People should not HAVE to do buy/use something just to be productive. It's downright disrespectful to expect your workers to just "deal with the noise in a professional manner".
In a typical corporate office, I would not tolerate it. I would push back, and I encourage anyone with sufficient job security to push back too.
Very early in my career, when I as still operating in the break/fix world of help desk support I toured an office during an interview. It was a boilerroom sales team, complete with a gong that someone bashed as I walked along the back wall to the conference rooms, everyone cheered madly, papers flew, loud music started playing off of a set of overhead speakers. I winced the moment the music blared and almost visually grimaced from the volume. Along the way the hiring manager interviewing me pointed to an area in the back of the office with laptops stacked up to the desk from the floor, monitors, cables everywhere-directly underneath one of the speakers. He didn't have to tell me, I figured it out, but he told me anyway
"And over there is where IT sits".
I stopped the recruiter before we made it to the conference room and politely pardoned myself from the interview process. No way in hell.
IMO, that push back needs to start early, as early as possible where possible. Not everyone may have the circumstances to punt on an interview like that, completely understandable, but the interview is just as much for your benefit as theirs. Candidates should evaluate as much as they can by sheer power of observation as they can verbally asking about working from home.
That means taking in what you can that you might not be explicitly shown-or worse, steered away from if you're brought in for an on-site interview.
I made my feelings known most emphatically, but I stuck it out for 2 years, and now we are moving back to cubicles. The thing is, so many people now work from home that the open office layout isn't so bad.
I'll quickly summarize the majority of HN conversation for the uninitiated: if a potential employer asks you to write something on a white board or solve a take home coding problem, politely gather your things, leave, and start contributing to an open source Rust project until a more ethical employer makes you an offer. Follow the same procedure if a potential employer has an open office, uses recruiters, or employs anyone with the job title "Scrum Master."
But to answer your question, apparently like everyone that posts to HN. ^_^
It's possible that escalating a "buy me PPE" request to the company lawyer could raise a few eyebrows into exactly what conditions you're being asked to work under.
In addition to being completely unable to filter out any distracting noise, I also have misophonia, so an open office is anything between distracting as all get-out and torture, but the headphones and some good loud music mitigate that greatly.
(I once worked between someone who tapped their feet and someone who drummed on the desk constantly. Those weeks were not productive, even with headphones.)
I have demonstrated this well enough to be afforded the freedom to get myself into flow when and by any means necessary.
Productive discussion isn't for you. Find a different outlet.
Well then, stop complaining. People shovel shit all day for a fraction of that money.
How is this relevant to the rest of the discussion?
So large it encompasses pretty much everybody, in fact.
Open office high distraction setting may allow shallow work but is seriously prohibitive to deep work.
Not only did the noise increase immensely, and I went from 0 visual distraction to constant visual distraction, but the open office desks offered about 1/10th of the storage space of the cubicles we had. My desk is so cramped I'm constantly knocking stuff over, and I took home almost everything I don't actually need, save for a digital photo frame. This company treats me pretty well overall, but this open office thing was clearly a money-saving scheme, despite what they might have claimed (because 30 years of evidence shows that it's an _awful_ environment to work in, or as I would tell anyone who would listen, it's the most discredited idea since phrenology.)
The good news, of course, is that our ill-advised experiment is almost done, and I'll be back in a cubicle soon. (How times have changed... back in 2001 I had my own office! and now I'm happy to be back in a cubicle...)
I always did my job pretty well with a door that closes and my own little whiteboard. people would stop by for a chat, and we could go on for as long or as short as we liked without bothering anyone at all. we didnt spend 15 minutes going back and forth trying to find a booked conference room that happened to be empty to see if we could steal a few minutes discussion time.
what was I missing?
edit: (sorry, just to be clear, I dont think this is discriminatory, just kind of tragic)
Is it your position that in any of those situations the person should just find another job? Because that falls exactly within the definition of "constructive dismissal" and anyone with a half-way decent lawyer could win that case. In the last case you could add age discrimination for extra damages.
Discrimination is still discrimination even if "parzivalm" on Hacker News doesn't feel personally burdened by it.
