and a mouse on my desk. No different than a desktop.


The article is discussing mobile desks, so to get the benefit you are describing you'd have to have docks, monitors, and peripherals at every workstation.


I'd bring my own keyboard and mouse. I'd probably also spend the first few minutes of my day cleaning the screen and the desk. The last thing I want to do is use somebody else's nasty keyboard and stare at fingerprints on the screen.

The office I work in, everybody gets a door. With all the arguments about economics, I think some people don't experience the same value to closing the door and working uninterrupted for three or four hours every day. I'm certain whatever the walls cost here, it's small compared to the productivity gains.


Some offices do exactly that. Thinkpad docks everywhere.


This will get even better with USB-C and/or Thunderbolt. Just sit down and with a single cable, get monitor, power, network and peripherals. (Almost) regardless of laptop make & model.


No it won't get better. On a dock, you have to connect exactly zero cables. Just place the laptop on the dock. That's it. No cables. No connectors. The bottom of the laptop has a connection which touches the pins on the top of the dock surface.


Yup, same at my office.


A large screen typically isn't a problem.

The office I work in has a number of the options mentioned - privacy pods, and a mixture of zoning and some dedicated desks. All the work spaces have nice monitors but you'll need to bring your own ergonomic keyboard and mouse.


That sounds incredibly unfriendly to differently abled employees. What if you need a desk that is significantly taller or shorter than normal? What if you need a non-traditional keyboard while recovering from surgery?


The desks can adjust in height. Also everyone is welcome to have a permanent desk if they prefer which can be customized to their desires. People bring their own keyboard.


No designated desks.

Please please please no. Having "personal" space at the office is just as important as having "quiet" space. I do not want to feel like a drifter, a student in the library, or a tenant in a co-working space, unless I am actually one of those things.


I worked in a "hoteling" environment as a consultant for more than a year, so let me tell you what happens when there are no designated desks:

There are designated desks. It turns into high school lunch hour, where everyone has "their seat" and god forbid the ignoramus who trespasses.


Until someone more senior than you comes along and takes your seat. Typically someone from outside the office who just wants to sit next to their "friends". Nothing quite reminds you how junior you are than to have to find another desk.

It's another one of those "wins" for the corporation - why set up guest stations throughout the business when you can just say "there are no assigned desks"? It even re-inforces the "we are a family, not a company" meme.


I had an assigned room and desk in our family home when I was growing up.


Whenever that happens I enjoy taking someone's "seat" if they are late, and watch them twitch but not say anything when they do come in....


I used to insist on designated desks and hated offices with hot swap desks, clean desks policy etc. I had drawers full of crap, my own "special" monitors, kit bags underneath my desk, lots of cans of pepsi max etc and dreaded moving desks. And sometimes I often had managed to get the back-to-the-wall/window far-from-corridor lots-of-privacy desk and did not want to surrender the desks...

But then in the last few years I have always been on projects with 100% pairing so I rarely sit at my "own" desk anyway. And though people's habbits does still lead to defaulting to certain desks, some teams I have helped have started to rotate people's desks on purpose every week so people wouldn't get too attached.

This has lead me to appreciate no designated desks. Though also insisting desk areas belongs to a team and has enough capacity, and even allocating developer desk areas so the desk specs are not missmatched. Outsiders taking up space is still frowned upon. :)

I also have a more lighter office presence. As long as each desks has very decent monitor(s) and a charger, I just move my laptop, my ergonomic keyboard, and maybe the chair if it is good. Takes 1 minute in the morning when pairs change. Also having a good locker near your desk area means I stove my crap in there instead of moving a drawer unit around like a hobo. (Though "drawer jousting" can be fun).


The only issue is where the company has gone cheap on the desks and they are not all height adjustable so people can not opt to stand at them. So people bring in their own monstrous (but good) sit-stand desktop risers by e.g Varidesk, Ergotron, Ergo Desktop, etc which are not that movable.

Hopefully, we are not long away from that being a ubiquitous option in the office.


Likewise for chair adjustments.


I left my last company in large part because there was no designated desks. Even worse, the office was overcrowded and some days I wouldn't be able to find a seat at all. Honestly, to me, it's insulting that a company would not value it's employees enough to provide them with the most basic tools like a desk.


At my current job, they plan to move office and to change the organisation from "open office layout" to what they call "dynamic layout", including no designated desks.

And they made some studies stating that an average of X% of the company workforce time is spent in meeting rooms, so they can cut off the number of desks by X% (minus a small delta).

People will even have lockers to store personal stuff...

I'm looking forward to see how that will work, have a good laugh and quit.


> And they made some studies stating that an average of X% of the company workforce time is spent in meeting rooms, so they can cut off the number of desks by X% (minus a small delta).

I never understood that logic. These kinds of calculations usually completely ignore the most relevant thing for desks: the (regular) peak number of people that want to use a desk.

At a place I worked for they had 10 people from a company we worked with come in every monday and tuesday. No more desks needed, because "most of the time there are more than enough desks". People just called in sick on monday and tuesday, because there were 20 people in a room that could maybe fit 8-10.

Whenever next someone is going to suggest something like this, I now enthusiastically propose to also cut parking by 50% since the lot is nearly empty 18:00 to 7:00 anyway (adjusted to whatever calculation they are using)


They did this at my last place.

But wait, I have a matlab license and VS installed. So I need to be at my desktop PC or reinstall everything every day. Oh, and to debug some parts of this legacy code, I'll need local admin or it crashes.

No, I don't want to switch to a laptop.

