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How to survive an open office (dijit.sh)
96 points by dijit 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments

I really wish this open office trend would just die already. I like all my coworkers just fine, but the combination of conference calls and casual conversation (don't even get me started on how bad it gets during the World Cup) and people constantly coming and going from the office ends up being really distracting.

What I find more frustrating is all of the open-office apologists, that claim that they work better in an open space. Statistically, this seems unlikely, but even if that's true, a vast majority of people work measurably worse with this kind of setup [1].

This isn't everyone, but what's worse is that there isn't actually any kind of cafeteria/sitting-area to eat at my company, and living in NYC, going out to eat every day gets kind of pricey, forcing me to eat at my desk.

I've been debating asking if I can work remote for three days a week.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/money/work-blog/2014/sep/29/open-...

Open offices photograph better, have been on the right side of the modern&cool™ narrative, are more flexible to rearrange, a bit cheaper to rent and maintain and there's always a sense of busyness going on.

It's very easy for managers to keep track of their herd, see which face they don't like and flex to the colleague/competition using the always important "how many workers I have under my wing/foot" metric.

I think the only downside of open offices is that productivity takes a significant hit and makes worker health and morale a nightmare. But other than that they are fine.

Open office plans are wonderful for the micromanager. Everyone's screen is for all to see - and the moment someone happens not to be looking at an IDE, it's an opportunity to ding someone on their performance review.

While I personally am hyper-focused at work (perhaps too much to the point of tunnel vision), I know peers who have received negative comments despite delivering stellar work - all because they look at HN or doing online shopping from time to time.

That’s my nightmare. I spent a long time in a shop like that. Never again. Working from home is amazing.

I'm blessed with a temperamental car that forces me to work from home occasionally... Despite 3 cats begging for attention, I get more done before lunchtime than in a usual work week in open/cubicle office.

Yes I like my coworkers, that's why I ask them to join me for lunch. When I work I need silence, which is a precious commodity in an open plan.

People can even feel different from you. The shock! Personally, I really don't care about open office. I get my stuff done one way or another. However, working remotely is definitely my preferred option, mostly because I don't feel any need to be in the office and I am just more comfortable at home.

What I never even want to imagine is having to go work in a office where then I have to feel lonely. That's the worst of both worlds.

I never said people can't feel different than me. I said that it seems unlikely that they're actually more productive in an open office, and that even if they specifically are one of the rare few that actually do work better, a vast majority of people don't.

This is empirical, not just a difference of opinion.

I have the impression that people who are not afraid of open offices did not work in an office that was particularly bad. When the manager joins in the constant chatter, talking all the time about video games or sports, it's very difficult to do get work done. You have no one to turn to because the management is in on it.

I worked in open offices that didn't bother me. Generally large companies with more than 60 employees. The noise becomes an indistinguishable background sound and long conversations are almost non-existent.

It's the smaller ones that annoy me. Those with 10 to 15 people. Conversations are easy to hear and understand, so your brain picks up on them. Since it's small, it turns into a bunch of little friend groups who have constant conversations.


Describing it just now, I notice that I am describing a high school class versus a university class. That's exactly how they feel. It only takes one or two disruptive agents to ruin everything.

Yes, I worked in a small office 2 weeks ago, and every conversation made it into my ears. Now I'm in an open office with 60+ people and it's like sitting in a fast food restaurant, noisy chatter that I can tune out. If there's some conversation particularly loud/annoying I just put on my headphones. It's not that bad, but I have the ability to tune it out, and I feel other types of people can't do that.

I’m glad for you. You can tune it out. Some of us can’t tune it out, no matter what.

Well, not until we either put on our maximum NR headphones and play our music at hearing-destroying levels. Maybe by the time we are completely and totally deaf, we will be able to tune it out.

> People can even feel different from you. The shock!

That is exactly what I told my boss when they introduced our new open office and they said "works fine for me".

It goes both ways.

Do they work better, or do they just feel better about it? I mean I can imagine that there's a segment of people who feel that time spent on discussing things can also be productive. And to a point / in certain situations that makes sense - why waste eight hours writing code when you could also talk for five minutes and do half of it?

But I get it, I too tend to measure my productivity and whether I've had a good day by the amount of code or functionality I added, not so much the softer skills.