I’m sure they could be repurposed the way you suggest. But don’t most people in open spaces use slack or equivalent for that?
Surrounding yourself by whiteboards might also allow you to approximate walls.
I've got two colleagues that are horrible about this. Fortunate enough to have an office with a door, and play music quietly at my desk so I'll hear it if someone knocks--since I face slightly away from the door.
Except they'll skip knocking and just walk in and around my desk to do the shoulder tap if the door's open.
I've been training them out of this behavior by saying "oh hey did you knock? I must have missed it, what's up?"
Time will tell how this goes, heh.
Although I do wear headphones pretty much constantly, I have always made a point to be responsive to people and not ignore them. If someone needs my attention, they will get it, and I made a point of doing everything I can to help people. Yes, I'd rather not be disturbed, but if they really need my help, then I will gladly stop and help. This is no different than if I were in a cubicle or my own office. I have no problems with that kind of distraction. It's the unintentional distractions that we need to eliminate.
After 8 hours, my ears actually hurt from wearing air-traffic-controller style headphones all day.
The guys in the tower are ATC, they do ground control (still ATC) and local control, surface to 2500' with a 5-mile radius. The dark room guys (TRACON) do surface to the top of their airspace (depends, 18k, 23k) with a 60-mile radius (roughly). Then there is center/en route, which does air traffic above the TRACON when you are level flying at 30k+.
Source: Was an air traffic controller.
Private office, closing door. This should be the minimum price to hire someone.
Now we actually have a flexible remote policy, but that's an entirely different can of worms, as I liked having a place to do deep work in that wasn't a coffee shop. My home is a bit too distracting sometimes.
Cube walls, over the years kept getting shorter and shorter until finally doing away with them entirely.
The point is - the business requires that you have zero privacy or any kind of time to yourself in any capacity outside of assigned breaks.
The whole purpose is to create a panopticon of a work place, where even when you aren't being watched you modify your behavior on the possibility that you're being watched
Open offices are inherently authoritarian in a corporate/cyberpunk sort of way. That's their primary function. All this crap about collaboration and fostering open communication is just the face of it.
I'd have a hard time caring about that if I had to wear headphones and play them loud enough to drown out the noise around me in the first place.
(Luckily, I have a door and a pair of headphones with a noise cancelling function that is usually good enough without even any music playing.)
But even in a very noisy environment, think the tube in London, where the noise level when going through a tunnel can be similar to a factory floor, surprisingly, people will hear your noisy iphone and will be annoyed by it. Now if it is in London they will be too polite to let you know. But I think not making annoying noise is also a form of politeness I like to adhere to in any case.
Why would you want to ADD to the problem instead of being part of the solution?
You need Steel-Toed boots and Earplugs for some locations - I'm not sure how much of that is compensated. For waste processing, you either "deal with it" or have a purchase some form of smell-cancelling equivalent (peppermint oil on a cotton swab is an example I've heard used in a hospital). What about slip-resistant shoes for cooking in a kitchen?
By all means, I don't enjoy the open office layout - I literally spent 20 minutes this morning talking to my immediate neighbor about NOTHING.
HOWEVER, I suppose what I'd like to ask is - "what makes a white-collar job's comfort more important than other occupations, to the point they should be either compensated for purchasing items to maintain it or isolated with [cubicle] walls put up?"
[Slippery slope fallacy incoming] Maybe that music or podcast is distracting you from work, I mean we wouldn't want you to see a 20, but think 10 because your podcast was simultaneously playing their 10% Squarespace ad. You are right, noise is distracting and corporate is now providing all employees with noise-cancelling earplugs.
EDIT: Since I've been downvoted, can I have an explanation, or is this a simple I'm saying something the HN community disagrees with?
Steel-Toed boots and earplugs are necessary because of safety requirements. You can crush your toes and lose your hearing as a result of that job.
Waste processing smells because of the fact that, well, waste smells. There is utterly nothing the company or the individual can do other than mask the smell for them self.
Programming has no such utterly-unavoidable noise aspect (unless you count meetings and around-the-desk discussions, things which I personally can deal with to a reasonable extent). There is absolutely, positively no reason that a company of a decent size can't format their office in a way that is less distracting than an open-office format.
