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Ask HN: Are there any studies about engineering productivity and office layout?
25 points by squidc916 on Mar 11, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments
My office is in the midst of a complete redesign.

An open design is a foregone conclusion, but I'm concerned about where they're placing the different teams. Engineering being placed in a high traffic central location, with sales off in a nook.

My theory is that engineering needs to be isolated as much as possible so as to reduce distraction.

Are there any studies/research/blogs/papers available on the topic of office layout that either support, or contradict me? I'd like to present my opinion to the people responsible for these decisions in my office, and would like data to back me up if at all possible.

To the degree that such studies exist, the weight they typically carry is more or less consistent with the proposed use here: to rationalize a decision already made. An evidence based approach to architectural decisions is expensive because each organization a unique combination of staff, facilities, mission, and culture...and hence requires project specific identification of stakeholders, analysis of processes, and clear definition of desired outcome. More typical is fitting N staff in M square meters for Y dollars in Z months based on the opinions of the executive team with consideration of input from others from whom it is solicited...if anyone.

Good luck.

I found this opinion piece insightful: https://medium.com/@ummerr/youre-working-in-the-wrong-place-...

I believe a solution could be the combination of:

a) Open-office space with pods of desks that groups can flock to when collaboration is required. Noise is welcome.

b) Library space where conversations are prohibited. Complete silence.

c) Closed-door offices that are large enough to house a team and a whiteboard.

Designing and building desired office spaces does not come cheap. But, that should be weighed against the productivity upside.

I think the offices of zeb offer a lot of the zoning referenced here and would be of interest to you: https://officesnapshots.com/2016/10/26/zeb-offices-munich/

>The resulting workplace concept developed by Evolution Design is an activity-based work environment that divided the office into four separate zones, each with its own function:

>There is a library-style Quiet Area for activities that require focus and concentration. Another area is the Homezone, which incorporates all permanent workstations for secretarial staff, as well as individual offices, which can be used by all zeb employees. The Meet & Exchange zone provides space for meetings and videoconferences and also includes spaces for team project work and phone booths for calls requiring privacy. And finally, the Smart Connect zone, which is a multi-functional area, suitable for a wide range of activities: here employees can meet, collaborate, exchange ideas, work, or simply have a coffee in a relaxed atmosphere.

You're fighting against the CFO's excel that says it's a nickel cheaper to go open plan wrt construction costs. Game over.

I suspect it’s more than a nickel and combined with the fact that the decision makers most likely

* have their own offices

* are less likely to engage in deep work

The decision is an easy one.

You're not wrong! Also doesn't help that the companies managers look up (FB, Google, successfully SV startups) also do open office or similarly had layouts.

I love HN cynicism. This made me laugh

This article (Jan 2014) has many references:


Unfortunately I don't know of any workplace research that focuses specifically on engineering. This article from Quartz has some information that you may find interesting/useful: https://qz.com/806583/programmers-hate-open-floor-plans/

The classic book ‘Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams’ covers office layout from productivity perspective: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0321934113/ref=dp_ob_neva_mob...

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