wskemper 279 days ago [-]
I work for Viasat; all of our new-build offices in the past few years have been designed around what we call the neighborhood concept. A neighborhood is a set of individual offices (maybe 60sqft-ish?) with three solid walls, and one glass/wood wall with a sliding door. All the offices open into a central room that can be outfitted in a bunch of different ways. There are neighborhoods of different sizes, and basically, each team gets a neighborhood to themselves. The whole concept was developed through a series of experiments that took several years.

Some teams make use of the space better than others, of course, but for my group it's been a huge boon to our collaborative culture. The offices are well-insulated, so you don't need headphones to achieve quiet, but if you want to, you can leave your door open and hear what your teammates are discussing at any time.

Over time we're upgrading our older facilities to the same model, but in general there are few open-plan offices or cube farms in the company, and I highly doubt we're going to build more. Many years ago, our founders made it a company priority to give folks a door they can close, to get away from "it all" and focus.

kabdib 279 days ago [-]
I worked in a similar environment at Apple, when Infinite Loop first opened: Pods with offices that surrounded a central courtyard, which was furnished with sofas, chairs and whiteboards. Each office had a simple (and heavy) door alongside a tall and narrow window.

The door provided effective sound isolation, and years later I realized the window was a psychological link to what was going on in the inner "courtyard", after spending time in a completely closed office at Microsoft. The message at Apple seemed to be "Okay, we know you need to concentrate on work, but remember that you're part of a community" while the office of the particular group I was in at Microsoft seemed to say "Please just sit there and write code and do email -- we will feed you under the door".

Architecture matters in the weirdest ways, and sometimes tiny tweaks make a big difference.

kpil 279 days ago [-]
+1 for the Microserfs reference!
kabdib 279 days ago [-]
I believe the gap at the bottom of the door was indeed wider at Microsoft . . .
noir_lord 279 days ago [-]
I'd forgotten that book existed,I need to read it again, it's up there with "office space" for humourous tech related media.
cdeutsch 272 days ago [-]
What book are you referring to? Sounds good :)
logfromblammo 279 days ago [-]
Flat foods only.
mark-r 278 days ago [-]
Pizza then.
ismail-khan 279 days ago [-]
“We shape our buildings; thereafter our buildings shape us”
aphextron 278 days ago [-]
>"Please just sit there and write code and do email -- we will feed you under the door".

Sounds like heaven

rdl 279 days ago [-]
That's the office concept I've always wanted to build. It would be cool if someone from the company could document it/blog post/etc. -- might be good for recruiting too. (Especially since Viasat does pretty cool stuff -- excited about the new Exede sat expanding coverage...)

I was thinking it would make sense to have roller doors or some other way to open the entire side of the office (on both sides -- "neighborhood" and "hallway" if the occupant wanted.)

blitzo 279 days ago [-]
I find this IKEA Mandal divider turn-into cubicle reach a compromising middle ground between open and closed space.
rdl 279 days ago [-]
I'd like more auditory isolation, though. (Ideally I want to be able to have a private conversation whenever I want within my office, without disturbing anyone else, and then have others able to do the same.)
IntelMiner 279 days ago [-]
Personally I feel like that thing would be even worse

Everyone walking past and around would cause the light streaming in through the gaps to randomly flicker

That would be endlessly distracting for me, personally at least

SJetKaran 279 days ago [-]
This seems like a really neat model to try out.
regularfry 279 days ago [-]
It sounds like a hub and spokes model. That's been known to be close to ideal for quite a long time, so it's good to see people actually using it!
sametmax 279 days ago [-]
+1. I'm interested in a rough blueprint too.
majewsky 279 days ago [-]
> maybe 60sqft-ish?

For those of us with non-ridiculous units, that's 5-6 m².

blattimwind 279 days ago [-]
That's rather small, even for a single-person office.
eyko 279 days ago [-]
I worked from a 2.2m x 2.5m "pod" office once and it was great, but the views also helped. Imagine one wall being a massive screen window in the country side with views of a lake, and the opposite wall being mostly window, leading to a balcony overlooking and inside courtyard (where other pods also look into). The side walls were exposed brick and the ceiling was at a decent height. The entire building was an old Arabic courtyard house that had been restored.

Small spaces _can_ be amazing :)

Xcelerate 279 days ago [-]
Wow, that sounds really awesome! Do you have any pictures?
alex_hitchins 279 days ago [-]
That would be an incredible luxury to some people. I've worked from what most people would call a shelf before.
hshehehjdjdjd 279 days ago [-]
Same here. A bar in a coffee shop would have compared favorably to that desk in size and ergonomics. Craziest thing about it was how at the time I was getting paid absolute tons of money, but in many ways my status at work felt more like my desk than my paycheck. I don’t know what that tells you about the human psyche, or mine. Rationally, I wouldn’t have traded much of the money for a better desk, but emotionally the money just felt like a number on a screen going up, while the desk felt visceral.
danielbarla 279 days ago [-]
Sure, however I'm currently sitting in a kind of cubicle (on an open plan floor), with 4 developers sharing what seems to be about a 3.5m x 3.5m space (I'm 1.8m, and if we all stand up and put our arms out, they'd touch), which brings it to just under 13m2, or 3.2 m2 per person. There are teams that are more cramped than even this, which I find pretty sad.
noir_lord 279 days ago [-]
My office is 4m by 8m and there is only me in it.

Boss was happy for me to work somewhere quiet and the only space we had was an unused meeting room that takes up up half the second floor of our second building.

It's glorious.

oneeyedpigeon 279 days ago [-]
Wow — I'd like your work environment. Mine is approximately 6m² and it's shared by 8 people!
viach 279 days ago [-]
How is it even possible? 2-tier working tables?
oneeyedpigeon 279 days ago [-]
In case I'm using the wrong terminology, I mean 6 metres x 6 metres rather than sqrt(6) metres x sqrt(6) metres.
ekimekim 279 days ago [-]
Yep, that would be 36m^2. If it helps, think of a grid of 1m by 1m tiles laid out on the floor. How many tiles could you fit?
oneeyedpigeon 279 days ago [-]
I always thought it was "4 metres squared" means 4x4 and "4 square metres" means 2x2. Unless 4m^2 doesn't mean "4 metres squared", which would really be confusing me ...
majewsky 278 days ago [-]
Exponentiation usually binds more tightly than multiplication, so

  6 m² = 6 * (m²) != (6 m)²
detaro 279 days ago [-]
m² is the symbol for "square metres", so 6 m² is e.g. a room 2m x 3m
blattimwind 278 days ago [-]
6² m² = (6m)² != 6 m²
279 days ago [-]
arbie 278 days ago [-]
> 2-tier working tables?

You know it was considered.

K0nserv 279 days ago [-]
The new Skyscanner(my employer) London office also uses this setup and the times I've been in London and worked from that office I've really enjoyed it. I work in the main office in Edinburgh which is unfortunately an open floor plan, but hopefully we'll get the same layout as London. I feel it strikes a very good balance between the intentions of an open office plan and the need for a quite space to get work done.
nunya213 279 days ago [-]
Thoughts on David Dewane's Eudaimonia Machine concept?

shoo 279 days ago [-]
oh my, it sounds pretty close to what's described in peopleware.

give people both options of isolated, private space, and shared space, and let them move between them as they wish.

cs44 277 days ago [-]
Great book. Right up there with Mythical Man Month.
wmli 278 days ago [-]
I found these pictures after some digging.. would you say they are representative?

Architecture firm's site:

Looks very spacious, not sure if it's feasible in high cost (/ sq ft) offices?

wskemper 273 days ago [-]
Yes that's it! Now I've got a bunch of other places to throw those... :) I don't know the cost, I just experience the value.
cs44 277 days ago [-]
Are you hiring? (Half heartedly joking...)
wskemper 273 days ago [-]
We absolutely are! Our list of open positions is on our website: I'd post my usual spiel about our Seattle office (where I work now), but we're renting coworking space up here, so I don't want to bait and switch.
Bartweiss 279 days ago [-]
This is an awesome idea. From what I've seen, the Pixar offices are actually very similar. Probably more stylized, because Pixar, but it's a mix of unowned open spaces for collaboration or socializing and clustered office spaces.

It seems like an exceedingly good answer for teams where "water cooler" collaboration is genuinely important, but so is silent work time.

rjbwork 279 days ago [-]
Do you think you could get us some pictures of a neighborhood? Would be quite interested to see it empty before or after hours as an example of how things look.
wskemper 273 days ago [-]
This comment dug up some of the photos: They're a good representation.
wskemper 278 days ago [-]
I tried finding some online but it looks like we haven't published any. I'll need to get permission; our customer base cares very much about facility security. Let me see what I can rustle up.
shaklee3 279 days ago [-]
I work for viasat as well, and I think your group is the only one using that collaboration area :).
motohagiography 279 days ago [-]
Funny behaviors from an open office plan I experienced:

- tribes claiming spaces: there was a couch area where a natural affinity group formed based on common personality types typical of urban/suburban tribal divide. developed an in-group/out-group mentality. a counter group formed in a lunch area.

- posturing: top tech individual contributor used main boardroom for "really important video conference meetings," and it became his de facto office unless you had it booked.

- tragedy of the commons: with no private space other than common spaces, meeting rooms were booked up with standing meetings so that it became impossible to get one when you needed it.

- Callout/performative drama: challenging people would use the availability of earshot to try to draw others into their conflicts. Callout culture, where instead of addressing issues, people would call out others to demand explanations in front of teams, managers, or in main slack channels.

- lack of personal boundaries: technical managers with low charisma routinely embarrassed in open meetings where everyone felt they could table complaints and make others accountable in front of a group, further wrecking morale as result of perceived weak leadership.