I'm one of those people. I've done two jobs where I wasn't in an open office, one was a cubicle, one was a private office. Both times I felt very lonely and disconnected, and my motivation suffered greatly.

If I needed maximize output for a single day then I'd probably choose a private office, but over a long period of time it definitely hurts me. So the answer to "do I work better or just feel better about it" is: both.

That said, I feel I'm on the extreme end here as I would also cite loneliness and isolation as the single biggest drawback of being an engineer. I think many engineers would list the ability to work alone on your own stuff as a plus.

I will admit that there is the occasional benefit of the "off the cuff" conversation that you overhear which allows you to add or receive input that you wouldn't have otherwise before, but I think that the amount of times that this is actually useful is a lot less than reported.

I also think that those benefits get quickly offset the second that I get a cold that I wouldn't have otherwise, or get pulled away from something for a triviality.

As you can see in this thread, most people who say they like open offices are not aware of the "team room" alternative that is shown to be highly productive, and/or they like open offices because they spend their time "hanging out" at the office and don't need to concentrate.

Who cares whether the employees get more done? Two questions matter.

Are employees less depressed? (-->prevents PR issues)

Does the company get more done in the long term? (<--maximized retention)

This is a shit job and being close to other humans makes it easier to cope.

I can't speak for anyone else, but if I don't accomplish anything of substance at the end of the day, and this trend keeps on for multiple days in a row, I start getting really depressed.

I'm not saying that it's 100% open-office's fault if I don't accomplish much, but I do think it can be a strong contributing factor.

Same here. I get my happy vibes at work when I make a thing.

> I do think it can be a strong contributing factor.

Even if it's a small factor, an open office doesn't actually help with collaboration, so it's all downside and no upside.

> How to survive an open office

Step 1: Instead of working, write a blog post about how you don’t like it and post it to Hacker News.

Step 2: Cash your $5,000 paycheck and spend it on service employees who live with 3 roommates in order to make rent.

(I call the latter concept “open homes,” and I plan to write a blog post about it later)

This was advice for those who might struggle like I do.

I even admit that it's the first worldiest of first world problems. But that doesn't make it not a problem.

I don't make $5,000, and I have made it part of my negotiations when entering companies before but there aren't any non-open-office companies anymore. So I make my peace and live with it.

The point of the blog post is to bring this topic up because there might be advice I'm missing, obviously I'm not the only one, others must have other coping mechanisms.

I honestly can’t figure out what’s wrong with open offices. If they’ve got carpet and enough conference space they’re golden.

I’ve been in a state government cube center, you don’t want that.

As they say, silence is deafening. So are awkward doctor’s office calls taken in cubicles.

Being around that level of dust and hoarding wasn’t my jam, either.

Noise and distractions. You must be one of those lucky people who can think without the narrative of others talking over their internal narrative. I can't program if I can hear people talking, or any other kind of intrusive noise.

> As they say, silence is deafening. So are awkward doctor’s office calls taken in cubicles.

If anyone here thinks that either cubicles, or an open office are an appropriate place to discuss your medical history with your doctor...

I think that, like in high school, their cellphone privileges should be taken away.

I've been in a cube center and I greatly prefer it to open offices.

> I honestly can’t figure out what’s wrong with open offices

You mean other than the noise and lack of privacy?

> enough conference space

In my experience, open office floorplans and enough conference space go together like peanut butter and blue cheese.

I’m glad for you. You can tune it out. Some of us can’t tune it out, no matter what.

Well, not until we either put on our maximum NR headphones and play our music at hearing-destroying levels. Maybe by the time we are completely and totally deaf, we will be able to tune it out.

I'm becoming more and more vocal in my office about noise-cancelling headphones.

The problem as I see it is that NCHs keep you from being aware about how much external noise you are making that bothers others. Most do not have any sidetone† enabled by default, so users that start to engage in conference calls and chats while wearing NCHs begin to raise their speaking volume to disruptive levels...and they don't know it.

When this is brought up as a complaint, the answer is "well, you should get your own pair of NCHs". This is not a solution.


Interesting read. I agree with a lot of it.

I find noise cancelling headphones uncomfortable and claustrophobic. I have really bad tinnitus, so all noise cancelling headphones do for me is amplify that.