Oh, you can permanently book my desk for me in 6 monthly blocks? Works for me...


Well, they already planned that all of us will have a laptop + a cell phone. (We don't get to choose our hardware so desktop PC is not an option...)


> People will even have lockers to store personal stuff...

It is fun to watch uppity personnel of the SV companies to realize the companies would gladly treat them as the blue collar throw away technicians.


At my current job I was moved to 3 different desks before officially being told I didn't have one. It was fantastic news! I'm not categorized as remote and have little obligation to sit in the office when I can work from home at a much better setup.


No designated desks, or no predesignated desks?

If it's the former, then yeah, I'm bailing, that's tremendously dumb. If it's the latter, then whatever, it's hardly even a selling point.


I read more along the lines of you having the liberty to decide where that personal space is.


If given the choice in an office like that, I am pretty sure I would choose "at home".


> No designated desks

I hate hot desking. I know it's very subjective but when I come into an office for eight hours a day, five days a week, I like to personalise my workspace. I don't drive, I take public transport and walk, and hate carting my laptop and charger around with me. I want my own space, with meeting rooms and collaboration spaces for when I need those things.

I may be alone in saying so, but I'd happily take a modest drop in pay for a private office.


We've recently moved into new offices in Frankfurt/Germany and being the CTO of our 40 Person Startup gave me an in-depth look at all the calculations involved. It's simply horrible how expensive it would be to give private offices even to >3 people in our company.

I've fought tooth and nail to keep everyone in small team offices(< 5 people) and even sacrificed my own STO to gain an extra room for this, allowing our company to make the best possible use of the new (relatively lavish) space.

We've got two small rooms set aside as flex-desks(complete with 2 4K Monitors & Gigabit Ethernet via a TB3 Dock) to give everyone the possibility to work in a 1 person office when its critical, but that combined with our lax home-office rules is more of a best we can do approach than a real solution to the office plan/distraction problem.

The problem stems from there being simply no officespaces available that have a default layout that permits many small rooms while retaining quick access to group/meeting and social areas. This seems to be a result of different design goals of other professions that need to maximise for the most amount of butts in seat per square meter, without factoring in the losses that distractions can cause.

If you want to redraw the floorplan, you have to sign rental contracts upwards of 5 years, something no sensible startup would do and even if, the whole investment is relatively large and needs a lot of focus from the company management to ensure its worthwhile. The expensive part is not the additional room the company would need to rent for each employee, it's the amount of empty space(hallways and large rooms) a company would need to rent to have more small rooms available up front.


> It's simply horrible how expensive it would be to give private offices even to >3 people in our company.

And how much does it cost to have your entire engineering team audibly and visually distracted and annoyed 100% of the time?

Environmental factors that decrease engineer productivity may not show up on a balance sheet, but the cost is massive. Can you get an engineer an office for less than $40k/year? Then it's probably worth it. Seriously what is so hard about this?

I work in an open office right now and every day is like sitting in a high school cafeteria trying to get work done. I work at 1/3rd capacity all day, make up 1/3rd in unpaid overtime at home, and my employer is just eating the cost on the other 1/3rd. Making me work in an open office is costing them at least $70k/yr in just my productivity.

My work satisfaction is through the floor, I'm stressed and exhausted all the time and preparing to interview for other jobs. When I start interviewing and eventually move, then they'll also be eating the cost of having to recruit and train a replacement (probably another $50-100k).

For the life of me I cannot understand the degree to which large companies will take huge piles of cash and just piss them right down the drain without a single thought, and yet be so incredibly resistant to giving offices to engineers.

My current theory is that they don't want engineers to have offices because keeping engineers crowded together like livestock in stables serves as a visual indicator of the inherent superiority of their managers and executives.

Editing to add an additional note: My employer thinks I like open office plans, my employer thinks I'm working at 100% capacity and am one of the most productive engineers, and my coworkers think their talking doesn't annoy me.

There is nothing in this world for me to gain by admitting my loss in productivity, complaining about open offices, or being the reason my coworkers can't have fun talking to each other all day. Those options have only downsides.

So again, the costs don't show up on your balance sheet, and every person on your team could fucking hate this open office shit and work at half capacity, and you would never have any idea.


I would really encourage you to move on the interviewing as soon as you can. I was in your position, desperately unhappy with the working conditions, and now I'm in a small quiet office with 4 to 5 other people and I have never been happier in my work.

In the meantime, get yourself a set of Bose Quiet Comfort 35s. An absolutely life changing piece of equipment for me at least. If nothing else you will comfortable enjoy the movies on the next flight you catch instead of having to crank the volume to the maximum to barely hear it over the constant background roar of the engines.


> get yourself a set of Bose Quiet Comfort 35s

That's only if you like to listen to music while you work. If you just want quiet, get yourself a pair of the earmuffs that the airport ground crews wear out on the tarmac. I had a coworker who wore those and the only real downside was that he'd get horribly startled when people were trying to get his attention because they'd have to come up and touch him on the shoulder. Even basically yelling in the vicinity of his ears, he'd have no idea people were right behind him.


that's if you can tolerate having hot earmuffs pressing on your head all day, which I cannot. It hurts and gives me earache.


That depends on the model for me, some work good others do not. But I don't know about daily use I've only worn them for two days max.


As CTO had limited impact on floorplan, bought $350 Bose for everyone in tech, got in trouble with CFO but wasn't fired ;-)


I have some, and I don't listen to music 90% of the time. Just the noise cancelling on is extremely effective.