Interior design wouldn't solve all these problems, but the aesthetic of a kindergarten or hipster daycare certainly exacerbated them. I may long form this post into something, as the anti-patterns in that org were an effect of its culture, which was expressed by aesthetics rooted in beliefs that would have benefited from more insight.

ajross 279 days ago [-]
> Interior design wouldn't solve all these problems, but

Pretty much. Drama finds a way. You can find similar horror stories from any layout.

I mean, I take no particular position on this subject and and not personally a fan of open plans. But there's an important distinction between office combatants using the terrain to their advantage and blaming the war on the geography.

motohagiography 279 days ago [-]
Arguably, to extend this very rich metaphor, the reason nobody can ever win is in fact an artifact of geography. One particular mountainous region known to be the graveyard of empires springs to mind.

I think drama comes from uncertainty and power vacuums, which I would say are artifacts of the terrain.

paloaltokid 279 days ago [-]
I’m not up on my history - where is this?

EDIT: oh. Are you saying Afghanistan?

bsrhng 278 days ago [-]
he means hannibal
hamandchris 279 days ago [-]
> Callout culture, where instead of addressing issues, people would call out others to demand explanations in front of teams, managers, or in main slack channels.

While it definitely sounds like the open floor plan was weaponized for this, that is definitely its own problem that can be observed anywhere leadership doesn't specifically root it out.

bayonetz 279 days ago [-]
@xiphias comment shouldn’t have been flagged. The same priority-based booking nonsense happens in our open floor plan. Similarly, you need to be important enough to have priority. We love touting how “we are so flat hierarchy that our CEO doesn’t even have a office!”...except he just has a conference room permanently booked instead.
detaro 279 days ago [-]
The specific comment isn't flagged (it would be marked as such otherwise), the user has been banned.
Diederich 279 days ago [-]
Apparently here: Certainly not a productive comment.

A quick scan of that users's history seems to indicate fairly reasonable stuff: (among others)

Given a lot of other reasonable posts, (apparently) one low value comment seems to be able to get a user shadowbanned. That strikes me as a bit excessive.

sanderjd 278 days ago [-]
I see this from time to time and it frustrates me. I would love it if people above a karma threshold could vouch for shadowbanned users with a recent history of more constructive comments.
DanBC 278 days ago [-]
If you click the timestamp of the comment there should be a [vouch] link.

If you've checked the comment history and the comments seem ok I guess you can email the mods to let them know.

sanderjd 277 days ago [-]
Ah, you're totally right, I bet an email would work in particularly unfortunate cases.
Diederich 278 days ago [-]
> vouch for shadowbanned users

I have vouched for perhaps hundreds of shadowbanned comments, is that what you mean? Or vouching for a user directly?

sanderjd 277 days ago [-]
A user directly. I don't think vouching for the comments does anything because they're already shadowbanned. (I may be wrong.)
3uclid 279 days ago [-]
>Interior design wouldn't solve all these problems, but the aesthetic of a kindergarten or hipster daycare certainly exacerbated them.

LOL, that's an amazing description.

jupp0r 279 days ago [-]
A cynic could argue that only an open office plan made this toxic work environment transparent to you.
Bartweiss 279 days ago [-]
A bunch of those definitely look like "being a jerk" problems where the open office only drove a specific incarnation.

The tragedy of the commons part, though, looks like a structural problem to me. It's pretty common to want a discussion with 3-5 people for 5-10 minutes. With offices or even cubes, you can just have that in the workspace. With open plan, you either annoy everyone around you or book a conference room, which takes it away from standard users.

I'm not sure what anyone at the peon or even manager level can do about this, except try to keep meetings short or relegate them to slack/email. It really is a design issue.

tonypace 279 days ago [-]
The visibility is part of the problem. In itself it's distracting. The problem is when it's seen to work, thus encouraging others to imitate.
bitexploder 279 days ago [-]
A lot of Kindergartens are actually well designed and tailored to the needs of small hands and bodies. At least, all the ones I have recent experience with and that my kids have gone to. Not to pick nits, but to say, these open offices are actually kich worse than an average kindergarten.
bayonetz 279 days ago [-]
Savage yet true!
JJMcJ 279 days ago [-]
One job:

The more important you were the longer you left conference room doors open after conference started and the louder you slammed the door when you finally got asked to close.

Extra points for speaker phone at absolute max volume.

pradn 279 days ago [-]
It's the personalities/characters of the people that lead to these immature behaviors. They're only increased by open plan offices.

I'm in an open plan office and people are quite respectful. I'm maybe 95% as productive as I'd be in an office, mostly due to conversations that happen occasionally.

farnsworthy 279 days ago [-]
Beautiful. I wonder if a business publication would be interested in an expanded version of this...
MikkoFinell 279 days ago [-]
Thanks for sharing, I love stories like this.
xiphias 279 days ago [-]
At Google priority based meeting cancellations were implemented to solve this problem for important people. The only problem was that I wasn't important enough.
OnlyRepliesToBS 279 days ago [-]
Sounds like typical shitty decision making.

Bet its cheap though.

That's the bottom line.

rustykittens 279 days ago [-]
I'm sorry you worked with such shitty people. I have worked with such people in the past and I'm happy to have moved on. I personally find it hard to focus without headphones in that kind of space.

I can't really find much meaning in "aesthetic of a kindergarten or hipster daycare" though. People tend to fill hipster with an image of all the qualities they dislike in people. It's a modern scapegoat that has wide appeal because everyone thinks the other guy is the hipster. I think in a lot of peoples minds hipster means immature and facile which helps the reader to feel better about themselves as mature, dutiful and more deeply insightful. I'm sure you weren't using it so divisively but imo that is how it works.

What exactly was the space like?

ubermonkey 279 days ago [-]
I get I'm part of the privileged few, but: I've been working for a small software company for almost 11 years, and EVERYONE at my company is remote. We don't lease any real estate anywhere, unless a mailbox and a colo rack count.

It's AWESOME, but there are caveats. The biggest one is that we can't really hire newbies; everyone we've brought in has to be mid-career at a minimum because the absence of the "water cooler effect" makes it harder to ramp up quickly. Folks with some experience handle this better.

The other drawback is mostly theoretical: I'm really not sure I could go back to working in an office. I control the music, the temp, the food, the coffee, when I take a break, whether or not I take a midday snooze, and my cats are everpresent. I mean, an office sounds like a dystopian hellscape by comparison.

afoot 279 days ago [-]
This is very interesting, because your office sounds like hell to me. Any time I work from home I'm absolutely desperate for meaningless social interaction, a walk and a chat while out for coffee, a beer with my team at lunch or after work and face to face discussion. I guess it's hard to find something that works for everyone.
PeterStuer 279 days ago [-]
Interesting. I work from home most often, and I find that not having to tack on a 2 1/2 hr daily car commute leaves me time for actually socializing IRL as opposed to trying to cram that need into the office.
BurritoAlPastor 279 days ago [-]
Yeah, but where do you find anybody to socialize with?
klez 279 days ago [-]
If you only socialize with co-workers I'd say that is the bigger problem. All my interaction with people outside office hours are with people I don't work with.

Should I consider myself privileged in this respect?

mrhappyunhappy 279 days ago [-]
How dare you have friends, you privileged person!
amw 279 days ago [-]
Meetups, dance classes, community outreach, church, RPG message boards (speaking theoretically, not personally for every single one of those).
snow_mac 278 days ago [-]
I have a collection of friends from different contexts. Some from past jobs, the gym and other friends. So WFH is great. If your only social group is work, then you should expand your circle, because you never know when the employer might fire you or lay you off. Which will make you very sad because suddenly you lose all your friends.
ubermonkey 274 days ago [-]
I've only had one job in my whole career where I met people I wanted to hang out with outside work. One of two of the guys I work with now might meet that bar if they weren't so far away.

Where else do we find people? Well, we're all older, so we already had friends from other activities -- political involvement, volunteering for arts orgs, our cycling group, etc.

PeterStuer 277 days ago [-]
Besides 'normal' friends, sports club, meetups, local university public lectures, out and about cycling etc. I don't see the problem.
el_benhameen 279 days ago [-]
I think your schedule (“work from home most often”) is my ideal. Did you find it difficult to find a company that permits this? Did you have to negotiate for it, or is it pretty standard for everyone?
PeterStuer 277 days ago [-]
To be fair I grew into it. Company moved several times as we grew, each time moving further away from where I lived. I had to work from home for a while when I broke my leg. It just sorta stuck from there. I mainly work with International teams, so F2F are mostly just a quarterly meeting affair. I'm well aware not being 'in the office' each day hurts my internal visibility, but it's a trade-off. Not going to waste <50% of my non-work, non-sleep, non-chore time sitting behind the wheel of a car in a traffic jam.
snow_mac 278 days ago [-]
When on linkedin, set it to looking for a job / open looking for new work to notify recruiters and add a message to the box saying you're looking for remote only. They will come in droves.
jschwartzi 279 days ago [-]
I've just shifted all my social interactions from the day to the night, which works very well for me. And I frequently grab coffee or run errands at lunch so that I'm not cooped up all day.

It's nice to have a private office with a couch and windows in it.

flamtap 279 days ago [-]
I think remote work definitely favours the introverted personality. I have started a remote gig as of four weeks ago, and I was surprised that I did actually miss the water-cooler/coffee machine conversations. Based on my own personality (and the reasons I chose to pursue a remote position), I didn't expect to. It's harder to talk about sports or make wisecracks over Slack.

On the whole, I am happier working from home for a variety of reasons, but it definitely hasn't been without it's trade-offs.