I find that coming in early and leaving early does work. Getting in before others and getting a couple of hours work done is effective, then taking a proper hour for lunch off-site helps as well.

I'm not against collaboration, and maybe open offices can be good if they are treated like public libraries. People can go and discuss things in a room somewhere where they won't bother everyone else. The problem is finding someone (HR, management, etc) who will enforce this policy and actually provide consequences to violating the quiet zone rule.

How about a 0.5% salary pay cut every time you randomly interrupt someone's flow via tangent conversation or unwarranted shoulder tap?

Open office plans originally exist purely to save on costs. If a company doesn't do it to save on costs, is it appropriate to blame cargo culting in the name of "synergy and collaboration"?

If I really need to concentrate and think about something, I need complete silence. No music (even if it is instrumental or repetitive), no headphones, no coworkers taking phone calls, arguing over their code review, or discussing how everyone died in last night's TV episode.

My brain for some reason decides it has to eavesdrop on every single conversation within audible range, and trying to re-align myself to the task at hand becomes excruciating since every 5th word I hear is like a call to `Thread.interrupt()`. If you put me next to a jet turbine or some other white noise, I'd do much better. It might even solve my problem permanently by making me deaf.

If I already know what I need to do and it's just a matter of hitting the keys on my keyboard, I can tolerate the noise.

I commonly joke to my peers that perhaps management is doing us a favor by slowing us down day-to-day so we don't automate our jobs away too quickly. We should all be thankful!

Previous HN discussion: The open-plan office is a terrible, horrible, no good idea - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17513843

I've always found it rather strange that library silence is considered required for study, but not for programming, which requires equal or more focus.

Making open office essentially a nunnery never works. We tried many times.

If you tie salary to noise levels people will quit. Bonus points if you benefit people for being team players, talk about conflicting priorities.

About the only half workable solution is isolation headphones - like for shooting ranges, or earphones for those who prefer it. Enhance online communication too. (For our purposes, Mattermost or Slack work well, with code review tools second.)

Yeah Peltor earmuffs are about the only thing that have worked for me. And you're right, a salary or fine is never going to work out practically - just wishful thinking on my part :)

I am kinda happy that open offices exist. The collaborative kind of setting really helps in creating a nice vibe (I am a weirdo in that I like my team, my teammates and my job in general) as opposed to being stuck in a room.

But more importantly, as an ex-FB employee I am glad that open offices let companies give nice perks to employees even in extremely expensive real-estate markets like the valley. I would rather have a well-equipped onsite gym and a roomy cafeteria and a free ice-cream shop than that space being filled with 100 'offices'. The former are what make the office space fun and distinctive. The latter is the equivalent of a concrete jungle.

I come to work to work - it's not for the fun perks - the perk is being paid. That's the one perk that keeps me working. Do I think having "fun" takes away from that work? No. But I don't particularly care - I'm a professional, doing professional work, and if I could get 4 walls and silence, I'd happily light the ice cream machine on fire myself. If you want to collaborate, sure, do that - go to a meeting room, or meet in your own pod, and if you really want that open office charm, go work in the lunch room.

FAANG style employees get the best salaries in the world AND the best perks in the world. What exactly is the tradeoff here, if salaries is all you care about? Also, if all companies in the bay area moved to giving each employee an office, where do you think that money is coming from? It will cause depression in salaries.

Open offices work in favor of your salary. And despite the weekly posts on HN about open offices, hardly any employee uses it as a bargaining chip. Microsoft has open offices, and yet not once I have heard anyone on HN saying they would chose MS because of that.

> I am glad that open offices let companies give nice perks to employees even in extremely expensive real-estate markets like the valley. I would rather have a well-equipped onsite gym and a roomy cafeteria and a free ice-cream shop than that space being filled with 100 'offices'.

You're saying companies trade out having open offices for perks. I'm saying I don't care about those perks, and would rather have less perks and 4 walls.

It feels like we're being astroturfed by SV recruiters. It blows my mind when I see people playing ping pong, pool, and arcade games at work. Why would anyone spend an hour or more playing games in the office rather than just getting their work done and leaving to spend time with family, friends, pets, or hobbies?