I have an older noise-cancelling model, the QC 15s, and they do a decent job at noise cancelling even without music. I listen to https://www.brain.fm/ (paid, but lifetime license is cheap) at a low volume to drown out any remaining noise. It's consistent background "white" noise that drowns out even the loudest co-workers. Wear them for 6-10 hours / day, best productivity investment I've ever made.


Can't you just use a pair of noise-canceling cans without piping audio through them? Is there a drawback to turning on the noise-canceling feature without coming through the speakers? It won't be completely quiet (on basic models), but it is probably comfortably quiet for most.


Perhaps suggest he strategically places a mirror on his desk.


rainymood.com (and equivalents) is perfect if you just want something to swamp out your surroundings without being a distraction.



The app does, not the headphones itself.


Only the new ones. I have the previous model (Quiet Comfort 25), and they're really nice and dumb. Only a 3.5 jack and a battery compartment, no other interfaces.


It's a good reminder for those "I prefer BT to wired headphones"


No, it's not. BT used with the standard protocols is fine. It's a reminder not to install stupid "apps" when there's absolutely no need for them.


Are they robust enough for everyday use? The Sony equivalent is plagued with problems I've read in reviews.


Yes.


Cheers


Yes.


Thanks


> And how much does it cost to have your entire engineering team audibly and visually distracted and annoyed 100% of the time?

No one has any idea, because that isnt a cost which is tracked by the accounting department...

therefore it has zero cost, right?

Right?

> So again, the costs don't show up on your balance sheet, and every person on your team could fucking hate this open office shit and work at half capacity, and you would never have any idea.

If only the managers could... I don't know... manage ? And pay attention to what's going on in their company?

Nah... a good percentage of managers I've worked for spend 75% of their time doing management politics / make-work. Getting things done is a low, low, priority.


> keeping engineers crowded together like livestock in stables serves as a visual indicator of the inherent superiority of their managers

Bad management and a sign the company is toxic.


True, but still very common in this industry.


That 1/3rd stuff is my life exactly. I've basically stopped trying to get serious work done at the office - it's for meetings and that's it. The rest I have to wait until nighttime when I'm nowhere near peak performance and my productivity overall is easily 1/3 less than it would be if I could work in the office


I don't understand how it can be so expensive, I can rent a serviced office for two people locally for £400/month. This is without the economies of scale of an organisation.


This is the part that makes the least sense to me, too. They talk about cost in terms that don't even take into account the reason for wanting offices.

You don't want offices because of feng shui, you want them because of the positive impact they're going to have on productivity / retention / talent acquisition. And yet their rationalizations rarely include anything but real estate costs.

I just don't get it. If a private office would improve an engineer's productivity by 5%, that's over $1k/month in payroll savings they could put toward their 8x8 square with a door.

Now consider that the actual improvement to productivity vs open offices is probably more like 20%, and that an 8x8 square with a door in commercial zoning isn't even close to 1k/month, and that you're also improving your ability to attract and retain top talent.

But don't worry, we have plenty of room for nap pods and massage chairs.


It seems that they have not yet determined that having a secondary off-site with private offices and meeting spaces is worth the investment.


It'd be about £400/month where I am as well, and I'm guessing you're not in London/Cambridge/Oxford.

Also since you're in the UK don't forget about rates (local property taxes that businesses pay in the UK). Once you're beyond a certain size this tax will jump from £50 a month to over £1000.


In London it's more like 600-700 for good quality places in a co-working space (Wework or similar), up to 1k+ for particularly central locations. But then if you can afford the salaries here, the 300-400/month increase per team member compared to a desk in a co-working space doesn't need to cause a particularly big performance bump to be worth it.


Not far outside Oxford.

I did have an office in Oxford for £200/month although this was ten years ago and it was a bit of a dump.


You're painting open offices in a completely negative light without seeing that they also have upsides.

I'm in the same position as the CTO above and giving everyone a private office in my company is not even remotely close to being financially feasible. What's more, a lot of engineers actually voiced a preference for open space plans over individual offices.

Cubicles are on the table as an acceptable compromise but given the growth at which we're hiring and growing, it's just not physically feasible.


I don't understand how nobody here can compromise. Build quiet spaces into your office floorplan and eat the cost up front. If you can't afford to provide a place to work quietly for those that want it you can't afford space in that office building. Or you can't afford that number of employees. It's getting ridiculous, If you're going to keep saying it's expensive take the cost from somewhere else, like payroll. Provide a great workspace for your employees and in return you'll get great work. Poor planning upfront is going to cost you so much more on the back end.


The issue is that people who prefer open offices can make use of open areas, while people who need closed spaces actually need them in order to work.

One is a preference, the other is an outright necessity.

You have not mentioned any upsides of open offices for the percentage of the workforce which require isolation. Please, give their needs equal weight and consideration.


> I'm in the same position as the CTO above and giving everyone a private office in my company is not even remotely close to being financially feasible.

Yet somehow most organizations can swing this for management.


> This seems to be a result of different design goals of other professions that need to maximise for the most amount of butts in seat per square meter, without factoring in the losses that distractions can cause.

Many other professions factor in distractions in their office space set up. I don't think I've been to a decent attorney or CPA office setup where they were in a shared space or hotdesk situation. Offices layouts can definitely be built for this approach - perhaps you're just noting that nothing's available? Or nothing's available at a price management wants to pay?

> If you want to redraw the floorplan, you have to sign rental contracts upwards of 5 years, something no sensible startup would do ...

If it was a nicely done space, I've little doubt the space owner would have trouble leasing it out again, either to one large org, or to smaller orgs who all want private space. I run a coworking space, and most people who contact me are still really just looking for individual office space.