Shoue 279 days ago [-]
I think a hybrid approach works the best: purely remote company with small offices in some big cities, where people can go if they want to. What I've seen with that is some people go almost every day, while some only come in about once a week or so, but nobody has chosen not to come in at all. It's also common among purely remote companies to host an annual or even biannual meetup.
mylons 279 days ago [-]
I feel this pain, but when I return to the office the next day the existential dread of experiencing the hellscape I am now a part of just to have a handful of meaningless unfulfilling conversations with pseudo acquaintances most of whom I'd never see again if I, or they quit, is soul crushing.
bluntfang 279 days ago [-]
coffee shops exist for this. rent a 5x5 desk in a coworking space. there are alternatives to home office for remote work.
gdulli 279 days ago [-]
Personally either of those options would be better for me than working out of my home. But it's a curious alternative to working in an office. You're still surrounded by people and get the downsides of you're sensitive to them (I'm not) but you don't get the social benefits.
techn0lojesus 279 days ago [-]
In a dev shop social benefits are synonymous to distractions. I don't care to talk to bizops people every time they walk by me. I don't want to hear females stomping on the floor with their heels like fucking mech warriors. I also tend to work in sprints that do not conform to 9-5 work days because DevOps/SRE people are typically coding/R&D during the day, and releasing/unfucking defects at night depending on intrusive maintenance windows. I can do it all from the comfort of wherever I choose and have working internet.

Some days I work from the park, or work from a bar until I'm buzzed and need to go home.

Also the monetary value of not having to spend money on daily transportation, don't need a huge clothing allowance so you have something decent to wear every day so you don't look like a slob, don't have to waste money on food if your employer doesn't feed you and don't have to waste time preparing meals if you don't want to eat out.

If you need that much socializing time you probably don't have enough work to do, or need a hug.

sli 279 days ago [-]
I tend to fill this with Telegram voice messages, or would sometimes just go over to a coworker's house and work with them for a while just for the fun of it. But that's not something you can do unless you have remote people who are still local to you.
ubermonkey 274 days ago [-]
Oh, yeah, it's ABSOLUTELY not for everyone, and there are things you get "for free" in an office that have to be planned for us.
pbreit 279 days ago [-]
I have a theory that co-working spaces will be filled with remote employees. You get the benefits of remote with the social benefits of an office but with less distraction.
pradn 279 days ago [-]
I'm with you on this one. I ask colleagues for a quick tea trip if I haven't talked to anyone the whole day. It drives me insane to not to talk to someone.
mrhappyunhappy 279 days ago [-]
To each his own. I have been self employed for well over a year and cannot see myself ever going back to and office environment. Don’t care if it pays 5x more even.
heedlessly3 279 days ago [-]
couldn't you just solve this problem by joining a workantile? They provide a sense of community.

However, if you don't want to pay for one, then the library and coffee shops are alternatives. Sure most people come and go, but after staying at a spot for a while, you will notice who come more regularly.

matchagaucho 279 days ago [-]
This is my #1 challenge at the moment... how to sustain a remote company culture and offer mentoring/onboarding to early career Developers.

I support the "craft" of Software; which requires an equal distribution of Apprentice, Journeyman (Journeyperson) and Master level people.

But it's difficult to "pass on" the craft to an Apprentice who is remote, so our team tends to be all mid-career folks.

0xFACEFEED 279 days ago [-]
I've seen this strategy work: pick a senior engineer with an affinity for leadership and hire a couple junior people in their local area. The senior person would have the final say on hiring the juniors and co-work with them occasionally.

The company would pay for coffee/food if it's a coffee shop, space/food if it's a co-working space, etc.

matchagaucho 279 days ago [-]
That's an excellent suggestion. Thx.
afarrell 279 days ago [-]
One thing to focus on is teaching the skill to onboarding yourself into a new project. As an example, one part of that skill that I've learned from my current employer: It is actually socially acceptable to say "Hi, I've been working on $ticket recently and don't have a specific question but I feel rather lost. Could I grab 30 minutes on your calendar and you walk me through how SaltStack actually gets data values and turns them into resources and I take notes and ask questions?". For a long time, I would instead either:

A) Try to learn this by doing, which usually involved being very frustrated, taking 3x as long, and writing really quite poor-quality code. I only had the cognitive space to think about making the bare minimum change to accomplish the immediate goal, so I couldn't practice the habit of "do a small refactor to make the change easy, then make the easy change."

B) Ask for good tutorial documentation on the subject matter, which might not exist, especially if the code lives outside of a popular framework.

C) Ask differently-phrased questions that led me to get feedback from a previous employer that I was "trying to understand the universe", which led me to focus on strategy A.

Knowing that I can get walkthroughs, especially of business logic or code that lives outside a framework, is really hugely impactful. (side note: if you've wondered why people reach for frameworks while you think they are overcomplicated, this one reason why)

There's probably a whole blog post I would write with the goal of expanding a new-project-joiner's vocabulary of questions that is socially reasonable to ask.

matchagaucho 279 days ago [-]
During our interview process we attempt to quantify "Communication" as a trait; which includes "Ability to ask questions and clarify requirements."

It really is an essential must have skill for remote workers.

The ability to communicate visually and exhibit spatial intelligence through sharing screenshots and diagrams also goes a long way to being successful remotely.

An open office has the benefit of whiteboards and pen/paper to do visual knowledge transfer.

ghaff 279 days ago [-]
>An open office has the benefit of whiteboards and pen/paper to do visual knowledge transfer.

Any face-to-face setting really.

I'm not sure why we haven't done a better job of cracking the "like a whiteboard (or flipchart or whatever) but for people who aren't in the same room" thing. I know it's partly a surface area thing but you'd think we could do better when it's such an obvious, at least to me, missing piece in remote interactions.

afarrell 278 days ago [-]
Part of it is finding a good drawing tablet and good software for it. A $40 wacom tablet and whats out there for free/cheap on OSX currently doesn't work -- it takes too much frustration compared to compared to the intuitive interface of pen+paper.

You'd need something with the intuitiveness of MS Paint, which is hard. MS Paint's intuitive program model is world class.

jgh 279 days ago [-]
I'm with you, I love working from home. I find I'm much more productive and am interrupted less even if that means the occasional cat on keyboard. I sometimes find myself missing being in an office for the camaraderie but I think it's mostly FOMO. It's the same thing as -- excuse the metaphor -- wanting to be in a high-end raiding guild in wow. Once you're in it you kinda wish you werent in a high-end raiding guild in wow.
ghaff 279 days ago [-]
>The biggest one is that we can't really hire newbies

I'd be interested in counterpoints but I'm inclined to agree. I'm mostly remote now though I have an office I can go into. However, while it's true that communication systems are much different than earlier in my career, it's hard for me to imagine the first ten years or so of my career after grad school working remotely. For all sorts of reasons, including social ones.

amw 279 days ago [-]
We do it and it seems to work out. Our system is based on assigned mentors, which we do for everyone who wants it, but explicitly do for newbie engineers for their first <insert period of time here>.
ghaff 279 days ago [-]
Interesting. My ability to get up to speed with the work itself and collaboration notwithstanding, I'm pretty sure that I would just have found it hugely isolating working from home, especially full-time, right after graduating from school. Even later, I'm effectively fully remote (although I have an office I can go into and did more in the past) but I travel a lot to events and I really worked by way up to fully remote over a period of at least ten years. So it wasn't like I jumped into the deep end.
senatorobama 279 days ago [-]
Are you hiring?
benzesandbetter 279 days ago [-]
If avoiding open-plan is a priority, I recommend you focus on negotiating for a remote work arrangement, rather than excluding good companies. My last two long-term engagements have been at Fortune 100 companies and I've worked remotely for both.

In the first case, I was the only remote employee in my business unit. I was hired because I had a high level of competency with a technology they were investing heavily in. When I first interviewed, they told me that the were only considering on-site, and that my rate was too high. So, they first hired an on-site employee at a lower rate, but he failed to deliver a working installation and the project got perilously behind schedule. When I re-approached them about two months later they were no longer hung up on my rate or request to work remote. It's worth noting that I took a gamble here and put in about 6 or 8 hours interview and follow-up process, after being told that remote was not an option, and then being given the initial "no". During the project, I did stop by their Silicon Valley campus for a few hours of meetings every month or two, which was probably 1% or less of my total billable hours.

In my current engagement, my entire team is remote, so it was a non-issue. The gig was secured for me by a recruiter who had previously contacted me about an on-site position, and I told her I was only considering remote (and followed up periodically).

Both of these positions had multiple technical screens which were very rigorous. Both resulted from initial contacts where I was given at least one "no". You can have a private office at any company if you negotiate for remote and set yourself up with the office you like (e.g. home, co-working, etc.)

gdulli 279 days ago [-]
Working alone at home would be a worse option for me than working in an unfavorable office environment. More like a non-starter than worse. I get that there are people who love the idea of being isolated. But I think there are more who want to be around people instead of alone. And there should be a reasonable option for them, not open plan.
jschwartzi 279 days ago [-]
Remote does not mean isolated. I spend most nights and weekends out with friends and groups. When I worked in an office I would frequently be too tired from interacting with people to plan things.
DisruptiveDave 279 days ago [-]
I juuuust got off a catch-up call with an old college buddy who works at one of the big wireless companies. He described what I read about here on HN and in some blog posts: The company completely changed its "culture" in a desperate attempt to "attract millennials" (and be on trend). Moved to an open floor plan where nobody has an assigned desk. You literally cannot leave anything overnight or you get some sort of a citation. His words: "I spend my day with a headset covering one ear and my finger in the other ear, as I'm on calls most of the day." He also noted how they computerized the cafeteria so you don't have/get to interact with food workers anymore. "All my sandwiches have too much mayo now and I can't do anything about it."
PeterStuer 279 days ago [-]
It's called 'hot-desking'. In practice everyone still sits in the same place every day, and sublimizes their territorial marking. Sitting in 'someone else's' spot is seriously frowned upon. This trend happened when the 'open plan' needed a next level of hell.
Bartweiss 279 days ago [-]
> This trend happened when the 'open plan' needed a next level of hell.