> Why would anyone spend an hour or more playing games in the office rather than just getting their work done and leaving to spend time with family, friends, pets, or hobbies?

I worked for a SV company with a ping pong table, video games, board games etc.

If you don't participate you're seen as "not a team player"... It's the same with lunches etc. They want you at the office as much as they can get/keep you there, and now they're doing their best to create "inclusive social environments".

It creates an "in" and an "out" crowd, and if someone decides you haven't hit your monthly Go Karting/drinking event/fancy dinner quotas you're the office outcast. Managers love this because it's all under the guise of "family" or "team building" etc. and it gives them a totally arbitrary metric to nickle and dime someone on.

> If you don't participate you're seen as "not a team player"

In other words, it turns what should be a recreational activity into a job requirement? While I haven't experienced that myself (but then, I don't work in SV), if I did, it would make me actively angry to have a job requirement that did nothing but take away from accomplishing what I was hired to accomplish.

Silicon valley (especially to start up ecosystem) is a meat grinder, and the meat it runs on is single new grads who are willing to work for peanuts, while only being able to afford to live in a one-bedroom flat with three roommates.

Family does not play into this picture.

Different strokes for different folks? If you want inclusivity for people with kids, can you not offer the same courtesy to people without families?

Our team has some middle-aged people who do a strict a 9 to 5 and that is perfectly fine. We never expect them to stay around for board games or whatever.

But that doesn't mean the rest of us can't hang out with our colleagues.

>...Open offices work in favor of your salary.

That is not how it works with highly profitable companies like FB, The extra cost to give people some privacy and allow them to less distracted is a tiny percent of the costs to pay the employee salaries + benefits over time. This is not a tradeoff. (Indeed, since people have been shown to be less productive in a distracted environment, employee salaries might be less than what they would be than if they were more productive.)

> What exactly is the tradeoff here, if salaries is all you care about?

All the non-FAANG companies copy the trend of open offices (it's a cargo cult), so if you want to look at it from an utilitarian perspective, more people are actually worse off.

> The collaborative kind of setting really helps in creating a nice vibe

Yeah, the vibe is the entire reason why they're popular.

It's like the "I f*cking love science" image of science: science looks cool and fun if you're an astronomer posing next to a telescope, as opposed to grad student tediously running spectroscopy against thousands of images.

And developers look way cooler when they're models smiling and pointing at a computer screen than when they're heads down writing actual code.

Apparently nobody wants to feel like a cog in the machine they really are.

In the (not so) elder days, displaying a roomful of people banging on typewriters was considered cool.

I really don't care about any of those perks.

I want privacy and silence, and really all I'm interested in doing at work is putting in my eight hours and then going home. I'm just here to draw a paycheck. I actually like my job and my teammates; but I just work to fund my life, and I'm an introvert who craves solitude. My idea of having fun after I get off work involves ordering delivery, having a nice meal by myself, and then spending the rest of the night playing video games by myself, going on a nice, long wiki walk by myself, and/or hacking on some personal project that tickles my fancy by myself.

And, quite frankly, I detest the culture surrounding the tech industry in the valley, I will never, ever move there, and this is a large part of _why_ I detest the culture there. I'm happy I live in the middle of the country where real estate is cheap and the tech industry is dominated by conservative telecoms where the only bro culture is in the sales department.

The collaborative kind of setting really helps in creating a nice vibe (I am a weirdo in that I like my team, my teammates and my job in general) as opposed to being stuck in a room.

So you can't like your team if you like your team be productive in its own office?

But more importantly, as an ex-FB employee

Jesus, here we go.

I would rather have a well-equipped onsite gym and a roomy cafeteria and a free ice-cream shop than that space being filled with 100 'offices'.

Nothing prevents the company from creating that, aside from private offices.

Your post doesn't make any cohesive point, looks like humblebragging.

> I am glad that open offices let companies give nice perks to employees even in extremely expensive real-estate markets like the valley

I'm pretty sure Facebook can afford private offices and free ice cream.

> (I am a weirdo in that I like my team, my teammates and my job in general)

I don't think that makes you a weirdo. I feel the same. I wouldn't be willing to stay in a job where I didn't feel that way!

However, I simply cannot work in an open office. It's far too stressful, and I have great difficulty actually getting quality work done in that setting.