For accountant offices, the Big 4 are starting to roll out hotdesking, unfortunately.


YIKES!


Landlords won't generally let you make structural/material changes to a floorplan without a longterm lease to justify it. However, you can make some pretty snazzy temporary office space that doesn't require permanent modifications to the space using privacy walls and glass partitions[1].

From a structural standpoint, they're basically fancy cubicles, and made by the same companies as standard cubicles. The most damaging thing they do to the structure is mount the tracks for the glass into the floor and ceiling. But that's usually considered normal wear and tear since it's easily fixable on move-out.

From an aesthetics perspective, they're effectively mini offices and can be done very well, making a space look nice and chic and making employees a lot happier. All with what amounts to some fancy cubicles.

[1]http://spaceplus.com/products/glass-office-partitions/


What do they actually do for noise mitigation though? If people can't take calls in them without disrupting others, and if someone could theoretically still shout at their neighbor when they need to have a discussion it sounds less than ideal.


Depends entirely on the type you get and how you install them. If you get floor to ceiling types with appropriate glass, it provides just as much sound isolating properties as a traditional office.

And with appropriate sound dampeners (either on the ceiling, as artwork or whatever on the walls, or a non-glass side), you keep the sound within one from echoing or sounding hollow. A few setups I've seen involved using opaque glass as a side/separator between alcoves, and hanging sound dampeners disguised as artwork on those walls. Another used faux-walls made out of the same material as traditional cubicles to separate each micro-office, and that material is designed expressly for sound dampening. And works really well if it's floor to ceiling.


> It's simply horrible how expensive it would be to give private offices even to >3 people in our company

How do you quantify the loss in productivity and quality that could be associated with a noisy work environment?


Opex vs capex


Isn't this opex vs opex though? Most companies don't actually own their office space.


So much corporate nonsense makes perfect sense once you are aware of this


Well, it doesn't make sense. But you know why it happens.


It's quantified, along with the gains from ease of access to everyone and the increased communications and social geling of everyone.

Individual offices are simply not worth it, financially, culturally and physically.


This is a hot air balloon which is about to burst culturally.

Don't fight the transition to closed-offices too hard, or you'll be remembered for advocating to make engineers' lives difficult.


The entire article, and all the studies, flatly contradict you.


The entire article offers as much evidence for their claims as I do: none.

Have you visited the offices at Google? Yahoo? Facebook? Tesla? Square? Twitter?

They are all bursting at the seams and are fighting on a daily basis with each other to find new space to expand, which is very hard to find here. Same for pretty much all the companies in the Bay Area, actually.

The mere idea of switching these companies from an open floor plan to individual offices will get you laughed at for proposing something completely nonsensical.

Open floor plans are here to stay.


I don't understand why you are lying? Your first sentence is an outright lie.

The article links studies, you do not.


Really? Who did the quantification? Citation needed.

Probably you missed the "increasing body of research" mentioned in TFA then...

"According to a study on the cost of interrupted work, a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. Even worse, people often take up to 25 minutes to refocus on the original task."

"Researchers have found that the loss of productivity due to noise distraction doubles in open office layouts compared to private offices, and open office noise reduces the ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic."

"In a 2013 study about the privacy-communication trade-off in open offices, 60% of cubicle workers and half of all employees in partitionless offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem."

" A study on the association between sick days and open office plans found that people working in open offices took 62% more sick days than those in private offices. And remember all those interruptions that workers experience in open offices? In a survey in the International Journal of Stress Management, employees who were frequently interrupted reported 9% higher rates of exhaustion."

"Clearly, open office layouts aren’t the hotbeds of creativity designers originally hoped they would be. And with office space at a premium, private offices for everyone isn’t a realistic alternative, nor is it ideal. The ebb and flow of effective collaboration requires several types of spaces. As workplace experts outlined in the Harvard Business Review, employees tend to generate ideas and process information alone or in pairs, then come together in a larger group to build on those ideas, and then disperse again to take the next steps."

https://hbr.org/2013/11/research-cubicles-are-the-absolute-w...

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494413...

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21528171

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-biggest-office-interruption...

https://hbr.org/2014/10/balancing-we-and-me-the-best-collabo...


> "According to a study on the cost of interrupted work, a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. Even worse, people often take up to 25 minutes to refocus on the original task."

So they're interrupted more frequently that the time it takes to refocus and therefore never complete any task?


>So they're interrupted more frequently that the time it takes to refocus and therefore never complete any task?

No, they just never complete any task while FOCUSED.

They still complete tasks, but distracted, and thus in a sub-par and slower way.


Sounds about right to me. /s

More seriously though, that "every 11 minutes" figure is most likely an average, so there will be intervals much longer than that.


Did you miss the word 'often' in there?


This might seem like a naive question but could you buy a child's play house with door and windows that is big enough for a desk and use those instead?


I love this idea but I feel that some engineers may interpret it as a message that you think they are childish/immature.


What about cubicles?


I would honestly rather change careers than work in a cubicle. They give me a feeling of deep existential dread. Do some actually prefer them?


I feel like the aversion toward cubicles is more psychological and association-based than really makes sense. A cubicle is (as a sibling poster pointed out) just an office without a door. Sure, the walls don't always go all the way to the ceiling, and they're thinner than real walls, but they serve a similar purpose.

I think we just grew up through the Dilbert-esque "cubicle farm" revolt, and we have negative associations that aren't entirely deserved.