I seem to remember Dilbert explaining this as a way to ensure employees felt more like company-owned sacks of potatoes than actual humans. Hot-desking really does seem like one of the most dehumanizing office designs I can think of.

I know the supposed benefits of open offices, but I'm not even sure what hot-desking claims to achieve? Except in call centers I guess, where it's explicitly "to speed up firing people".

tschwimmer 278 days ago [-]
Hot desking (or Hoteling as I've heard it called) makes a lot of sense for the headquarters office of traveling consultants. These folks are usually at the client's location Monday-Thursday and back at their local headquarters on Friday. However, there's a huge amount of variation in terms of travel scheduling so having an assigned desk doesn't make much sense. For example, consider a consultant living in LA who's working on a project in the Chicago suburbs. Most Fridays are spent working from LA (either at the office or at home), but sometimes you'll need to take meetings with Chicago people. Hot desking makes it easy to find a place to work for the day because all the Chicago people that are working from home or are at a remote office aren't taking up desks.

For permanent non-traveling roles, I don't immediately see the advantage though.

ghaff 279 days ago [-]
>not even sure what hot-desking claims to achieve

It's mostly for environments in which the company's short on space and a lot of employees don't routinely come into the office. Hot desking eliminates permanently provisioning office space that may be only used for one day in five or ten.

If that's not the problem being solved, I'm not sure what is. Now no one knows where anyone is sitting and teams are at least theoretically all scattered around.

jdmichal 278 days ago [-]
I'm pretty sure this is the correct explanation. We have a site that recently moved to this setup, and I know for a fact that there are roughly 20% fewer seats than employees. That's what they came up with as acceptable after crunching the numbers on absentee rate.
amyjess 279 days ago [-]
> I know the supposed benefits of open offices, but I'm not even sure what hot-desking claims to achieve? Except in call centers I guess, where it's explicitly "to speed up firing people".

In call centers, there's another reason: if the company gets big enough, they may have more employees than desks. Since call centers work on shifts, not everyone is going to be in the office at the same time, and so they just lay down a policy of "nobody has their own desk".

mindB 279 days ago [-]
What's crazy about this is that this nonsense with open floor plan to "attract Millenials" isn't even happening just in tech. My dad's an engineer working in GM's radio group, and they're pushing hot-desking on his entire building. Before it was common practice for each engineer to have a bench for doing small soldering and things like that at, but now even that kind of stuff is hot-desked in a common "lab" area. From just a few conversations with him, it's clear the drain on productivity has been insane, but nobody seems to care.
farnsworthy 279 days ago [-]
Open plan verdict: Too much mayo.
ben509 279 days ago [-]
et-al 279 days ago [-]
The only people who like hoteling/hotdesking are upper management because it means they can rent a smaller office space. For employees, it can be a hassle to coordinate with other coworkers, and not being able to leave stuff at the office can be negative for some (e.g. folks with ergonomic equipment or spare set of workout clothes).
ericjang 279 days ago [-]
Pixar does not have an open floor plan. It's 2-3 folks to an office, and the animators are well known for decorating their offices in fairly quirky ways during the "off-season" when they have finished their portion of the work for a movie (
hordeallergy 279 days ago [-]
It's not acceptable. I've moved from a dev background to having a go at sre/devops/something-or-other; work aside, the culture is excrutiating, with people shouting across the office all day. Best case, someone talking to themself hour after hour, as if anyone wants to hear that. The idea that open floor plans are productive is farce. I effectively have two jobs, the first being just trying to get any work done.
aphextron 279 days ago [-]
It's also extremely unhealthy. I've never been so sick in my entire life as since I started this job a year ago. Literally herded like cattle into an open air room with hundreds of other people from all around the world coughing and sneezing in your face all day. I'll never ever accept another position with this kind of setup.
dmoy 279 days ago [-]
Hah this hits close to home, literally just getting off being sick the last couple days cus someone in the tiny aisle between a sea of desks coughed a few times directly at my face last week as I passed to and from the kitchen.

My current spot is particularly bad because they have us jammed up 5' away from 4 conference rooms with thin glass walls so we get to hear loud conference calls every day all day long.

Edit: to too two? I can English

geekbird 278 days ago [-]
The last open plan cesspit I worked in literally gave me pneumonia for the first time in my life. Too many contractors coming in sick, not washing their hands, coughing all over the office. It was long benches, with 36" allotted per person. A freaking hellscape where you literally touched your neighbor if you put your arm out to the side.
cs44 277 days ago [-]
Our workspace has been referred to as “the bullpen”. One dev gets a cold, soon after another.
mixmastamyk 279 days ago [-]
Getting sick is what exercises the immune system, it’s good for you in the long run. However I suspect you are vitamin D3 deficient also, try a supplement.
nailer 279 days ago [-]
SRE/DevOps should generally be like dev: if you're in an open office, headphones on.

> Best case, someone talking to themself hour after hour, as if anyone wants to hear that.

The person who is speaking usually needs to hear it. Sorry, I talk to myself every so often. :)

ajeet_dhaliwal 279 days ago [-]
The 'headphones on' as if this should be standard behavior does not make sense to me when a simple dividor or wall would do. Especially when unless you listen to loud music or have special noise canceling ones you can still hear people. If you work with a Jackhammer you cannot avoid having to cover your ears, it's very loud, but why does someone in an office have to do this, especially for the entire day, the Jackhammer person doesn't do it all day long. Also if everyone spoke to themselves at the same time, you couldn't hear yourself either. I did not down vote you btw, just replying because I see how you're offering a solution but I don't think it is good enough.
nailer 279 days ago [-]
> just replying because I see how you're offering a solution but I don't think it is good enough.

Oh I agree, dedicated offices are superior to headphones - hence writing 'in an open office'. I'm merely pointing out that privacy should be the same in SRE/DevOps vs devops.

I'm not particularly concerned with downvotes, I've been on HN a decade and am happy to lose karma while making an accurate point.

Traubenfuchs 279 days ago [-]
I once quit a job because there was a guy who constantly talked to himself. Your mumbling might cause severe mental anguish in those around you.
nailer 279 days ago [-]
In most offices people will talk around you. Sometimes to others, sometimes to themselves. If that triggers your 'severe menal anguish', seek employment somewhere with a dedicated office or working from home.
coffeeacc 279 days ago [-]
No. If you must talk to yourself then you should "seek employment somewhere with a dedicated office or work from home" -- if you were so important that your productivity should come at the expense of those around you then you would already have an office.
nailer 279 days ago [-]
Most people talk in offices. Many including to themselves. Most people don't have issues with it. You will be happier if you adapt to the world, rather than asking the world to adapt to you.

Since you're new, you should probably read the HN guidelines regarding the types of things to avoid.

coffeeacc 274 days ago [-]
I'm not new, I've been here for almost a decade. I don't provide an email address, so when a browser logs me out I create a new account.
loco5niner 278 days ago [-]
> if you're in an open office, headphones on.

No thanks, 8 hours/day with headphones on is already giving hearing problems. I'm done with that.

cerberusss 278 days ago [-]
Earplugs work great for me. It does taking some getting used to.
loco5niner 276 days ago [-]
I've tried that too. Unfortunately, due to tinnitus issues, earplugs cause complications for me.

I've tried all manner of earplug/headphone/earmuff combinations, and nothing works except not having loud people around.

carlosdp 279 days ago [-]
Fog Creek famously has a non-open office space [1]


ben1040 279 days ago [-]
I don't know if Trello still works this way after the spinoff from Fog Creek and subsequent Atlassian acquisition, but I visited Trello's NYC office and they had a similar setup to Fog Creek's. Trello also has a significant number of remote employees.
thedufer 279 days ago [-]
Trello shared an office with Fog Creek until last December or so, so no surprise that they're similar. I suspect Trello retained the offices layout since Fog Creek was the one that moved out.
cryptonector 279 days ago [-]
Headphones are not good enough. It's much too easy to damage your hearing.

Sun Microsystems, Inc., had offices. More junior engineers would share offices, with two or three engineers per office, while more senior engineers would have private offices. Seniority also dictated office location (think of having windows vs. not). This worked very well. It's not that expensive either (it's certainly not why Sun died).

therealdrag0 278 days ago [-]
I don't like open office. But Bose QuietComfort work pretty well with music/noise on very low volume.


loco5niner 278 days ago [-]
I use Bose QuietComfort 20's and even though they are awesome, they still not good enough. Active noise cancellation is great for airplane noise (predictable, repetitive), but not for voices.
cryptonector 278 days ago [-]
And even for airplanes, it's not that good. All noise canceling headphones I've looked at or owned have a sampling frequency of 21KHz, which is a bit low, and results in high-frequency (if low amplitude) noise that I can hear, and it's annoying or even painful.

I don't quite understand why there are no 44KHz noise-canceling headphones on the market...

os72 279 days ago [-]
Virtually everyone has an individual office where I work. Our CEO has the motto "give them a door, a window and the fastest computer money can buy".
exergy 279 days ago [-]
Sounds like he read Jeff Atwood's Programmer Bill of Rights. May his tribe increase.
gpvos 279 days ago [-]
Which company is it? (If you didn't want to give away where you work, you could have named the company without saying you work there. That was the original question, after all.)
os72 278 days ago [-]
Apologies. Here is a link:
shostack 279 days ago [-]
This is very similar to where I work. We get people often need quiet, private spaces to do their best work, so we offer that to everyone. And a small office decorating budget to make it personalized.