> I would rather have a well-equipped onsite gym and a roomy cafeteria and a free ice-cream shop than that space being filled with 100 'offices'.

I am exactly the opposite. I honestly couldn't care less about things like a gym, etc. What I care about is being able to work to the best of my ability.

> What I care about is being able to work to the best of my ability.

This is so critically important.

> I am a weirdo in that I like my team, my teammates and my job in general

How does that make you weird? Seems pretty normal to me.

> I would rather have a well-equipped onsite gym and a roomy cafeteria and a free ice-cream shop than that space being filled with 100 'offices'

From this statement, I'm guessing you are in your 20's and single. Those are not important things when we are talking about a job.

I like my team too, and I didn't offer alternative office styles although there is a lot of space between "isolation" and "completely exposed".

I think it's even possible to do open concepts in the right way that mitigate a lot of the distractions and factory farm feelings.

At this time, aparantly what you do is “retry later”. Sounds legitimate.

Twice in my life I've been given an office upon joining a company later to be relocated to an open office, which I hate. After the second relocation, I thought that the next job I take I will try to negotiate upfront for an office in my contract, in writing. Has anyone ever heard of anything like this being done?

My dad did this (in writing), but it was specific to the exact position he was in (something he didn't realize would be an issue). He got promoted, and a month later they took him from his private office to a cubicle. Admittedly, a cubicle isn't an open office, but it's still a downgrade from a regular office.

Cubicles at pretty good for productivity, if well built and not in a phone-heavy work environment. They combine audio dampening , partial visual blocking with visual airspace, natural light, and easy collaboration.

Yeah, they're not so bad overall; I think he was more upset with the fact that they took the office away from him more than anything else.

Yea, sort of. If, when I joined, the company had said upfront that they had open offices, I wouldn't have been quite so sore about it.

It feels like I agreed to work there under one set of circumstances and then the company unilaterally changed the agreement. It qualitatively felt like a bait-and-switch, but that's not quite the right analogy, because the two companies never said that the office situation wouldn't change. I just assumed, and that's on me.

I want to change the dynamic at the next job I take. And I am curious if anyone else here has made some think like that work.

Wow. How did he get that in writing? Was it his initiative, or came with the position by default?

I was pretty young when this happened, but if I remember it was basically listed in the accommodations/perks in his contract.

It could put the entire job offer in jeopardy if they read it as you being antisocial, entitled, incapable of being a teamplayer, arrogant, etc.

I also definitely wouldn't do that in a situation where I'd be part of a team that shares an office elsewhere. If you do get your private office your coworkers will harbour resentments against you for enjoying a privilege that they themelves do not enjoy and retaliate either consciously or subconsciously by keeping you out of the loop on information that they discuss amongst themselves in their office.

To be clear, I'd be fine with a shared office situation with up to 3~4 office mates. But the open offices as discussed here are abominations. Maybe it does seem anti-social of me? I guess I didn't consider that aspect of it.

It just seems duplicitous of the two companies that I've been at to verbally say one thing when I still haven't committed and am trying to decide and then do something else 6 months later ... like a bait-and-switch.

I am not at all saying that it's anti-social of you to think that way. I agree with you 100%. But what matters here is this: The people who make the hiring decision are likely to be the same people who decided to have an open office, or, at least, are closer to the people who made that decision than they are to you.

Now there are two possibilities. (a) Either they themselves are actually believers in the open plan office kumbaya social happy togetherness crap, in which case they will think you antisocial for not wanting to be part of that. (b) Or, they are fully aware that the company just wanted to save some money on not having walls and the kumbaya social happy togetherness is just the way that they are whitewashing that decision to make it seem desireable to still work there. In that latter case: You not drinking the kool aid will be a red flag to them, making them have doubts about whether they will be able to adequately keep you under control or whether you will turn out to be an unstable element with a mind of its own. They don't need to resolve those doubts. They just need to have them, in order to make them not want to hire you. -- In either case, it's a dangerous game for you to play.

In either one of those cases, it sounds like a company I don't want to work for anyways. Bullet dodged.

I would only really care about jeopardizing the offer if it's a company that wouldn't have an open office plan, anyways.