Drawing a line between white and blue collar jobs in this manner is a false equivalence and a strawman.
That said, I would still say that there are plenty of ways to improve (what I would consider) "comfort" in your work environment; however, they do not need to be reimbursed by the company (moving this back to your original post).
Likewise, as the other reply to this post mentions - cost.
Simply put, what is the cost involved and relative productivity gained/lost from each layout design. What about experimental designs? Without this type of information, it is difficult to convince a decision maker to improve these conditions. Those metrics need to be quantifiable, not anecdotal (I get more work when there aren't conversations around me vs. I resolved 10 bugs in the open office environment and 25 equivalent bugs in a cubicle).
This gets into more the MBA and Information Systems world of quantifying intangibles in tech (like productivity), but to obtain this in an environment that would be deemed acceptable for experimentation, you'd need a corporate culture interested in experimentation - because not every layout will work for every group or every person in said group. Even then, being a group that opts into experimentation is not indicative to a real work environment, and so better results would require a new cohort for each experimental layout.
Regardless, without decision maker buy-in and quantifiable metrics that can beat the cost/productivity metrics of open-office, articles like this only serve to form an echo chamber.
This has been well documented since the early 2000s. Programmers are statistically and significantly more productive if they have enclosed offices with closing doors. And decision makers that care have been acting on it for just as long (see Joel on Software, I'm not a huge fan, but this has been a harping point of his, as an owner of a software company, for years).
Any company that forces programmers to work in open-plan environments is either ignorant, or just doesn't care.
I'll agree with everything you stated but this as the terminology you use makes it sound malicious. Instead, I can imagine consulting firms with plenty of talking points convincing a decision-maker they were right. Furthermore, we cannot assume any particular environment will be optimal for all employees for all companies. "Productivity" was studied, but has branched into more concrete terms, rather than been solved. Even with a company that is open to helping improve conditions, what should they do, how long will the ROI take, etc.
While I accept the assumption of being more productive in an enclosed space, could you point me to a specific paper? Mostly because "productive" is not as well defined and is more a generalized term (respectfully, many terms can fall under the "productive" umbrella). I ask about the paper because a) I'd be curious to see how they define and measure productivity, and b) it may be beneficial for student learning (another knowledge-specific domain)
Is there a tech company which has an open floor plan for programmers only because they're cheap?
For boots, compensation is not required as "this type of equipment is very personal, is often used outside the workplace, and that it is taken by workers from jobsite to jobsite and employer to employer"  -- though I know some employers who offer a "Footwear Reimbursement", and/or loan out steel toe guards when requested.
Earplugs, yes, by law in the US.
> "what makes a white-collar job's comfort more important than other occupations, to the point they should be either compensated for purchasing items to maintain it or isolated with [cubicle] walls put up?"
First, it has nothing to do with money. I've offered at several jobs to pay to escape the open office space, and I've always been refused permission. Other jobs are often isolated, when there's a possibility for distraction, even at these same companies.
Second, it's not about "comfort", either. Distractions make it impossible to concentrate, which is literally my only job. If they hired me to do a job, they can't simply put me in a situation where I can't apply my skills, and then judge me based on my performance there.
You're being downvoted because you're trying to steer the conversation into "compensation" and "comfort", neither of which are the issue here.
It's intellectual work that requires a high degree of concentration. Not all white collar work is like that and not all blue collar work isn't, but programming requires keeping a lot more in your head at once than someone on an assembly line and noise inhibits this. There's also the type of noise, people talking is a lot harder to filter out than other background noise, I can sleep with a train track a few meters away and can concentrate with music playing but I can't work in an open office.
It's not necessary to assume that it's more important to express a personal dislike or suggest that it's counterproductive. So the fallacy here is strawman.
Buying high wall cubicles or paying for a construction company to build out offices is still buying something to be productive.
I don't believe that productivity is hurt because of open office sounds, I think people just love complaining.
Your lack of belief does not invalidate other people's experiences. You may feel that your productivity isn't hurt in open offices, and you might even be right about yourself. But "this doesn't bother me so it doesn't bother anyone" (or even "so it shouldn't bother anyone") causes serious problems.
