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What is the best office design you have seen?
60 points by fnazeeri on Nov 2, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

I'd think open layout designs do not qualify for this question as it's pretty well established that they are bad for productivity.

"I'd think open layout designs do not qualify for this question as it's pretty well established that they are bad for productivity."

Are office cubicle layouts largely an American practice? In the UK, I have never seen a cubicle layout in either large or medium offices. Open plan seems to be the default. I've never worked in anything other than open plan offices, so I don't know how I'd adapt to a cubicle, but I wonder just how widespread (or not) the cubicle layout really is outside of North America.

And people get ill more often in open workspaces (versus cubicles).

I'm still going to opt for (at least semi-)open workspaces though. Despite the downsides, they encourage communication a lot and it also feels more relaxed. I think most of us know how often a lack of communication is the cause of trouble.

I think what feels more relaxed depends on the person in question. Many introverts like myself feel a lot more comfortable in an enclosed workspace, and thus, productivity is also increased.

Exactly. People who can work at coffee shops find it natural and relaxing to work in an open office but I never work at coffee shops because its noisy,distracting and i don't drink coffee :)

There is a big difference between 'open workspaces', emphasising the plural, and 'open office plan'.

Putting teams (either functional or cross-functional project-based) of 3-6 people each in an open workspace is great for communication. On the other hand, putting a whole office floor as a single open workspace will simply kill productivity and discourage communication because either people will be isolated in headphones so they don't hear their neighbor, or people will avoid discussions there ('let's get a meeting room') so as not to disturb others.

Man, I must be showing my age, because I remember a time when everyone hated cubicles - they were tiny, cramped, and almost always drab. In fact, I always thought the modern open-plan workspace was a response towards the backlash against cubicles.

I dislike both. Give me a private office with a door that closes any day.

I do not believe that is well established.

Define "productivity", then define specifically what it is about open layout offices that harms it?

Momentarily let's just define it as getting things done without disruption.




While the research information is relatively thin (as most work related research seems to be), it goes in line with my experience (and probably the commenter you've replied to).

If your productivity is measured by getting code out that works and is maintainable, or any other activity that requires focus for extended periods of time, then getting interrupted in an open layout office is going to bring it down. Having a quiet office that's insulated from drive-by management and other distractions can really help in that regards. If I remember correctly, Peopleware [1] devotes a longer explanation as to why.

If your work isn't that and requires more collaboration than concentration, open layout offices probably work better for those kinds of work.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peopleware:_Productive_Projects...

I'm not saying one way or the other if it helps or hinders productivity. But productivity is such a nebulous idea. If you're getting at what I think you are, it's probably better to express it as an increased probability of becoming distracted. Dev team in our office each has headphones for that express reason :-)

I've never been able to work to music so I end up having to blast white noise over headphones to work in open office spaces. There is nothing like listening to white noise for 8 hours to make you hate open office spaces.

That sounds truly awful. Perhaps pink or brown noise would be slightly less awful.

Headphones reduce (not eliminate) distractions from noise, they don't do anything for visual distractions. And they don't stop people from approaching and interrupting you (this of course still occurs in non-open layouts, but less frequently).

Of course, if you had an office with a door you could close when you needed uninterrupted focus time, that would pretty quickly stop the interruptions. This is the premise behind why C*O's supposedly need their own offices (to concentrate on all the important decisions), and there are some who advocate this approach for all programmers (look up Spolsky's offices for programmers).

I got to visit the StackExchange office in New York a few weeks ago. The development floor is divided into hexagons. Two walls are glass (including a door), the other 4 walls are white and double as whiteboards. Each office is given two large desks which can be raised or lowered electrically.

Essentially it's another experiment in PeopleWare architecture by Spolsky. I liked that each developer had a private office, but I found that without decoration the blank walls made it feel too much like the set of a 70s movie dystopia.


I can't believe they actually posted 15 megapixel pictures for the slideshow. 37 of them. Made my connection slow to a crawl for quite a while.

Made my hard drive swap, 2GB ram 90% filled.

Chromium seems conservative about large resources.

That is a beautiful, amazing office, except for the part where people work. I will not work in an open plan office like that. That is my opinion but as far as I understand most scientific studies support it. As opposed to industry and agile consultants hand waving arguments. For example:


I will not work in "everybody gets an office" plans ever again. It felt like I was the last man on earth every day, you'd never see anybody. Horribly isolated environment. Glad to work in an open plan office.

I've been in both, and here are my two bits:

It's awesome to work in an open plan with other people who are working on THE SAME THING you are working on, and it absolutely sucks to be surrounded by people who are working on completely different things.

Also bad: not being able to find a place to work together on something with other people.

And the worst: not being able to find a quiet place to concentrate, when you need to.

I think the answer is a combination of quiet offices with very many small conference rooms that can be claimed for projects... and a large, anything-goes space (like a cafeteria) for when you don't mind complete chaos.

Looks like lot of huge, beautiful places for hanging out, and one chaotic, cramped place to actually do work.

Everything's looking great... except the desks :-(

Love it, I'm sold! The dark wooden bookshelves should be in the brick room with a couple of reading lamps and the whiskey bar :D

Very cool, ever find a need for private work areas?

Dropbox is hands down one of my favorite offices

That's the Weebly office

I've always wanted to visit Pixar's office.


I love ours, the Melbourne Hosting office in Manchester, UK:


How much do you charge for working there ;-) ?

Do you accept visitors?

Looks like a really cold place to work. So much space allocated to void, you can probably hear your voice echo.

I disagree, big, open spaces force a certain quietness. Think of a big library or an empty theatre. Whereas if everything was filled with clutter or more desks, no one would feel the need to be quiet because everyone is so close it would be pointless to try.

Not a problem, since they don't actually use it that much. In REMOTE, they state that there are a maximum of 6 persons (they are 30+) at the office on any given day.

That makes the problem only bigger.

Actually I'd think the objects diffuse your echo more than the large open space contributes to it. But of course someone working there would have to comment for us to know :)

Poor DHH eating lunch alone.

I recently visited the New Relic office in Portland and had serious office-envy.



I am fascinated by this idea of designing a space with the goal of helping employees live longer / happier lives. I would love this for our new space. Is this crazy?

Wow, amazing photos. I'm struck by how pervasive sitting is. Everyone assumes people should sit, but the data are clear that we should be standing.

the entrance to mothernewyork.com's office is like a bustling kitchen + coffee shop. the receptionist of course asks you what you'd like to drink.

hands down the best and most cultured agency office on my startup trip there last week.

Seeing as many companies get their furniture from Allsteel, they have a fantastic headquarters. http://www.allsteeloffice.com

I have a question, primarily since Im a heavy user of redshift these days.

What kind of artificial lighting is good - white lighting or the yellowish, natural lighting.

I'm a huge advocate of white lighting. Yellow lighting hurts my eyes.

Pixar and it's not even close.

small, quiet, private, plenty of desktop space and wall space, plenty of power outlets. ability to increase/decrease light and temperature to taste. comfortable healthy chair. adjustable heights for chair, desktop, keyboard and monitor. other folks can't sneak up from behind you. hard/impossible to be interrupted, especially by chit-chatters.

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