In any case: The right way to negotiate for an office is not when you're initially hired, but when you've been there a while, have somehow come into possession of a fair amount of bargaining power against them, and are renegotiating your deal.

You really think so? That doesn't match my experience. I have always felt the most bargaining power before accepting the position, where the company feels they have to sell themselves. In both companies I mentioned, they were quite happy to show me my (respectively private and shared) offices when I was considering joining. I just want to lock them into that attitude. After I've been there a while, there's a real personal cost to leaving, which hurts my bargaining position, and they know it.

The same as if I really cared about any other accommodation (like a salary). I wouldn't trust my salary to a handshake deal.

Edit: I'm not at either of those jobs anymore, but I think if I had tried to negotiate for a shared office after the company had moved to an open office plan, I would have been laughed out of the room.

> It could put the entire job offer in jeopardy if they read it as you being antisocial, entitled, incapable of being a teamplayer, arrogant, etc.

The point of the stipulation is to filter out toxic companies, so if it puts the job offer in jeopardy, then mission accomplished.

I think calling the companies toxic might be going a bit too far. For my next job search, having a private office or office shared with a small number of people will be for all intents and purposes a requirement for me. I am currently thinking that it's better to be upfront about it and get expectations in writing.

Sure, and any larger company will just decline and smaller companies will just terminate the contract. Not a lawyer, but I doubt you could sue even if they just violated the contract. All it does is tell them you agree to work there so long as your office exists. But nobody needs a reason to quit.

That's pretty much in line with my thinking. I want them to at least consider the fact that they agreed to something else that's in writing when they do office re-arrangements. And if they decide that I'm no longer worth an office, that's fine by me, but I want them to know they're making that decision rather than me springing it on them post facto.

As it is now, my thoughts on the matter are pretty much irrelevant to everyone besides me.

The one annoying but fun thing about my open office is that people can bring dogs to work. I have had a few occasions in which my co-space mates’ dogs couldn’t stop humping my leg

It’s a weird situation to be in while your female teammates happen to be around. Some turn away. Some can’t help but just laugh with remark like “He loves your leg”

I don’t feel bad, though. Normally, I just let the owners yank the little devils away. I think the benefit of being able to play with them for free everyday outweighs the embarrassment for me anyway

I have invested in a quality pair of earbuds that double as foam earplugs. This passive sound isolation means I can set some music at low volume and be completely isolated from the outside world.

Active isolation is rubbish because it lets voices through.

Here is what I use : Shure SE215 - https://www.rtings.com/headphones/reviews/shure/se215#compar...

I consider that with those, I can work as well as I can alone at home. Otherwise, I also suffer from a very noisy office with constant laughter, anecdotes, movie and TV show reviews, people reading emails out loud to team mates etc. and can't ever enter the flow.

I am also a big fan of using fake babble noise to mask surrounding chatter. After about 5 minutes, the brain ignores all of it including the real chatter that is around you. Namely this https://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/babbleNoiseGenerator.php or this https://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/cafeRestaurantNoiseGenerat...


Disclaimer: This is a repost from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20277513

I found that I can't wear headphones of any sort in an open office environment. It puts me on edge and I'm always checking to see if someone has come up behind me or is trying to get my attention.

It's a nice idea in theory (and it clearly works for a lot of people), but for me it just makes the situation even worse.

I am the same. However, when it's too noisy I have to choice but to put headphones in. I used earplugs for a while but the absolute silence (and the ringing in my ears) drove me crazy. That's why I found those. I usually leave one ear free and only put the second plug in when it gets very noisy.

>(and the ringing in my ears)

Yep. I also have tinnitus (ringing) due to overuse of headphones at the office. I have to be very careful about volume.

Definitely agree about active noise cancellation, if anything, it makes voices worse. I've been pleased with Etymotic ER3XR.

Though headphones don't help with visual distraction. I need to look into some dividers just to block out my peripheral vision.

> Though headphones don't help with visual distraction.

I often wear my hood up or wear a cap (or both) on times where I need to focus on something very complex. The TV show hacker stereotype is true for me.

Not a bad idea.