I made my space a relaxing place for myself with a chaise and fake tree and wood grained wallpaper. Super peaceful.

swebs 279 days ago [-]
Where's that? It sounds like heaven.
279 days ago [-]
pradn 279 days ago [-]
Well, a famous example is Microsoft. Though the recently built and renovated buildings are moving toward open plan offices, about 80% of the buildings in the Redmond campus are full of offices. Which office you get is purely based on tenure. I remember it took 11 years of tenure to get a window office in my old building. Some new hires were doubled up due to space constraints. But I was in the 70% of office holders who had a single office from the beginning. It was fun to be able to decorate my office. You could really see people's personalities in their offices. Offices would also double as quick meeting rooms for up to 5 people. No overhead for booking conference rooms. All in all, it was a great perk of the job. If only they had free food...

Even if you have offices, people would still barge in, cutting into your uninterrupted time. Funny enough, in the open-plan at Google, where I am currently, I get far fewer walk-up interruptions. It's always good to ping people on chat so they can respond async.

hantonsen 279 days ago [-]
I feel your pain. I found this video from Vox very interesting, to see the rationale behind the original open office space, and contrast it with what modern organizations has made it into.

codeulike 279 days ago [-]
stefanoco 279 days ago [-]
Bluewind is a small consulting company based in Italy (embedded systems). We switched from "almost all devs in a room" to 2/3 devs per room maximum while building our own offices recently. And common spaces for meetings, conferences and telephone calls. Encouraging to work from home when possible also. Interesting: working this way and adopting Agile principles makes enhances collaboration a lot, much more that in the previous open space where having everyone in the same room makes it almost impossible for people to talk each other when needed.
at-fates-hands 279 days ago [-]
It's funny, about six or seven years ago, most of the companies I worked for had gone to an open floor plan. Within a few years, all of them had gone back to cubes for a number of reasons.

I just started at a large corporation three years ago and they spent millions going to an elaborate open office plan which was similar to what others have referred to as "neighborhoods". At first it was called "hoteling" where we just had a ton of desks with monitors and a dock so you didn't have a set place or cube to work.

After about six months, teams had taken over areas without telling anybody, they pushed other teams out to other areas. Then they shifted a ton more people to our building so now space was even more limited. They started moving desks into common areas meant for collaboration where people met and ate lunch in order to handle in the influx of new people. People started "squatting" on their desks, putting personal pics and their mouse and other stuff to claim their desks so nobody would/could sit there. This clearly was not what the architect/designer had in mind. I quickly got to the point where I was so frustrated, I just tapped out and now I work from home almost 100% of the time.

It's funny how they had this great idea and it was totally ruined by standard human behavior.

mattmanser 279 days ago [-]
More like it's funny how designers have no clue about basic human needs.

Our brain is wired for habits. We form them to ease our cognitive burden, it's a built in mechanism. You don't have to think about reversing out your driveway because of habits, brushing your teeth, checking your email, etc.

People don't want to hunt for a desk every morning because it is fundamentally incompatible with how our brain works, not because they're being difficult. So they adopt a desk. And then someone takes 'their' desk, which is a burden, a bit of thinking they shouldn't be doing. So they naturally mark out 'their' desk.

So in reality, it's a stupid idea because of the way the human mind works. Might as well rage at the tides.

inopinatus 279 days ago [-]
Best office I ever worked in (in both productivity AND developer happiness) was subdivided into 4m x 4m rooms each with two or three developers, wood panels between adjacent rooms, glass corridor walls with privacy frosting, and floor-to-ceiling glass exterior walls with Melbourne city and parkland views. Each space was decorated and equipped as the occupants pleased. Company was acquired in 2004 and that office sadly no longer exists.
tomohawk 279 days ago [-]
The schools in our area are in the final phases of remodeling, getting rid of the open floor plan layout that was in vogue when many of the schools were built, and was such a disaster. Nice to see taxpayer money hard at work.

It's funny that a business as reactionary as the education system seems to have learned this lesson but tech companies haven't.

lnsru 279 days ago [-]
German universiteties in Munich, Dresden and probably elsewhere have separate rooms for the staff. Usually 2-4 persons per room. It’s really nice and productive.

Later I found similar setting during interview at Viavi Solutions. All other bigger enterprises had open space offices. Some with cubicles, some with glas walls and some with tables only.

nextos 279 days ago [-]
Sadly many universities in Europe are shockingly moving to open plan spaces.
lowlevel 279 days ago [-]
They're all going this way. I've had to started adding 'well, I can' t do the work here' in front of every 'when can you have this done' response.
KozmoNau7 279 days ago [-]
It has gotten to the point where I'm seriously considering just working from home every day, even though that's strictly not allowed.

Open-plan offices are absolutely maddening, I get pulled out of my thoughts constantly, and there's no effective way to shut it out. Earplugs aren't enough, and with headphones I would have to play music so loudly it would be annoying my colleagues, just in order to cut out the constant noise. We have so-called "focus rooms", but 1) there are far too few of them, and 2) they're supposed to only be used for short phone meetings and such.

I raise this with my manager every time we have a "pit talk", as they're now called. But there is seemingly nothing he can do.

jrootabega 279 days ago [-]
You shouldn't have to strap something to your face just to get work done. That's for animals. What about your seatmate who eats hot lunch next to you? That's your problem; put in your noseplugs. People walking around constantly? Put on your horse blinders.
ecshafer 279 days ago [-]
People walking by is my big thing. I hate people being in my peripheral vision when I am trying to work. That and feeling like people are behind's much worse than the sound.
howard941 279 days ago [-]
One of the mech engrs in a cube has a mirror on his wall that puzzled me until I spent a day in the cube farm. I will steal that idea when they relocate me from a private office to cube hell.
loco5niner 278 days ago [-]
Ok, I'm puzzled. Why the mirror?
oillio 278 days ago [-]
So people can't sneak up on you. It is subtile, but psychologically draining to have people constantly come up to you and interact with you from behind.
278 days ago [-]
brian-armstrong 279 days ago [-]
You might try earplugs and earmuffs at the same time. It's a pretty effective level of sound isolation.
geekbird 278 days ago [-]
Some people, like me, can only wear headphones or earplugs for a short period of time - like 2 hours - before they develop ear infections.

Furthermore, administrative controls (headphones) for what is actually a safety and health problem (excess noise) are the solution of last resort from a health and safety perspective. A good health and safety person would advise structural mitigation, not forcing everyone to put on personal protective equipment (headphones.)

When open plan offices can regularly burst up to 95 dB (yes, I took in a meter and measured the last one I was in) and are often 65 dB when they are "quiet", noise is absolutely a health and safety issue. Constant noise, even if not immediately damaging to hearing, can cause increased stress and other physiological issues.

loco5niner 278 days ago [-]
Well said, thank you.
KozmoNau7 279 days ago [-]
I have considered this, but it's going to be very uncomfortable for a full workday.

I've also tried earphones with music, but I can't work like that for long, I just start listening to the music instead. I need peace and quiet.

And of course there's the issue of visual noise as well.

noir_lord 279 days ago [-]
Silicon ear plugs are amazing, I sleep with them in (insomnia), they kill sound better than foam, mould to fit so stay in and warm up to body temperature so you don't know they are even there.

I split one in two and use them that way, I've gotten to work with them in before without noticing, maybe worth a shot.

shostack 279 days ago [-]
Seems like these are only good for a few uses with each set before disposal?
KozmoNau7 279 days ago [-]
Yeah, and they're rather expensive for disposable items.

I bought a box of 100 pairs of Bilsom 303 plugs a couple of years ago, for motorcycling. The whole box was $40.

noir_lord 279 days ago [-]
I split one into two, I get 2-3 nights before changing them which means 12-18 nights better sleep, for an insomniac I’d pay 10 times that tbh.
loco5niner 278 days ago [-]
Careful with this. I have tinnitus (arguably from 8 hours/day of headphone use), and when I doubled up as you described, my tinnitus became unbearable because it was the only thing I could hear and my brain "latched" on to it. I'm still trying to train my brain to stop listening...
randcraw 279 days ago [-]
The better 'earmuffs' out there should be enough w/o plugs. The passive model that I have (3M Peltor Optime 105, $21) cut sound by 30 dB. Nearly dead silence.
loco5niner 278 days ago [-]
I wish. I have a whole collection of them (ok, maybe just 6 or 7 of them). They certainly help, but for me they are not near dead silence.
skriticos2 279 days ago [-]
Use noise cancelling headphones. They shut out the world with a bit of quiet music. I love my qc35. Doesn't fix the primary issue, but makes it more bearable.
gvurrdon 279 days ago [-]
They're not bad, but are relatively poor against sounds similar to human speech, which includes coughing, sniffing, throat clearing etc. My colleagues who have a large extractor fan just outside their window have reported that noise-cancelling headphones offer an improvement, though.
loco5niner 278 days ago [-]
Yep, active noise cancellation is great for repeating sounds, but horrible for voices.
eeZah7Ux 279 days ago [-]
> noise cancelling headphones

They are very ineffective against voices! Passive insulating headphones are much better.

andrewaylett 279 days ago [-]
My Plantronics Backbeat Pro are pretty good at both. I can block all external noise with the volume turned down so low some people can't even hear the music when they put them on.
noway421 279 days ago [-]
afaik qc35 does both
pdkl95 279 days ago [-]
Assuming "qc35" == "Bose QuietComfort 35", it also eavesdrops on the metadata of everything you listen to and sends it to Bose (and

gvurrdon 279 days ago [-]
Thanks for the link. This sort of thing is becoming a total pain; it seems that there's almost no gadget I might use that's not reporting my habits to someone.
davepage 279 days ago [-]
After the scandal, they added an opt-out setting (but on the privacy policy page, where the nominal user will not think to look for it).
loco5niner 278 days ago [-]
Tried those. Actually made the voices stand out more since everything else was more quiet :-(
burger_moon 279 days ago [-]
One problem is they don't cancel out the terrible odors you have to breath when you're packed in next to people who don't bath and eat at their desks.