I've worked both with my own office and in an open office. The difference is night and day. I'm vastly more productive and much happier in a closed door office. Most people report the same.
To clarify, just because you're in a library doesn't mean it is absolutely pin drop quiet. There is basic atmosphere noise. I of course am in favor of a closed office, and cubicle farms and open environments are easily more favorable for the employer than employee, but it seems expected to have some basic noise in an open office that people love complaining about—instead of championing closed offices which is never going to happen in a lot of companies.
"It doesn't bother me, so obviously, it doesn't bother other people"
So not only can you hate all the noise and distraction around you, but tomorrow it can be entirely new set of people that piss you off. Also nothing says "you don't matter" like not even giving someone 4x6 feet of space for a desk and chair they can call their own..
At no time did they consider the effect on personal space and depersonification of this new “paradigm”.
People were hoodwinked into believing this was more social, more cooperative and more egalitarian. No it wasn’t. It was cheaper to seat people and it took freedom away from workers. You now had a multiplicity of eyes upon you. So now even if you don’t have anything productive to do till tomorrow, you have to at least pretend you have something to do now. So instead of thinking about what and how you’ll do things to morrow you waste your time pretending along with everyone else in the corral.
I saw this happen at places which say they “care about workers” and offer a good “work-life balance”. It was such horseshit. If you have to propagandize your beliefs you don’t actually believe them.
In my experience, it was rare that anyone was a proponent of it except as a cost-savings measure. In almost every case, everyone knew what it meant that the staff had open-plan but the people responsible for it had offices with doors.
If it enhances productivity so much why is it not good for everyone. It was absolutely a cost cutting method allowing them to shove more peons in the same space and keep an eye on them all from the safety of their high towers.
Perhaps the better matching myth is the Emperor's New Clothes:
Lower per-head facilities costs.
That's how the tech community operates. You get a few early, loud supporters to shut down any conversation that may draw attention to the negatives. Eventually, years later those people grow hoarse from yelling and sensible people return to the conversation.
I've never seen that.
Rather, the "innovators" fail upwards, never sticking around long enough to get pinned with the damage and chaos they caused.
(The Agile consultant fad seems an interesting telephone game from the ideal of "pair programming". Devolving from "pair programming in offices setup up for two and only two developers to closely share code without other distractions" to "pair programming is easier in open offices than cubicles" to "open offices enable ad hoc pair programming without dedicating people to actually learning/using pair programming, right?" bokum.)
Having been on a high profile (presented at the IEEE) early RDA/DSDM/Agile project at British Telecom in the mid 90's.
1 You produce code faster - not necessarily better 1 month vs 2 years :-)
2 We had a dedicated section of the office just for the team - not the classic open plan office.
Next up is AI/ML.
It was the last in a series of increasingly-escalating "fuck yous" from the company's ownership to employees.
TBH they would have been better off just cutting 20% of their staff if they were looking to cut costs for whatever reason. It's better to have a smaller workforce of happier, productive employees than a larger number of alienated, angry employees all half-assing things while looking for other jobs.
I left soon after and never looked back. In retrospect it was a symptom of a bigger problem at the company.
This is the point:
> As the unofficial story goes, Jay Chiat was skiing down a mountain in Telluride when it dawned on him that the conventional American office structure was antiquated and counterproductive; that revolution was not only inevitable but overdue; and that destiny had selected him, Jay Chiat, as its agent of change.
So the boss can see himself as a trend-setting visionary.
That link it pretty interesting, since it was clear that "hoteling" was awful 20 years ago in 1999. It's bizarre that I was reading about the how terrible 2019's trends in office space are when I was a kid.
Like you have 10 seats and 20 sales people or consultants, who spend 3/4 of their time on the road or on location. This way you don't need to spend money on seating that's not being used most of the time.
For everything else hot seating/hotel seating is utter crap.
If you're tight on space, it's perfectly reasonable to shift people who aren't in the office most of the time to hoteling but if someone is going to be butt in seat most days, why not give them a permanent space?
Less space to lease, less desks and chairs to buy, less cabling to run.
Office space is expensive.