I have a pair of SE215Bs that have been going strong for over 10 years of using them for working out, and travelling. They have even survived a few trips in the washer and dryer. One of the best parts is that the monitors have a connector between themselves and the actual cable, in case the cable wears out over time you can replace it, or upgrade to the bluetooth adapter that shure sells. The Foam tips don't work as well as they did when they are new but I can get replacements if I needed. I now prefer my Bose QC35 but I always bring the Shures as a backup.

I also have the Bose QC35 but I found them unsatisfying when in an open office. They do filter out the noise from the HVAC system which is nice.

I mostly use them when commuting by bus or walking in the street.

They're super -SUPER- good on aeroplanes. It makes flying not nearly as draining.

Hey, this is good, I'll buy a pair, thanks!

They are hard to figure out the first time so make sure you read the instruction on how to wear them properly.

Open offices are ruined by people.

Some people cant work and interact with others in a respectful manner. Just because you're in an open office doesn't mean that others DON'T have the right to a low-disruption work environment. It gets really tiring to have to constantly fight off rude people just so I can get a few minutes of uninterrupted focus.

"It doesn't bother me, therefore it doesn't bother anyone" is such a common trope.

In my experience, open offices help out the team's productivity and rapport, at the expense of personal productivity.

I get the desire to have one's own semi-private space to focus on their work and not be bothered. But if you're working in a team, then open plans probably are beneficial and worth the trade off.

How can the team be productive if its members are not personally productive? It seems to me about the only person that would be getting a productivity boon out of this is the team leader.

It allows for more questions for the team leads and ad-hoc pair programming, which likely cuts the productivity of the team lead (or more knowledgable workers) while benefitting the members on the team with less experience.

There's a big difference between huge-room open floorplans with no or low-walled cubicles, and open team rooms with a handful of people in them.

Personally, I like opens spaces for small teams, so closed offices big enough for maybe 6-8 people, tops

This is what we have that I rather enjoy. Half a dozen programmers in a room with cubicles, just have to lean over to talk to somebody (teams are next to each other).

Further discussions are moved to the conference room which is dedicated to us programmers, with a TV we can cast to, etc.

Off topic discusssions or lengthy ones are expected to take place in the conference or break room.

We have ms teams (bleh) for trivial questions.

The only way I found to do some actual deep work in an open space + hotdesk office is to set all status notifications as busy, put some good noise cancelling headphones and avoid the urge to check some mail or chat notification. Come in early or leave later. It doesn't work that well but it's what I can get. I'm constantly being bombarded my emails, skype calls, slack queries, everyone schedules meetings and webconferences, etc, I barely can get 2 straight hours for "real work". Sometimes feels like I failed hard in personal time and project management but don't know how. Funny because I work as a project manager of sorts.

That’s not really anything to do with the office. If you’re able to do those things then I applaud you sincerely.

Digital distractions have an off switch. But colleagues don’t. And they can physically interrupt you.

I'd also like to add a point about productivity and efficiency that everyone talks about.

It seems like people take for granted that open offices are less efficient and that people are more productive inside four walls. I'd say it can very well be the opposite. It's easy to get distracted by random internet browsing when you are in a room all by yourself, but if you are outside in a common place, you won't for example just start watching a movie.

We don't need to rely on anecdotes or our personal opinions . There are plenty of studies on open offices and how they affect productivity. For example:

>...The design of the research was simple but incredibly clever. Study two Fortune 500 companies planning to make a switch to open-plan offices and compare how employees interact both before and after the new office design.

>To do this, Harvard researchers Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban had 150 participating employees wear a gizmo called a sociometric badge. For three weeks before and after the redesign it recorded wearers' movement, location, posture and, via infrared and sound sensors, their every conversation with colleagues. The researchers also reviewed the number of text messages and emails subjects sent during the test period.

>The results have just been published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. What did they show? In short, as walls came down, so did the number of interactions among co-workers. Simultaneously, the number of emails and text messages shot up.

>"Overall, face-to-face time decreased by around 70 percent across the participating employees, on average, with email use increasing by between 22 percent and 50 percent (depending on the estimation method used)," says the British Psychological Society Research Digest blog, summing up the results.


>..A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology of more than 40,000 workers in 300 US office buildings: "...Enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality), particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues. Benefits of enhanced 'ease of interaction' were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration."