If cubicles are a way to cram more people into a space because offices take up too much room, and open office plan is a way to cram more people into a space because cubicles take up too much room. And yet there's still the sentiment among open-office-plan workers that they wouldn't want to go back to cubicles, when most of the reasons they don't like the open office plan would be solved by cubicles.


I pretty much agree. They also feel like shantytowns in a way since they are flimsy pieces of material. I'd imagine that a nicer looking quality framework of wood without the ghastly florescent lighting would go a long way to improve perception.


It's funny, since I see restaurants that generate only $70 per meal (around 2 hours or so?) build super elegant wooden partitions that accomplish the exact same thing that cubicles do in an office environment.

It seems like it shouldn't be too expensive to do that...


Herman Miller (the company that invented cubicles) makes very nice modern-looking cubicles with doors.


Compared to no walls at all? Fuck yeah. When I was at IBM, they had us (~60 people) in one big room, with no walls, no noise-dampening, right next-door to a server room (with the accompanying server hum coming through the walls). I used to go downstairs to the "cubicle hell" area and just walk around and dream about how nice it would be to work down there. There was a point I'd have paid money to move to the cube-farms, compared to the hell-hole we were in.


They say hell will make you dream of heaven.


Sounds like a line from a Dio song. \m/


Cubicles were maligned as passé ("cubicle farms") and staid so that managers and facilities could present open office spaces as au courant, forward and entrepreneurial so that in turn they could save in area per employee expenses.

If they can call cubicles "farms" (echoing sharecropping, drudgery), then we could just as easily and aptly call open office layouts "sardine cans" with all the earned baggage that comes with.


Some ideas:

"Open cans"

"Sweat farms"

"Sweat cans"

"Headphones farms"


I'm fond of "sneeze distribution center"


Ah, "cold distribution center" too


Chicken farms. Don't forget to cluck regularly.


Better: I'll use "chicken cage" from now on! Thanks for the idea lol


The traditional "bullpen" works well.


Not too bad, need to trend that label in order to expose these bull pens for what they are.


Compared to open plan? Absolutely. Even half-walls are better.


I find even half walls to be as bad as open layouts.

I hated the cube for years until 2012 when I had my first open workspace job. It was a small shop and space was limited. The next two shops I worked at were also in open floor plan layouts. At least with the most recent one I could work from home 3 to 4 days out of the week.

I have to admit, I started to miss the cube. I don't want to see other people pick their noses. I don't want other people to see me pick my nose if I'm not thinking about it. I hate having another person in my peripheral.

In both cubes and open work spaces, I wear headphones for most of the day. Sometimes the music is paused but I keep them on anyway. Music is really the only thing that keeps me sane in IT jobs.


Agreed on all points. One thing that cubes protect against is visual distractions. In an open plan, even when I'm able to focus on my work, I'll always be catching something out of the corner of my eye.


It depends on the cubicle. Having a partial back wall, and being able to personalise it, are all better than open plans.

The taller the walls the more it's like a mini office.


I need a wall in front of me. It's really distracting to have things move in my peripheral vision while trying to focus on a screen. I just built a wall out of monitors and cabinets to block out the front of my desk and wear noise cancelling headphones.

I still get way more work done at home.


God yes, I need partitions high enough not to be able to see people's faces, otherwise I'd be so distracted I may as well stay home.


Which part about it do you dislike? I have a feeling it is some association you have with cubicles, and not the cubicles themselves.


There are cubicles and, uh, tiny beige hellcubes.

I like cubicles because, frankly, my only experience actually working in them was when I was delegated to work for Genentech for a bit (I don't usually work in the US). The cubicles they had were large enough to have a second seat and a whiteboard — you could hold a face-to-face meeting with them, no problem. Oh, and they were designed in such a way that you had to get into one to look at someone's screen. As a bonus, mine actually had a window (I guess guest privilege?), but even the inner ones were fairly roomy.

On the other hand, I've seen places where I (I'm 6"2') just wouldn't fit so I'd have permanent leg pain. Oh, and the screens are easily visible to passers by. Just the pain itself would be enough to hate those.


I long for the days when I had a cubicle. I'd rather work at home now than suffer the uneasiness of lacking a private workspace.


Why is that? A cubicle is essentially an office without a door.


So you prefer open floor plans to cubicles?


Having used both, I would choose a cubicle over an open office any day. An office would be best, though.


Private office > shared office > nice cubicles > cheap cubicles >> bullpen


I prefer them much more than open offices.


After 2 years in an open floor plan ( nothing but simple long tables ) I have come to deeply appreciate my cubicle


Cubicles are better for all the reasons other people mentioned.

They seem to have been replaced by cheaper long tables in offices that are genuinely paperless, since all any employee needs is a computer, monitor and chair. In my experience, cubicles usually have a file cabinet and other paper storage, utensil drawer, desk phone, wall calendar and other stuff I seldom see in modern tech offices.

And when it doesn't matter which computer is used by which employee, or everyone carries a laptop and phone with them, enter hotdesking.


Do you allow remote work instead?


Productivity is too expensive.


It's simply horrible how expensive it would be to give private offices even to >3 people in our company.

Great, your company made a poor decision from a planning / facilities / real-estate standpoint. Quit and go find a job with a company that didn't choose as poorly.


There are two kind of people: CTOs that feel like you, developers.


>It's simply horrible how expensive it would be to give private offices even to >3 people in our company.

100 square feet per year is $7K/year in SF. It is pennies compare to how open office kills productivity. People who haven't worked in offices or even good cubes may probably don't even know what good programmer productivity looks like or feels like :)


Definitely. I've consistently told recruiters I'm not interested when I hear there's hot-desking involved, and even (politely) declined mid-interview once when I didn't know up-front it was a thing at that particular company.