At least until management cracks down and makes attendance mandatory.
That's what I can't wrap my head around with the debacle that professional software development has become... isn't there supposed to be a _shortage_ of developers? Wouldn't that suggest that they'd be trying to find ways to retain and attract us instead of finding new and creative ways of kicking us in the teeth?
That sounds like the opposite of a hotel (no rooms, have to vacate overnight.)
I was one of the few who got to keep their office during the demolition, I think mostly because it was written in my contract when I accepted this job. So although I, personally, don't think they look very efficient, I can relate that the staff in my company dispise the lack of privacy and general noise that results from working in an open office space.
Who am I kidding, anyone need a Java/Kotlin back-end developer?
However, this workplace is not in sales. We are much more on the regulatory side, which means we're dealing with private information. Previously we did a pretty good job of maintaining information security by compartmentalizing issues to those individuals who needed to know.
Now, although still handcuffed by the same privacy legislation, we're expected to have these private conversations beside each other in a single room. How comfortable is the person on the phone going to feel about releasing private information if they can overhear everyone else's conversation in the background?
Again, I reiterate that these people aren't leaving because of the open office space concept. Removing all of the walls in the office just happened to also remove any reason to stick it out and try to work through the other problems.
In any case, I wish you the best of luck. Your situation sounds horrible.
Now, if you frequently hear a flush without hearing the running water from the sink, that's a problem.
That's not normal - sounds like there must be a lot more going on than just the switch to an open office.
> Again, I reiterate that these people aren't leaving because of the open office space concept. Removing all of the walls in the office just happened to also remove any reason to stick it out and try to work through the other problems.
There are definitely other issues involved. If there were not, I imagine an open office with this group would have actually been kind of fun, in a way, as we all get along really well and enjoy each other's company.
But if everyone is stressed due to significant structural reorganizations and process changes already? An open office concept just rubs salt into the wounds, IMHO.
It took a lot of getting used to: constant chatter, loud talkers, ice chewers, mouth noises, farting, personal phone calls that were too personal... But I acclimated.
I continued to work in a 9'x9'x (x5' high) cube for 25+ years and the last company I worked for switched to an open floorplan for my last 3 years there.
IT WAS HELL. At least in my small cube I had some sense of privacy, but now everyone could see my screen, or see me having to deal with various biological discomforts, it just sucked. I'm glad I became a contractor 5 years ago because it is great to be out of that mess. Hopefully I'll never have to return.
My kryptonite is nail clipping.
Were they literally chewing ice or is this some idiom?
I encountered two people like this in my life. It would make me physically ill, like an allergy, but no one else around us complained so I tried to get over it and ended up just working in a lab.
I'm old enough now were it to happen again I'd flood every channel with complaints until we arrived at a compromise, but I was younger then.
This is a classic instance of misophonia. Certain sounds, especially sounds related to eating, generate disproportionate and irrational reactions, often (internally) physical. Anything from fear to disgust to anger, with the accompanying bodily state.
I cannot stand it. On top of just being an annoying sound, it makes me think about / feel pain, because it sounds like it really hurts.
Yes, it could be bad for my teeth, but that's likely not why they're telling me about it. It bothers them more than it concerns them, or they'd stop telling me about it after a few times.
High wall cubes are fine too... Obviously a real office with a door would be ideal, but I think that door has closed at this point in time.
What I've noticed is that a handful of people together in a space will typically work out issues like music vs. no music, lights on vs. off, blinds open vs. closed, etc. without a lot of trouble.
But there's a tipping point where it gets much harder. Put 20 people in an open office and suddenly everyone is wearing headphones and nobody is talking (except the people who are ALWAYS talking/yelling to each other) and it sucks.
I think as far back as the late 70s, "Peopleware" cited a bunch of studies that found that small shared offices with flexible policies on letting people move around (so people can self-organize either around their teams or with people they share space well with) was optimal. Sadly few offices seem to have adopted this.
Worked in an office like that and agree, it worked pretty well. It's not always feasible to assign individual offices to people but 1-5 people works. I'd say 5 is even high, ideally it would be 2-3.
> but I think that door has closed at this point in time.