An article in the New Yorker summarizes some research on open offices. Besides the effects on productivity, there are also health effects. For example:

>...In a recent study of more than twenty-four hundred employees in Denmark, Jan Pejtersen and his colleagues found that as the number of people working in a single room went up, the number of employees who took sick leave increased apace.

>...In laboratory settings, noise has been repeatedly tied to reduced cognitive performance. The psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic. Listening to music to block out the office intrusion doesn’t help: even that, Perham found, impairs our mental acuity. Exposure to noise in an office may also take a toll on the health of employees. In a study by the Cornell University psychologists Gary Evans and Dana Johnson, clerical workers who were exposed to open-office noise for three hours had increased levels of epinephrine—a hormone that we often call adrenaline, associated with the so-called fight-or-flight response.


> Avoid any company doing “Hot desking”

Is this real? I'm so messy, there's no way I could hot desk. I'd leave a trail of destruction behind me in the form of scribbled notes on legal pads, weird gadgets I'd fiddle with, mousepads, pens, postcards... How could anyone not have a "space" for themselves at work?

Having done this for a few months, I always grabbed the same desk and carted a streamlined collection of my odds and ends in and out each day. Not great, but better than just having a laptop on a desk.

When I tried working in an open office, I tried most of those suggestions. None of them were worth the effort for me.

What I learned is that I am unable to work in an open office setting, so I won't take any job that requires it.

What open offices could really use is those kinds of spinners that they have at Brazilian steakhouses, where you could flip from green to red, depending on if people are open to being talked to.

Does or has anyone conceived of a "coding cubicle" the idea being the cubicle is like a dark room, donot disturb scenario. how a supervisor determines you are working and not screwing around is a point, but this seem like a possible hybrid, so that collaborative portions of development can be skeletally accomplished in a common environment, then the actual transposition of flow charts to code can occur in sequestration.

> how a supervisor determines you are working and not screwing around is a point

This should be determined by "do they deliver?" rather than constant monitoring.

How to survive a HN hug of death: http://archive.is/r8pHs

(The site was down, I archived it.)

Thank you, I guess I did a booboo by reverse proxying a svbtle site. I've added caching, hopefully that helps.

Thanks again. :)

"Retry later"

Nice, short and to the point. I will say, even though this "blog" doesn't look professional at least it doesn't have any ads on it.

I have grown used to all the eyes, smells and sights around me in open offices.

What I will never ever get used to, is the fact that the dumbest, densest & deafest people tend to pollute the soundscape for 80% or more.

The article won't load, but I have a hot take anyways: Why the hell are you complaining? If your bosses want to provide a chill spot where you get to hang with your friends while you are underutilized, why not just enjoy it?

Also working as a team is most definitely helped. Issues are surfaced immediately and can be addressed together.

> while you are underutilized

There's a kind of person who isn't able to be content without a certain amount of autonomy to do the best job possible, and just isn't able to accept being unproductive. I've been able to assert such a position several times in my career but I think the only way to do it is to earn it by proving I can accomplish large things that can make an impact by myself, without micromanagement. I probably need to work partly in my own time to do this.

Even simply for mental health, it's worth it.

"Chill spot" is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. It's like having a spotlight shining on you and putting up a sign saying "Lazy guy right here. Give this guy some work or fire him right now."

Do you happen to be in management?

This is really the advice ?

So one of the things that I really recommend to people is that you Create an imaginary office even when theres’ no door to actually close. There are several ways to do that, in our office we’ve done that with those really great noise cancelling headphones.

All I could think of was Les Nessman from the old television show WKRP in Cincinnati:

"Les believes that as the news director, he should have his own private office, so he puts masking tape on the floor around his desk indicating where his office walls would be. He insists that anyone who approaches his desk must knock at an imaginary door and wait for permission to come in. He mimes opening and closing a door whenever he sits down at or leaves his desk; once he even took out a set of keys to lock the nonexistent door."


This post was my reaction to such bad advice. These are all the "tips" that I thought were actually useful, I'm hoping there are more in the comments here.

I am fortunate to have my own office. That's right. 4 walls and a door. However I still find myself frustrated because the project managers refuse to use headsets and use the speakerphones all day.

"Retry later"

Probably an error, but would make good advice in this scenario too.

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