If your teams have no need to be together physically, then THEY HAVE NO NEED TO COME INTO THE OFFICE.


> I may be alone in saying so, but I'd happily take a modest drop in pay for a private office.

My friend felt this so strongly that he actually rents a private office (that he pays for himself) right next to his employer's office.


I've considered doing the same thing. Offices are not ridiculously expensive, and it's really pleasant to be able to control the AC yourself :/


It's funny, I work in a coworking space, and we technically have hot desks, but everyone always ends up sitting in the same place every day. It really throws me if someone takes my seat, usually it's someone new, who hasn't figured out the seating plan yet.

It's almost like high school, where you don't have a designated lunch table, but you always sit at the same table. Or at least that's what the movies show, we didn't have a cafeteria.


Had the same experience working a consulting job one time. Awful, dirty rows of terrible monitors and keyboards, fluorescent lighting, chintzy chairs.

Hotdesking sends to me the pretty degrading message that people are entirely fungible (probably also called "resources" at these places). I'm opposed to it.

And yes, everyone just sat in the same spot everyday.


Humans are creatures of habit.


It's also simply more efficient, it's one less thing to think about instead of searching for a table every time.


I would say if you were to go for the most efficient method, you would have everyone take the farthest desk away from the door when they got in each morning.


Me too. In my first job out of college I worked for Sun (2002-2005). After we were moved to consolidate real estate, most of us were forced into hot desking. On one hand we were in a building which was built during their all-employees-are-given-offices era, so you'd usually be in an office, but having just a locker for storage sucked. Also, once I ended up being reorg-ed so my boss and half my team were 2500 miles away, there was little motivation for me to go into the office, which for someone early in their career who could use good mentoring and doesn't have the good sense to ask for it enough, sucks.


I agree with your points if hot desking is forced on you, but I won't mind it being an optional thing(in addition to private office), can definitely use occasional change of environment to fight boredom.


I can't imagine working somewhere without my cheat sheets on the wall, stress ball, notepads, printed docs and books adorning my work space.


I definitely get the point about personalising (it's not for me, but I know many people like it), but having to cart your laptop + charger can easily be solved with lockers. The place I currently work at does hot desks, but everyone has lockers for their personal belongings and things they don't want to lug around which, so far, has been striking a happy balance.


You have to set it up every day though? I hate having to plug in everything after every time I take my laptop out somewhere. I'd much rather have a fixed computer that just stays there.


But a private office is very very expensive. People might think I'm trolling but I honestly think that until "engineer > real estate" there will be no real progress. All this talk about "open space", "hot desks", etc. is because costs of private office space just does not make sense to any CTO or CEO.


This is why cubicles are a thing though right?

Obviously it doesn't have as much in terms of sound dampening effects but the cost nearly isn't as high and there's a psychological effect

Though... cubicles do make it so that you're working in a "pit". So people... start wanting to remove the barriers..... and we end up in open office plans again. Hard to figure out how a smaller company can manage this (since private offices _are_ expensive)


Back in days, each engineer in Microsoft had a private office. Oracle too... Good days...


Some buildings in Microsoft still do. In my building, most people SDE2 level and up has their own, and below that most seem two-to-an-office (there are counterexamples on both sides though, as well as a number of empty offices). Oddly they're refurbing existing buildings to remove the private offices though. It doesn't seem like a space problem, nor a money problem. Apparently there's just a desire to get rid of them for who knows what reason, spending a lot of money and morale (employees have to relocate to temp offices in downtown Bellevue for a year while they refurb a building on campus) to do so.


When I was moved from single offices to open plan (Microsoft 2012) we were told that we had asked for it(!)

But the architecture firm who designed the space did give a really good walk through of how they designed the space. All their stupid decisions had justifications. One tidbit that fell out of that was that they couldn't put more people on a floor with open plan because the width of emergency stairwells dictates the floor occupancy rating.

So we lost offices, whiteboards, bookshelves, couches, and privacy. There didn't seem to be much gain


I interned at Microsoft this summer and had my own office.


Yes, they'd give you all the resources you wanted, because they had tens of millions in R&D funding. https://goo.gl/iHb698 (vintagecomputing.com)


Actually remembered that my university had this two, though most people were two to an office so you coordinated to do meetings. And the PhD students were more like 4-6 to a room.


I got my own office as an intern at Oracle a couple of years ago.


Is it really? In some of the past threads people have posted estimates that the increased floor space would cost a small fraction of salary even in SF. I haven't checked this because I'm not in a position to decide (except by turning down open-office jobs). It seems plausible that the real expense is in converting to a real-office setup instead of any raw packing inefficiency.


Why not let them work from home and save even more then?


This sounds like the critical question in the whole thing.


> I don't drive, I take public transport and walk, and hate carting my laptop and charger around with me.

A lot of us drive but it doesn't stop having to lug a laptop into the office because you're always on some kind of on call roster for emergencies.

That said that most places that hot desk will also have docks, so, no charger at least.


If only that were true...


One option I’ve seen with hot desking is to give employees a permanent storage locker/cube that they can leave things like laptops in.


We do that at my office, but I'd much rather just have my own desk.


A colleague had another problem with hot desks - a visitor would arrive at his floor and ask "Is Bob here?" => "I don't know". Without hot desks, you know where Bob sits and have a good chance of finding him. With hot desks, the visitor now has to work to find Bob, as does the person receiving the visitor.