I think the awful smells I can't escape are worse than the noise at this point.

blabla_blublu 279 days ago [-]
Several teams in Apple don't have an open floor plan. They pair two individuals in an office.
ghostcluster 279 days ago [-]
Except that the gigantic multibillion dollar new space ring was explicitly designed around big open office units, long tables with bench seating, and the 'privacy pods' are exposed clear glass on all sides..
yoda_sl 279 days ago [-]
Slightly incorrect! The offices there vary in size from one person to up to a dozen. A lot of offices in various sections of the ring accommodate 2 persons.

Yes there is a big glass/sliding door but from what I have seen when closing the door it is quite soundproof (unlike some small conference room). And they provide inside each section different zone with huge whiteboard and sofa/chairs to help facilitate brainstorming/discussion, even each area has its own Apple TV to project on a huge screen through AirPlay.

So overall it is quite good from what I was able to see for the few hours I was there. Folks working there like it.

lawnchair_larry 279 days ago [-]
No they don’t. They pretty famously refused to relocate to the new space and there was a lit of outrage and rebellion. It’s awful.

hfdgiutdryg 279 days ago [-]
long tables with bench seating

So everyone at the table has to have identical ergonomics?

fzzzy 279 days ago [-]
What an absolute nightmare.
piccolbo 277 days ago [-]
You just need to hire engineers that fit the space (between 5'9" and 5'11" tall). What is the problem? Hiring is difficult anyway ...
rbonvall 279 days ago [-]
And it sounds like it's identically awful ergonomics.
ebbv 279 days ago [-]
Wow that sounds like a waking nightmare.

If I had to sit on bench seating all day I'd probably quit after a week.

briandear 279 days ago [-]
Except that isn’t true. Ergo is a really big deal at Apple. You get a standard chair, but you can have an ergo evaluation and they’ll buy you whatever chair you need if your existing chair isn’t correct.

Nobody is spending their work day on benches; that’s a fact.

ebbv 279 days ago [-]
This seems like something you should have replied to the parent with. I wasn't asserting what happens at Apple, I was reacting to what he said. If he is making stuff up, call him out not me.
briandear 279 days ago [-]
You are correct. Apologies. My intent was to respond that you wouldn’t face such conditions. Def should have been on the parent comment though!

I’d quit too if I had to work from a bench all day!

ghostcluster 278 days ago [-]
> Ergo is a really big deal at Apple.

Apparentlhy not, if you've ever used their new keyboards and touch bars on the premium laptops, or their awful, awful magic mouse.

geekbird 278 days ago [-]
Yuck. That sounds like hell. You can't pair/team with another person if your neighbor is literally an armlength away.
briandear 279 days ago [-]
And lots of teams have single developer offices. Saying “at Apple” is meaningless because there are a wide variety of situations.
nbdev 279 days ago [-]
I have one word for this, and I'm totally sincere and serious about it no matter how facetious it sounds:


davidmoffatt 279 days ago [-]
Yes I too would love to see this. Noise canceling headphone seem to cancel everything but voices and that is the opposite of what you need.
ben1040 279 days ago [-]
My problem with noise canceling headphones is that while you can use them just for their ANC and have no music playing, it gets extra uncomfortable.

My brain can't handle feeling sound pressure on my ears from the ANC, but not hearing the noise because the ANC canceled it out. It gives me a really wicked headache.

I have to have something playing all the time I'm wearing the headphones, which is a problem because that can be a distraction in and of itself.

raducu 279 days ago [-]
I use industrial ear muffs over my in-ear headphones. Not very comfortable but they work great.

Now I wish my work wouldn't suck so I could actually use all the focus I get this way :)

alexfringes 279 days ago [-]
I’ve found that custom molded in-ear hearing protection combined with industrial ear muffs is the closest I can get to drowning out nearby conversations (including loud ones) without requiring a layer of music on top or bothering with headphones underneath the ear muffs.
KozmoNau7 279 days ago [-]
I've been considering this as well, but it'll get really uncomfortable over the course of a day. And then you have the colleagues who think they can just interrupt you all the time, with minor questions. Or the ones who just hover around, waiting for you notice them.
loco5niner 278 days ago [-]
Careful with this. I have tinnitus (arguably from 8 hours/day of headphone use), and when I doubled up as you described, my tinnitus became unbearable because it was the only thing I could hear and my brain "latched" on to it. I'm still trying to train my brain to stop listening...
smichel17 279 days ago [-]
My preferred setup is earplugs with headphones over them.

The headphones muffle outside noise to some degree and add music to drown out what they can't muffle. The earplugs create an end result of just muffled music, which is basically white noise if you pick the right type of songs.

The only downside is that earplugs can get uncomfortable after a long period of wearing them.

magduf 279 days ago [-]
Yeah, there's absolutely no way I could wear in-ear headphones for 8+ hours straight.

I use some Sennheiser PXC450 over-the-ear NC headphones; they work pretty well for noise cancelling and provide decent noise isolation too.

brusch64 279 days ago [-]
The Beyerdynamic DT 770 are working great for this. I am using the DT 770 Pro and they are working fine for me. If you want more noise attenuation you can by the DT 770 M.

Link to the DT 770 Pro:

Link to the DT 770 M:

These are headphones for drummers, sound engineers and studios, so they sound good / great and are very comfortable.

Maybe they work better for you.

agarden 279 days ago [-]
I bought Sennheiser HD 280 Pro for this reason. Am pretty happy with them so far (which is just a couple weeks).

I had a pair of QC25s and while they were nice, they did the worst at blocking out the noise I most wanted to block out.

rifung 279 days ago [-]
When I worked at Extrahop the engineers had offices with two to an office. It was a great place to work
amriksohata 279 days ago [-]
I work in a very open office plan where meeting rooms have no walls and even directors sit amongst the staff. It's noisy and distracting, I can never concentrate
maxxxxx 279 days ago [-]
"even directors sit amongst the staff"

At least they are eating their own dogfood. I have had several occasions where I was belittled when I complained about noise and lack of daylight by our managers who have private offices with windows.

jrootabega 279 days ago [-]
They have no idea (or have forgotten) what doing Dev work is like. Their jobs are basically distraction, so to them there's no problem.
VLM 279 days ago [-]
Its a social hierarchy thing; its baked into the cake of the architecture of the office.

Something like: We don't care about the message it sends that "concentration workers" are prevented from working by the very architecture of the office yet we support "distraction workers". I guess "concentration workers" are a lower caste at that company and they find it amusing to enforce that value judgement.

It is exactly like making certain races sit in the back of the bus. No matter how many times you claim it doesn't matter or everyone does it and its really trendy, the people subjected to it none the less understand exactly what message it is sending and are insulted. The point of open offices is literally insulting knowledge workers and not caring that they know their noses are being rubbed in it. Sort of an adult version of revenge of the nerds pranks and bullying.

geekbird 278 days ago [-]

The first time I got moved from an office to an open plan it felt like exactly what it was: a severe demotion. I was being told that I didn't rate an office or even a cube and the ability to concentrate without being interrupted like a low level clerical worker.

maxxxxx 279 days ago [-]
That also explains why they don't see a problem with scheduling meetings every other hour.
dcchambers 279 days ago [-]
When I worked in academia (working for a high throughout computing research group at a large state university) we all had our own offices. I don't know if individual offices are all that common any more due to space issues at universities, but I think they're almost all shared offices or cubes at worst. I've never seen an open office plan at a University.

I work in healthcare now and share a "large" office with 3 other developers. It feels tight at times, but I still prefer it to the hot-seat style open office that was our other choice.

dsign 279 days ago [-]
My only experience with an open floor plan was in academia :-) ... terrible thing, I suffered a lot and made other people suffer as well, since I'm a loud typist ... I have never understood how some people think open floor plans are a good idea for getting work done.
geekbird 278 days ago [-]
Stanford University is moving toward an open plan office setup when it moves its IT staff to Redwood City next year. (Professors, of course, still get offices. So do managers.) Some buildings are already open plan. This is very bad for morale, or course, and very problematic for people who work with PII or PHI. It's a good thing that there is a medical center branch on the grounds, because illnesses will go up too.
lgessler 279 days ago [-]
Epic (the EMR vendor) has all employees in an office of at most two people, with one per office being the goal.
goda90 279 days ago [-]
And the goal is practically reached. Almost every office without a window has one person unless otherwise requested.
dancalle 279 days ago [-]
I worked for the MITRE Corporation for many years, and can confirm they use offices. There are some open floor plan labs, but almost all employees have an office, usually shared with one other person.
throwaway_18 279 days ago [-]
At Netapp in Sunnyvale everyone has 6ft by 8ft cubicles, with full sized walls (66” high). Some people have combined cubicles which are 6ft by 12ft.
kamaal 279 days ago [-]
Never understood the rationale behind open floor offices. I currently work in a cubicle set up, and people set up war rooms anytime they want close collaboration. Open offices seem to take this exceptional case and make it the norm.

At the same time open floor offices cause a lot of trouble to people in non-exception situations.

scruffyherder 279 days ago [-]
Facilities gets a different budget than operations. It's OK to spend $150k for an engineer that can't concentrate from the noise, but $1k to make him productive is out of the question, and out from another budget!
pdkl95 279 days ago [-]
Either intentionally or as "unintended consequences", having to work in open offices is operant conditioning against working in private. This might explain why so many tech workers believe "privacy is dead/futile" and accept working on spyware.
rdl 279 days ago [-]
1) Cheaper -- different budgets. Usually the people specing the office are judged on how cheaply they can deliver (partially), not on anything related to employee productivity.