Well, I'd say working from home is like that? :-) Hopefully that's an option for more people. I am doing that now and it's pretty good, but the idea is that the whole team has to be remote, otherwise you don't want to be the odd one out.
If you organize bullpens around clumps of people who work together constantly, it makes more sense than doing it to an entire department or company. Though you should also have a quiet space per bullpen and meeting rooms for anything requiring cross-team collaboration or secretive stuff.
Even if all 12 folks are on the same team, I'm sure it's possible to split them up into subspecialties or working groups. An unstructured blob of 12 people on a team doesn't sound that ideal either way, regardless of seating arrangements.
Still, looking back over the past eight months at all of the distractions from kids, I'm still dealing with less distractions (external, at least...) than my previous gig in an large open office environment.
The key being team -- you are next to people you are actively collaborating with on a day to day basis.
Which is unfortunate because it's one of the many things I liked about working at Microsoft: they really seemed to take your productivity seriously when I worked there.
Individual quiet spaces are still needed for private meetings and client calls.
That's never stopped anyone in my office. The place is full of constant interruptions that an open office layout facilitates.
We each have privacy (and our own seating), but the collaboration is always available and not overwhelming.
I dig it a lot more than the cube I had at my old job.
Now I work in industry with a fully open office and yeah, it's a nightmare.
For long discussions that's when you book a meeting room.
There's not a ton of research on this. But what's out there suggests that open office spaces actually decrease collaboration.
I think you hit the nail on the head - you're at a level where you have to communicate a lot. Devs that are more focused on production rather than coordination work away from their desks - that says to me that most people can't (or prefer not to) do their work at their work.
This always comes up in these discussions. It's not a binary "everyone working at one long table" versus "everyone in their own hotel room". It's a continuum. There are options that allow each worker to have their own space at rather low cost. I don't buy the cost argument or the space argument.
I've been inside designs where workers have their own doors for a cost of a few thousand dollars and taking up very little extra space. Spread that out over ten years and you're talking a cost of $400 a year - if they don't have the money for that, you shouldn't be working there, because they don't have the money to pay you. Absolutely trivial relative to a six-figure salary.
Are you contrasting open offices with individual offices? Cubicles are barely larger than the desk/chair itself, I could believe maybe a 10%~ loss from cubicles due to inefficiency but not much more.
do you really collaborate any better in an open office? I can't have any real conversation in such an environment because it's just too loud.
I don't understand. If it provides space for 90% of your team to work away from their desks then surely that's enough space just to have provided them with private offices in the first place? (Plus open spaces for collaboration the 10% of the time that they want it)
You will need a lot of rooms and furniture specifically placed and designed for ad-hoc collaboration.
An open space with just desks crammed in is awful, but if the above is catered for it’s awesome and I don’t want to work any other way.
It takes a lot of room and smart planning though.
Previous place we had a bunch of teams in mobs in an open space with just enough ad-hoc rooms and furniture made up of sound-dampeners.
I would say in Europe open offices are pretty normal, and people do not hate them that much.
I have worked in a classic "cubicle" environment in the US for a few months, and I cannot say it affected my productivity significantly.
I also don't really see them being "the norm" - the software development company I work for since 8 years puts 2-4 people into an office, and that's it. We had some experiments with up to 8 or 10 in a room, but everyone really hated it, and management listened. We just moved into a larger building, but we still have only 4 desks maximum per office.
But then, maybe I'm just lucky. Our company staying away from open offices because of abysmal feedback by employees is definitely one of the reasons why I've been there for almost a decade now.
Employers do need to control costs like real estate, but they also have an interest in keeping employees productive. So they do surveys and listen to employees and I suspect the reality is people aren't complaining as much as we think they are.
Also, a lot of people who can't stand the noise already do work remotely. They would still be in the broader surveys complaining, but employers wouldn't hear them on internal surveys.
> I wonder if it's a cultural Europe/US thing?
It might be all the extra vacay in Europe. Noise is a stressor, and getting away from it lets that stress diminish.
> I have worked in a classic "cubicle" environment in the US for a few months, and I cannot say it affected my productivity significantly.
