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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is empirical, not just a difference of opinion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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'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.
> 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.
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)
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’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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Family does not play into this picture.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
In the (not so) elder days, displaying a roomful of people banging on typewriters was considered cool.
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.
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'm pretty sure Facebook can afford private offices and free ice cream.
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.
This is so critically important.
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 think it's even possible to do open concepts in the right way that mitigate a lot of the distractions and factory farm feelings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I would only really care about jeopardizing the offer if it's a company that wouldn't have an open office plan, anyways.
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.
The point of the stipulation is to filter out toxic companies, so if it puts the job offer in jeopardy, then mission accomplished.
As it is now, my thoughts on the matter are pretty much irrelevant to everyone besides me.
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
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
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.
Yep. I also have tinnitus (ringing) due to overuse of headphones at the office. I have to be very careful about volume.
Though headphones don't help with visual distraction. I need to look into some dividers just to block out my peripheral vision.
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.
I mostly use them when commuting by bus or walking in the street.
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.
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.
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.
Digital distractions have an off switch. But colleagues don’t. And they can physically interrupt you.
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.
>...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.
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?
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.
This should be determined by "do they deliver?" rather than constant monitoring.
(The site was down, I archived it.)
Thanks again. :)
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.
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.
Also working as a team is most definitely helped. Issues are surfaced immediately and can be addressed together.
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.
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.
"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."
Probably an error, but would make good advice in this scenario too.