If a face-to-face conversation is important, one of us will spend two minutes finding a good time and booking a meeting. If it's an emergency, my team has a pagerduty rotation. Showing up at my desk is not the best way to do anything.


That's adding a lot of paperwork and process for something that should be done in a few minutes.

You're excessively reducing productivity if you require each face to face to require a meeting booking.


I think both sides here have a point.

One argument: For many kinds of knowledge work, unnecessary unplanned distractions are a huge drain on productivity. Tapping someone on the shoulder is far more damaging than sending them a message they can reply to asynchronously, even if you're defining expected response time in minutes rather than hours. If there's something that really does require face-to-face time, great, plan a meeting.

Another argument: face-to-face communication is so much higher bandwidth than voice or text chat that it's worth prioritizing. Tapping someone on the shoulder and hashing something out over two minutes can save an hour of online back-and-forth.

Both of these are totally true! It's really about how an individual, and a team, work together best. To me, the frustration is that most modern team environments tend to implicitly choose the latter value system without it being a conscious choice.


> hashing something out over two minutes can save an hour of online back-and-forth

I should hope so, since the cost of a two-minute conversation is at least one engineer-hour for two people to each get back into the zone and start being useful.


They could take the valve approach

  The fact that everyone is always moving around within the company
  makes people hard to find. That’s why we have http://user—check it
  out. We know where you are based on where your machine is plugged
  in, so use this site to see a map of where everyone is right now.
http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.p...


If permanent desks then having a somewhat recognisable but standardised photo and name on the wall or screen will let some people find the right desk without asking.

Though to be honest people still asks as that is what humans do. Even though it interrupts flow of others.


You are not alone!


Don't give them any ideas, or things will go the other way: Want an external monitor? That'll be $50/month. Access to the supply closet is $10/month.


I've happily brought equipment purchased at my own expense to work. It amortizes down to very little over the lifetime of the hardware (even a $1600 workstation laptop amounts to roughly $0.25 per hour over 3 years at 40 hours a week) and makes work so much more efficient (always a plus at performance review time) and just plain more pleasant.


> I've happily brought equipment purchased at my own expense to work.

How do you make sure that everyone understand that that equipment belongs to you and not The Company? I'm currently resorting to printed labels of my name or initials, but I can't help but consider that that's a tissue defence.


> How do you make sure that everyone understand that that equipment belongs to you and not The Company?

For BYOD laptops/PCs, keep the receipt (which will usually include the serial number) and store a photocopy at the office in a place where you can easily keep track of it. If it's something shipped direct from the manufacturer, keep the box with the shipping label on it as additional evidence. You can also let your manager know that you have equipment that you personally own on-premises and give him an itemized list with serial numbers. For small items like mice, keyboards, etc., they're generally not worth enough to lose sleep over if lost.

Beyond that, the general rule of never bringing anything to work you're not willing to lose applies. Just like any other kind of BYOD device, your employer is not going to reimburse you if your personal hardware is stolen or accidentally damaged, so take appropriate precautions.

Lastly, make sure that you secure _and_ backup data on your hardware at least as well as your IT team does for company issued hardware. Your manager is not going to be at all sympathetic if you lose work due to a hardware failure on your BYOD device or due to malware.


In the companies I've worked in, they did not permit personal computers in the office (they were okay with mice/monitors etc.) The logic was that it posed too great a security risk. In one instance for a high profile project I wasn't allowed to even enter the office area with my phone (to prevent people from taking screenshots)


I've always brought my own headphones or mechanical keyboards and they're pretty obviously not-company. I've never purchased any actual machines though. If I need equipment, I get the shop or contracting/staffing company to buy it. No reason to spend money on that stuff. We're not auto mechanics.


The Company should be putting a property tag on everything that is theirs, or at least recording serial numbers.


It should be catalogued in the company asset database as an employee asset.


For me it's been less hassle to 'Bring Your Own RAM'.


They won't hesitate doing that, after all whole open workspace movement is a cost cutting method on the pretext of increasing collaboration.


I've brought my own monitor into work before. Was about to do it with my current role until they finally got me a decent one.


I bring my own keyboard and mouse.

I've considered monitors as well but those provided work well enough for my needs right now.


I've been using my own mechanical keyboards forever. You make a lot of friends with a model M in an open office (suffice it to say, use quieter switches now).


I have my own personal U3415W for my Visual Studio programming. I have brought it up in interviews, if any issues to my bringing it in.

(At home I have the Acer X34 Predator. The Dell came first; when I realised how good it was for programming I knew I needed one at work.)


The U3415W is the monitor I finally got at work. It's a nice monitor.

At home I have a Benq bl3201pt, which is a 4k 16:9 monitor. It's nice as well, but does have a flickering issue (one side of the screen will flash every 4-8 hours or even 1-2 days).


I use an X34 at home, aside from quality issues (needed a warantee repair after 6 weeks, nontrivial shipping and hassle), it's a fantastic monitor for every task.

I've never understood the tendency towards multiple monitors over one larger monitor.


I find multiple monitors easier to manage with a tiling window manager and offer a better "separation of concerns" in terms of grouping of active applications I want to see. But my home set up includes 3 28in displays so I may just have a problem, ymmv.


Nice. Mine could only do 95hz after a while on 100, started flickering; other than that no issue.

I surround my home X34 with two U2412Ms on an Ergotech stand.

It's a pretty neat setup.


Its easier to independently change the workspace running on a secondary monitor than it is to rearrange individual applications.


Why a 1440 vertical pixel monitor?