2) Open offices look way better in photos/concepts -- so they'll get chosen over a boring all-offices layout

3) Much easier to reconfigure -- this is why a lot of startups or those in high-growth periods end up in them, even if they'd prefer offices. Even cubicles require some professional reconfiguring, but anything requiring permitted construction is a big deal.

Lammy 279 days ago [-]
Follow the money. It’s cheaper to build, easy to shuffle, and people will put up with it. I know I do.
brann0 279 days ago [-]
Cheaper in the short term. If your engineers productivity is constantly tanking because of noise and interruptions it will mean lots of wasted money.

But you can't factor that in a spreadsheet, right?

kamaal 279 days ago [-]
I wonder how many of these problems happen because of outdated management practices since the days of serfdom that treat people as two hands and with hours in a day whom they have to whip enough to pick as much cotton as they can.

So many companies are full of upper management who think as engineering output the way one would run a chair manufacturing firm. Too many people think everything there is in a chair has been made, and the only scope left now is a little innovation here and there. All they have to do is get people to saw, hammer and glue as quickly as they can.

swebs 279 days ago [-]
It allows the company to cut costs on rent since it requires the least floor space per employee. For a room of a certain size, you can fit 20 people in a room with offices, 50 with cubicles, or 90 with an open floor plan.
whywhywhywhy 279 days ago [-]
> Never understood the rationale behind open floor offices.

You can have an appealing environment to work in for 5-15 and within the same space scale that up all the way to an 80 person battery farm office without spending any more money.

VLM 279 days ago [-]
I've seen swoopy spacey open office environments with lower person density than cubicles or offices. There will be no walls other than bathroom walls doesn't necessarily imply high density although it makes it somewhat easier.

Three guys in a 6x6 cubicle is much quieter and more productive than an open office, but it arguably takes up less space than all but the most extreme density open offices. Another analogy is if you insist on packing people in like crowded picnic tables or middle school lunchroom tables, merely spending an inch to put up walls isn't going to impact seating arrangements.

mud_dauber 279 days ago [-]
Every semiconductor co I've ever worked for, across 30 years, provided cubicles or offices for their employees. This includes both Fortune 500 firms and scrappy 8-person remote offices.
sametmax 279 days ago [-]
Any companies whose business model is security may want to avoid open spaces. Among those I worked with, like some chip makers (gemalto, safran, etc), space agencies (the CNES comes to mind) or banks (labanquepostale/banque populaire have a few old school offices, bank of luxembourg has lots open plan though).

I don't think founders think the geeks wellbeing is ever a criteria to choose a floor plan. Money, space and ability to check on your team mates are the first points.

pista 279 days ago [-]
The worst place I've seen is the dev dept of a bank. It's not just that 200 persons were crammed in a single room, it was that the place was extremely noisy. I pity the guys that were sitting near the coffee machine.

The idiot that interviewed me was proud of the environment. Fortunately they didn't accept me so I didn't need to make excuses to the recruiter.

FanaHOVA 279 days ago [-]
I know from experience that a few banks have open office spaces with hot desks. (Clearly not for all employees, but part of their tech staff works like that)
sametmax 279 days ago [-]
Yes, I didn't say "all", I said "some" that I visited.
dalbasal 279 days ago [-]
Where I have found open floor to be fine is small companies of 5-15 people, as long as there are quite corners to retreat to. There are some collaboration advantages to open plan, and I feel that for some (small) size, these can outweigh the distraction and blender-brain effect.

I always wonder why people don't split the difference, chop up the big company office into 5-10 person mini open plan offices.

geekbird 278 days ago [-]
I've always thought that the idea of a "team room" with mini cubicles around a central whiteboard and gathering space would be a good compromise. People could do heads down in cubes, the team as a whole could close their door at crunch time, but people could meet, collaborate and brainstorm when they needed to.
dgacmu 279 days ago [-]
Google Pittsburgh is like this in many places. I like it.
tbassetto 279 days ago [-]
Cisco Norway (where I work) doesn't have open floor plans. Cisco San Jose (the HQ) is a different story though.

Also, I doubt that Basecamp (formerly named 37signals) has open floor plans.

icebraining 279 days ago [-]
They do have open floor plans, but also five "team rooms":
briandear 279 days ago [-]
And they also treat that open plan “like a library.” Vastly different than the frat house open plans of most companies.
279 days ago [-]
brongondwana 279 days ago [-]
FastMail has 5 in a single office, because they chose to cluster there.

The standard room is 3 people in 6x6m space, which is actually way too much for just our desks, but we have collaboration tables in the middle of each room where we can put laptops or paperwork when discussing things - plus tons of whiteboard space.

eeks 279 days ago [-]
IBM Research. Each researcher has his own office.
carapace 279 days ago [-]
I've told people that I'll knock $20,000 off of my pay for an office with a door that closes. Everyone treats it like a joke.
theandrewbailey 279 days ago [-]
Then when your productivity shoots through the roof, you can ask for a $20,000 raise. :P
denimnerd 279 days ago [-]
i work from home when i need to concentrate and go to the office occasionally. it’s prerty selfish really as the entire team can’t do that but whatever. it works for me.
stacksavings 279 days ago [-]
why not just find remote work positions and set your own environment?
sametmax 279 days ago [-]
I mostly remote work and love it.

But it's not for everybody.

It involves:

- being able to motivate yourself;

- being disciplined;

- being autonomous;

- being capable to communicate efficiently asynchronously, with time and space constrains on limiting medium;

- accepting less social time;

- juggling private and pro time/space. Which includes your friends and family. My GF still hasn't get used to the fact that when I'm home working, she should consider I'm not home. It makes things harder.

Honestly, you should never, on hiring, accept remote work right away. First, assess the person on site on all those points for a few months, then make a short test of remote, then decide. And don't be afraid to say no.

I know more devs that are not fit for remote that devs that are, despite most of them stating the contrary. Particularly, a lot of my colleagues can quickly work on a non priority topic if left unchecked, just because they don't have the client as a priority, but the tech. You can loose a lot of time to this.

raducu 279 days ago [-]
I completely agree with your points.

But I believe the real cause is not some personal defficiency but the shitty corporte/factory type of work where politics is a huge part of day to day job, where nobody really wants others to do meaningful, deep work, nobody wants to commit and give clear answers and offer personal responsibility.

That's why devs need to communicate(read interrupt) so much in person with each others; add in "agile" which in 99% of the cases means nobody really knows or is imaginative enough to know how things should progress, what the requirements are, what resources should be available before the project starts.

sametmax 279 days ago [-]
I wish most work were interesting, meaningful and full feeling. That we could be proud of it. That it was well done. Or even useful.

But the reality is it's not.

We have a lot of shitty things to do, and bosses are part of the machine to make you do those things. Remote bosses have less grip on you.

And I'm lucky enough to like my job. I feel like I have 10x more interesting things to do in my day to day activity that the average Joe. But a lot - a lot of a lot - of people don't.

BuckRogers 279 days ago [-]
I worked from home for 4 years. It worked for me, only quit the job because I wasn't progressing, they had me pretty pidgeonholed (was consistently billing out half a million a year for them so I guess it made sense). Was going to end up an old man with zero skill progression. I'd definitely work from home again, but it's not worth stunting yourself over IMO. Some people are possibly less ambitious.

You're both dead on with your points. Going remote removed a large part of the nonsense from the job. Also agree that it's best for both employer and employee to always start in the office. I like that personal connection, even if I'm socially awkward.

ben509 279 days ago [-]
> juggling private and pro time/space.

Your employer will pay for office space, but when you're working remotely, you're providing the office space.

Since our living space is normally underutilized when we're at work, it's a fairly low cost to you, but as your remarks indicate, it's not 0 either.

> being capable to communicate efficiently asynchronously

Have you mentored anyone remotely?

And I'm curious how you think it affects your opportunities for promotion.

fipple 279 days ago [-]
If I worked remotely I would never work from home. I’d work remotely from a separate one-room office and hopefully have my employer pay for that office.
magduf 279 days ago [-]
Easier said than done. For some specialties, remote positions simply don't exist or are extremely rare. I'm an embedded programmer and you don't see many remote jobs in this field. If you're a web dev, however, it's a very different story.
a-dub 278 days ago [-]
In the '90s I worked for an audio/video compression company. We started out in a ramshackle open plan office. Tables thrown against walls, duct tape covering cords, computers stacked on bakers racks. Then some of our products really started moving, most video cards came with our MPEG player, the internet business was taking off and we had some money.

Everybody was excited as we could finally afford cubes.

matte_black 279 days ago [-]
One thing that also matters, that people tend to neglect, is ceiling height. In general when you need to do focused concentrated work, it’s best to work in a room with a low ceiling, the lower the better. Ideally it’s a ceiling you could almost touch.

If you need to do more creative thinking, it is better to have a high ceiling, the higher the better (think cathedrals), though there must be a ceiling at some point.

gpvos 279 days ago [-]
Citation needed.
Dangeranger 279 days ago [-]
Here is an example article[0] and a research study from Oxford[1] which reinforce the claim.



ebbv 279 days ago [-]
Seems a bit of a stretch to state this as a global fact. May be true for you, but personally I hate when ceiling's are too low, it makes me feel claustrophobic.

