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People tend to enjoy private alcoves with a view on the action, which is kinda best of both worlds. Christopher Alexander describes that pattern in _A Pattern Language_.



I really don't understand why you hardly ever see 4 to 6 person glass-walled offices with doors around an open collaborative area with comfy seats and coffee tables. That seems like a great and still fairly cost-effective setup.


I worked at General Magic, one of the mid-90's "super startups" in silicon valley, and this is very close to how our workspace was structured. While we had cubes, they mostly had high walls except for where the opened to a common space. The common spaces had couches and whiteboards, perfect for collaboration. But when you just needed to focus and write code, there was enough quiet and privacy for that, too.


I've experienced a fair amount of "offices are for director-level and above only".

In fact, what really gets on my nerves is that we used to have our support people sitting three-to-an-office, and now they sit in a cube farm. It was much better isolating them with people of a similar function (both so that they aren't disturbing other people being on the phone all day, and so that there is less risk of some idiot saying something loudly that it would be impolitic for a customer to hear.)


Sounds like the setup at WeWork offices. Granted, it's a co-working space instead of a single company's office, but I found it to be a good mix when my company worked out of WeWork Golden Gate last year.


I'm amazed more people don't make use of that book. It's so chock full of brilliant advice with very reasonable explanations, for so many situations. I'm still not done reading it, because it's massive, but every chapter I read makes me notice new things in the environments I move through.


Reading "A Pattern Language" immediately changed the build-out plans for our new office. We're truly putting these ideas in practice.

We have a large-ish, well-lit open space, surrounded by several conference rooms. The open space is oriented in the overall space such that it's farthest from the door to minimize traffic. We're going to let each team (4-8 people) build out their own workspaces in the open area. They will organize the furniture, control how they physically interface with the rest of the space and other teams, etc. They'll have enough types of furniture to build walls, alcoves, desks, conference tables, social spaces, etc. As projects and teams change, adjustments can be made immediately.

I must say it's an exciting yet terrifying prospect, particularly because as with many existing spaces, it's not always possible to follow the prescriptive advice 100%. Additionally, almost no one has ever worked in an office space that is like the Alexander describes, which makes it somewhat of a leap of faith (in Peopleware we trust) that it will all work out.

If anyone else out there has already gone through this process, I'd love to hear how it's worked out for you.

This is the web page that got me into his work [http://zeta.math.utsa.edu/~yxk833/Chris.furniture.html].


You should share the name of your company. Use your attention to humane office space as a competitive advantage when recruiting. See what Joel Spolsky has done with Fog Creek and Stack Exchange.


Thanks! Actually all that info is available in my HN bio.


What buildings have been done to Alexander's satisfaction? It'd be cool to visit one and see how well things could work.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Alexander#Architect offers a shortlist and here's a gallery I found from there of many of his projects: http://www.katarxis3.com/Gallery/nav.htm

It's one of my life's goals to build my own house using that book as a rough guide. I'm sure I'll write about it when it eventually happens.


At my office, I have a real desk and a "satellite" desk in the video editor pod. It's an easy place to go and work on something heads down or when I want a reduction in activity but not down to zero. My have nicknamed that empty desk "The Villa". It even has it's own calendar.


I think the two desk idea is great, though I can see it being an issue when space is limited.


Nice words and thanks for the book recommendation.


It's also, incidentally, a book that every software engineer using term "design patterns" should spend some time looking at -- it's the origin of the term, and it will probably make you think about whether what we call design patterns are really the same thing or solving the analogous problem.



As do cats.




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