Real 4K monitors are effectively the same price and have a lot more pixels. And you can get them in 27", 32" and 34" sizes.

Sure, I understand why the manufacturers want these odd kinds of resolutions so that they can take defective panels and carve them up differently.

However, why would the users want these instead of more resolution? What am I missing?


1440 vertical pixels in a 34" 21:9 monitor means you usually don't have to worry about whether your software can adapt to a non-standard DPI. At about 109 DPI, it's the same as a typical 27" 16:9 panel, just with more pixels off to the side. The density is a bit higher than the typical ~94 DPI of a 24" 16:10 display, but the difference can be tolerated by most users. Jumping up to 140 DPI (32" 4k 16:9) is enough that you either need exceptionally good vision, or you need to compensate through software scaling adjustments or major ergonomic changes.


27" iMac has been 2560×1440 from 2009 until they went retina in 2014 (and they're now double in both dimensions, so same logical resolution).

At arm's length, on a 27" screen, 1440p is very practical. Getting more screen space than 1080p is what bumped me from 21-24" screens, and it fills my vision enough that if I jumped to 4k I'd either be moving my head back and forth with a 40" screen, dealing with even smaller UI elements, or wrestling with OS scaling.


How about a 42inch 4K monitor (Philips BDM4350UC). In term of screen real estate it is fantastic.


In terms of PPI, not so great.


For development I take screen real estate over PPI. The idea is to run it at native resolution while being very readable, and to be able to work on multiple documents side by side.

(And for coding you actually need height more than width, if you think of a typical layout of a code file)


To each their own. I love the fact that I can't see pixels on my retina iMac at 220 PPI. It makes reading code much nicer.

I still have more than enough room for a few buffers on screen.


I agree with you. I'd love to try a 4k screen, and was even considering it - however in the end I took my home U3415W to work and bought the X34 for home (I might game 30 minutes a week or something; the extra hz are certainly nice for that, otherwise they are pretty much identical).

I value actual real estate over PPI, preferring to run at 100% / unscaled which looks much nicer in Win10. The 109PPI (3440x1440) is decent enough, and I don't have to squint. Furthermore the DPI matches those of the surrounding 16:10 24s (1920x1200) well enough for it not to be an issue.


I am trying not to cargo cult here but I think if I need to scroll a file with 9 font on a 32"+ screen with 4k display it might be a sign of code smell (again, this should definitely not be a hard rule just saying it might be nice to stop and think why it is so long)?


Not arguing against that, however Visual Studio has lots of windows eg NCrunch runner, output, solution overview in addition to editor(s).

The ultrawide allows for this nicely; tests on the left, two actual editors, solution explorer on right, and output at the bottom under the editors.


Do you mean 9pt or 9px font? Either way, that's not comfortably readable on a 32" 4k screen.

On a 34" 3440x1440 screen I keep IntelliJ at 14px (10.5pt). On a 32" 4k screen I keep it at 15px-16px (~11pt).

You're still only talking ~100 lines of code on the screen at any one time. Maybe ~130 with a smaller font.


It doesn't appear to be curved or ultra wide screen.


It's not curve but you can see it as an ultra wide screen which is also very high.


I would be happy to pay out of my own pocket for a better hardware than the POS I am forced to work with. All the machines are connected with 100Mbit, and we only just switched from Windows XP...


Is it like that for security purposes or are you working with legacy software?

Apart from those two issues, the loss of productivity should so obviously outweigh any possible savings. There must be some explanation.


Well, it's a large company with lots of in-house software, so that's the official reason for the delayed roll out of Windows 7. But I think it has more to do with bureaucracy and inefficiency.

For not bringing my own hardware, security (it's a bank).


> XP

> delayed roll out of Windows 7

Is your bank located in Kazakhstan?


No but I am sure we source our hardware from flea markets in Kazakhstan!


I wouldn’t be surprised if POS stands for Point Of Sale, but I’m guessing that’s not the case.


I'm afraid it's too late.


What if they gave everybody a desk with wheels? Then you can wheel your desk with your tools wherever you want to work that day.


I have trouble coding while people are looking at me. It is distracting and prevents me from getting in the zone. Unless I can wheel my desk into a private office it still sounds terrible.


You must work remotely.




So in addition to hearing people chatter all day I have to hear them rolling desks around?


You'll also need movers on staff or on call for employees who can't move their own desks.

It's a cute idea, but making it OSHA-compliant sounds expensive.


Would it really not work to just be able to ask a coworker to help with your desk if you needed that? It seems like even having a small group of volunteers be on-call for such a thing wouldn't be much of a hassle, assuming the right pieces were in place (everything plugs in through 1 power plug, desk and chair only (mount storage to desk etc))


So now you are advocating increasing the social burden for any employee who has an (possibly unknown to you or coworkers) reason for not being able to move their desk.

This is something that it is worth being a little careful about,


My previous company (https://smarkets.com/about/careers/) had desks on wheels. It was cool but moderately pointless after we moved into team offices. Still - the brownian motion of desks as we formed pairs was quite interesting. (And occasionally seeing someone switch rooms attempting to control both a giant desk & a chair was hilarious)

I kind of miss the liberation of being able to just flip my desk 180 and stare out of the window when I needed to work on something though.


More realistic is a small (30cm square) table with drawers, which I think most people could move themselves.

Something like this. Sturdy, office-looking versions were common in my school:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B0119UDUSI


This is getting fucking ridiculous, and may as well just tell folks they can work from wherever at that point.


See Joel Spolski's floor design.


Link? There are some articles by Joel about offices but nothing that seems like "floor design".


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