Most people filter that stuff out effectively, but some people don't, and if you're like me and your brain amps it up, it can be pretty hellish.
Assuming they all need to be in the office every day to collaborate..
Side note: I'd be curious to see responses for office preference (open, or not open) distributed by age.
I eventually moved on and now have a cubical. I find myself able to be much more productive than ever before. Part of it is because I don't feel like someone is staring at my back and checking my monitor all the time. Another part is that it is vastly quieter than the previous work place despite having literally 100x what the last place had (from startup to Fortune 100 company). If I want to communicate or collaborate with others, I can hit them up at their cubes, and there can be little group discussions in the hallways between cubes without being major distractions to others. I don't get the insane ear fatigue I'd get with headphones in 6+ hours a day like before, too. Needless to say, based on my experiences, I personally prefer cubes to an OO layout.
In practice, I've adjusted my schedule to something like the "double schedule" that PG describes in . When I'm at the office, I spend my time on meetings, planning, managerial stuff, spreadsheet/dashboard work, and simple coding. Then I go home and do all of my complex coding remotely til 1am or so. Obviously this isn't great for work-life balance, and it's terrible for my sleep schedule when I need to be at 8am meetings. But I think a compressed version of this setup (e.g., if I could reasonably only be physically present in the office 4 hours a day) would be pretty much optimal for me, including the open office space.
I sincerely appreciate the reminder though - thank you.
When I read other people's complaints, it seems that most of them are not properly placed next to the people they need to work with.
Personal calls should be taken in a private room. Chatting should be done at the coffee corner. (Team)work is done at the open office, the rest should be taken outside.
If you really need to concentrate on a hard topic, there are headphones that either provide you quietness, or music. Or what I knew some people did was to work a day at home, to tackle something difficult. But the drawback is that they have a hard time staying in the loop, and not as easily accessible to others to ask questions (Hey, can you come take a look at this).
But like everything, it has its drawbacks. And it seems it's a very personal preference, and might also depend on your team/project structure.
That's not always practical. This is less true of developers but, for some people, talking on the phone or at least being on conference jobs describes a pretty good chunk of their days.
I also hate with a passion having people walking around behind me where I can't see them. It's not a question of having things on my screen that I don't want people to see; it's a question of feeling safe and not being constantly startled/on edge.
Well it's comforting to see someone else has this issue. I find this to be the only part about 'open' offices that I personally take issue with at the moment. I really can't continually wear headphones and it does not seem unreasonable for software developers to be able to code in a relatively quiet environment
My team has an open area, but it is semi-closed off from other teams. There were two desks which would have had their monitors in full view of others walking by, so we rearranged our area and put up semi-high walls to combat this. Much to the disdain of other management who feared "others will follow suit." Spoiler: They did.
37, US, Sr. Manager level in Quality Engineering. The majority of my meetings I'd rather not have in front of my team (ICs, Leads, Managers, etc). Partly because I have to talk a lot, partly because people ended up asking questions about things they overheard which weren't concrete yet. If something is changing, if I am working through collaboration, or there is a disagreement, I don't want to distract my team with that fluid information. I mention this as it puts me squarely in the position of a manager who spends a lot of time in a room but wants his team in a semi-open area. All of my bosses have offices and most of my peers have offices. I chose to bypass my office to be close to my team. That said, I am in an unreservable room for 3-5 hours a day.
As a side note for this transition, I used the department budget to buy everyone a pair of QC35s. I budget a pair for every new hire as well. It is a bandage over root cause _and_ created conflict across other groups, but I gladly took the heat. Soon that budget will come out of the New Hire Resources pool!
I never worked in my own office (I'm 39), so I'm really curious what you prefer: phone, email, knocking on someones door?
Also, how do you stay in the loop about what's going on?
On the flip side, most of the day my door is open, and I don't mind occasionally being interrupted to help someone else with whatever they need. If I have a conference call or I just want to really focus on something, I close my door and it's unlikely anyone will knock or otherwise disturb me unless the building is on fire.
My team is distributed around the world so my team collaboration is all virtual, although my management and some of my [internal] customers are located in the same building as me so they can stop by my office or vice versa if we have things to work on together.
It's a wonderful, comfortable way to work. Your ability to concentrate is respected. It's overall a much quieter environment conducive to solving problems. You'll loop in yourself during lunch, at meetings, getting coffee, passing by other offices/being passed by, etc.
Since most team communication happens over IM, it's easy for anyone to read back on what they missed. Most teams also do daily stand-ups or other meetings, to catch the larger group up on anything important.
FWIW, all the places I've worked that had offices in whole or in part had a culture in which everyone left their door open unless they didn't want to be disturbed for some reason. Collaborating was never an issue. If everyone always kept their doors shut, I think I would have found that hindered communication, esp. pre-IM.
However, I'm currently in an office where they went to great lengths to absorb sound and space everyone out to create an area that at most times is actually quiet except for the few times we chat with each other.
So in this instance I don't mind it, I mostly chill on the nearby couch anyway. So I can see how some would love it, and others would hate it. It really does matter how the office is architected and the density of people.
I worked at a small company with 5 total devs and we all sat back to back in a large office and it was pretty good. So I guess the answer is it depends.
I work from home now and this is the best office plan. Slack and other communication tools seem to render the point of having a brick and mortar office moot for a lot of programming work. My team is spread all over the world. Mileage is of course going to vary based on the job.
For example, I've worked at places that seem to be an HN ideal (everyone gets their own room) that range from perfection to the energy level of a mausoleum. And office cultures that range from collaborative to eerie isolation. And in the latter cases, I've pined for some walls to be broken down and some spaces to be shared.
I'm also someone pretty picky on where I get work done. In uni, when it came time to study, I'd shop between three places to see which had an energy I liked the most. I was more likely to pick a bustling Starbucks with couches, so open offices themselves aren't a deal breaker. I need more info than that to eliminate a specific case.
I think it's important to work on noise reduction through office design and offering quiet isolated spaces to work for people that need that environment. But overall I'm a big fan.
Which is to say if you're paying a developer $70K+/year (+taxes/benefits), and you're skimping on a $2K one time cost cubicle, even if that loss results in increased turnover ($$$), reduced morale ($$$), or reduced productively ($$$) then that's an irrational decision.
Employers should consider a "1-2%" per-employee per year "morale fund." If you're paying someone $70K/year the least you could manage is $700-1400 to keep them sweet, it is just good business. Better equipment, software to make them more productive, a nicer chair, whatever.
But I've come to realize that managers rarely make decisions for purely rational reasons. The prestige and internal politics often play a larger role than pure costing.
That said, I still think it's generally a foolish thing to do for many companies and I personally despise open offices. I've recently transitioned to being fully remote, and a hatred of the open office plan was a good part of what pushed me in that direction.
Would you people not prefer to see the difference in their wage packet? A company that chooses open offices can offer higher wages it doesn't mean they don't care about their employees productivity.
Au contraire, as the open office plan is usually paired with the "all-in-one-bucket-PTO" plan. So if you take a sick day, it comes out of your vacation/holiday time. Ergo, employees are even more motivated to come in while feeling a little puny. Otherwise the kids are going to be pissed when you have to trim a day off that trip to Disney World.
My last workplace (Asana) has untracked PTO. All the places I got offers from (established companies) had either untracked PTO or seperate vacation and sick leave.
Fast forward a few years, and now I'm working remotely and loving it. In fact, when I do work in coffee shops or something, I hate it, because I struggle to focus and get things done (unlike most, I straight-up can't listen to music and code at the same time, so headphones are out).
So maybe it just depends on where you are in your career?
1- teams sit together
2- people who need to be on their phones (aka sales) are in a different office
3- buffer spaces between communal areas (kitchen, lounge) and desks
4- people respect each other
I've been in an open office that followed those rules, and it was actually pretty great, because people helped each other a lot more; a bit like open-ended pair programming if you wanted it.
I've also been in an open office that violated all of those rules, and absolutely detested it. Especially that one person who played their radio out loud for the team to "enjoy" and sprayed air freshener everywhere, and the sales people ringing a bell whenever a sale landed, and the kitchen microwaves constantly going off, and and and... it was a minor hell.
I'd like that