One size fits all decrees like this are almost always baloney.

sweettea 279 days ago [-]
Red Hat's westford office has proper cubicles.
ghaff 279 days ago [-]
Proper modern cubicles, which are sort of a hybrid between more traditional cubicles (i.e. ones with about 5 ft. high walls with about a 3 ft. opening) and an open office plan. So short walls on mostly 3 sides. It definitely gives you better isolation than a full open office plan but, for better or worse, it's not the clear delineation of Dilbert-style cubicles. (I guess it says something that cubicles like this are now something that people miss.)
e-_pusher 279 days ago [-]
Microsoft is slowly switching to open floor plans, but for now a lot of folks have their own offices, or are doubling up at most.
jmspring 279 days ago [-]
SVC is being redone in open floor plan. Those in Redmond being converted often have PMs and Engineers doubling up in the same office - two total separate use cases. Some roles mitigate this with remote work.
kabdib 279 days ago [-]
The Studio buildings at MS were open plan when we moved in. Pods of six people sat in a kind giant cubical corraled by high walls, with these "six-packs" strung down the length of the building's wing. Managers and the privileged few received offices.

When space got tight, they removed most of the interior partitioning and furniture in the six-packs and crammed more people in. The most I ever saw was ten people stuffed into a six-pack in the building's interior (no windows, ugh), and let's just say that the ventilation was not up to the task of servicing ten bodies and many computers and game consoles. Towards the end of a crunch-time it got pretty ripe.

Facilities never budgets enough power. I think the planners assume "Excel" workers with a desktop computer and a phone, and ("yeah, yeah, okay") grudgingly double that number for engineers, while the actual engineers have a black market going in sufficient power strips to run all the hardware they need. Facilities ran additional power several times while I was working there, and this was just a software group . . .

crzwdjk 274 days ago [-]
Each new major generation of NVIDIA GPU was accompanied by an upgrade to the power transformer to the building that the software teams sat in, because it turned out during bringup that the building was already exceeding the capacity of the transformer.
alanfranzoni 279 days ago [-]
My opinion: open floor plan is acceptable up to a certain room size (100/150m2), provided that the people inside do the same job (mixing devs and salesman is a sin), that the room is not too crammed (6-10m2 per person being the sweet spot) and that there're other meeting/recreational areas.
amyjess 279 days ago [-]
I work for Masergy. We're a cube farm. I love it.

Give me a conservative cube farm over a hipster open office any day.

the_snooze 279 days ago [-]
Not a "tech company" in the traditional sense, but everyone had an office (shared with one, maybe two, other people) when I was at a university lab. It was great because those really facilitated conversations, both work-related and otherwise.

I spent two years in a "tech company" after that, which had a cubicle setup, and I totally hated it.

I'm back in academia now with my own office, which is pretty sweet. "Non-office" setups are probably a dealbreaker for me at this point.

bcohen123 279 days ago [-]
Here at Kensho we try to accommodate everyone's preferences. We've got single offices, 2-3 person offices, and open floor areas for whose who prefer that.
orips 279 days ago [-]
If you weren't located at Ramat HaHayal that could almost become relevant.
socksy 278 days ago [-]
Huh? says they are located in Harvard Square, NYC, DC, and LA.
bcohen123 279 days ago [-]
We're in Cambridge MA, NYC and DC. Not sure where you got Israel from!
orips 278 days ago [-]
I'm sorry. I've got you confused with Kenshoo (two Os).
m4tthumphrey 279 days ago [-]
Our office is technically open plan. We have a about 3/4 of a floor (7500sqft). The 1/4 is still empty but my team are based in the section with the "fake" wall that separates the two. It is only us in this section so it kind of acts as it's own office. We still get distracted but it's much better than being in the thick of it.
fbonawiede 279 days ago [-]
I’m guessing it is a combination of cost and constant team growth. Liquidity is a scarce resource for startups and investing in a larger office than necessary for the time being requires too much capital.

At our startup, Delibr, we try to combine these conditions with personal preferences. We are 6 people and 3 of us have our own rooms.

smashface 279 days ago [-]
SAS at the Cary, NC headquarters does not use open floor plans. I don't know about other office locations though. Pretty much everyone gets their own office with a door. Only time I've seen people without their own space was interns in their own cubicle or contractors in a shared office.
doktrin 279 days ago [-]
Not a 'tech company' per se, but at SEI / CERT research we had our own offices.
Moodles 279 days ago [-]
Have there been any studies on what kind of office floor plans are actually optimal for work?
sheepmullet 279 days ago [-]
> Have there been any studies on what kind of office floor plans are actually optimal for work?

It's hard - every study of individuals shows they are significantly less productive in an open office environment.

But what second order effects are there?

You might be less productive individually but it might encourage team work and make the team as a whole more effective.

fsloth 279 days ago [-]
"You might be less productive individually but it might encourage team work and make the team as a whole more effective."

Team room is not an open office. Open office is a place where a number of teams congregate.

And open offices generally seem to hurt even team work, so the only thing speaking for an open office is that it's cheaper. Any other 'advantages' are just marketing by consultants whose business is to develop open offices and site managers (or the corresponding financially responsible party) who want to save on their budget.

If you are employing fairly expensive software engineers I'm not sure you should implement savings on a less expensive resource that will just devalue the output from your expensive resource.

tbrownaw 279 days ago [-]
So where does all that supposed extra productivity come from? How does something get done, without any individual having done it?
VLM 279 days ago [-]
Distraction workers like managers measure productivity in issues handled and amount of talking. By definition they don't do things, things don't get done. This is maximized in an open office.

Knowledge workers like devs (mostly) measure productivity by things getting done. Usually things getting done involves one individual passing unit tests and committing the corresponding working code, not turning every minor issue into a massive teambuilding exercise of endless talking and no doing. This kind of productivity is minimized in an open office.

Its a classic talk about it vs do something about it argument. Both extremes are pretty bad, unfortunately at this moment in the industry we're at one extreme swing of the pendulum.

snowwrestler 279 days ago [-]
The hardest thing in business is not getting things done, it's getting the right things done. A team that is a bit slower, but produces a product/service that is a lot closer to what customers want, is probably going to win.

If an open office plan helps a team develop a more on-target product, even if that happens a bit slower, it could still be a win.

stevenwoo 279 days ago [-]
It's been a while since I read Peopleware and it's 30 years old but I thought it talks about this a bit.
resalisbury 278 days ago [-]
This is partly driven by costs. Where rents per square foot are less, more companies have opted to have offices.

Just like how in Mountain View some Googlers live in the parking lot. It's not cause they think parking lots are hip, space is expensive.

geekbird 278 days ago [-]
But the cost "savings", even in high rent areas like San Francisco, are eaten up by a significant loss of productivity.

In a high rent market like SF, a programmer's salary plus benefits and employer taxes (loaded labor) is about $200K. Open plans have an anywhere from 25% to 50% productivity hit from increased distractions and sick time (sorry, I can't look up the studies right now.) So while you might save $30K/year/dev going from offices to open plan in an expensive market, you will lose $50K/year/dev in productivity. Since those come from different budget buckets, and management never really sees the productivity hit, management thinks they've saved money and convinced people that open plan is "hip", "open" and "collaborative", when in reality most people are unproductive, stressed, unhappy and now despise their noisy, smelly and messy coworkers.

amelius 279 days ago [-]
Just find some plywood and build yourself a nice cubicle :)
eli 279 days ago [-]
Cubicles are far worse than open plan IMHO
geekbird 278 days ago [-]
Nope, IMSHO. I've worked in everything from a solo office to benching in an open plan.

Open plan anything makes me nostalgic for the smallest cubicle I ever had (4ft x 5ft). Give me walls, even if they are short.

dijit 279 days ago [-]
It doesn't help you, but I've never worked in non-open workspaces with desks shoulder to shoulder and head to head in rows.

I legitimately don't know how it is.

nix0n 279 days ago [-]
Look for older (relative to tech) companies.

My current employer was founded in the 80s and still uses cubicles.

sedatk 279 days ago [-]
Microsoft, before they started adopting open plans. I had my own office and I liked it a lot.
kuon 279 days ago [-]
This does not answer your question, but I concur, I need my office to be private.
baud147258 279 days ago [-]
I'm currently working in a small open plan with 6 other people, but the company is moving in June and I'll be in the big open space with 40 people. At least it should only be developpers, so we won't have sales people shouting on the phone.
geekbird 278 days ago [-]
My condolences.
hiddentruth 279 days ago [-]
National Instruments
bitL 279 days ago [-]
Is this thread to identify all companies that are still having sane offices in order to get "new wave" managers there to destroy them from inside as well? ;-)
aaronang 279 days ago [-]
At PARC everyone has their own office.
kgc 279 days ago [-]
la6470 279 days ago [-]
Really f* open office and scabies on the ones who thought of them
vippy 279 days ago [-]
Our team has bays, which aren't perfect, but at least we have walls between teams. We're a software shop.

At Applied Security Inc. in Reston Virginia, most people have individual offices; there are, at most, two or three people per office.

arun_dev 279 days ago [-]
I'm not totally against the open floor plan, it's all about the silence and flow, In libraries people are able to maintain focus, So solution for open floor plans is library rules in office, if you have budget you can always go for private offices.
SabertoothLamb 279 days ago [-]
Not to mention the security issues. Its hard to call security on a suspect person in a secure area when you have 50 people, plus 2000 possible visiting corporate employees, plus customers, vendors, girlfriend (NO GIRLFRIENDS!!! GIRLFRIEND=SPY). I say everyone should have a walled office with walls that go all the way to a real ceiling not just tiles and a chambered entrance to the office and marine antifouling paint and faraday cage inside the walls and automated badge reading gun turrets at hallway intersections.
kayamon 279 days ago [-]
Lots of (in fact most?) companies don't have an open plan office. When I used to work at Activision, they didn't and still don't.

> How is this acceptable?

Because it's totally fine. If you can't work with another human nearby you might want to get over yourself and think about what you're doing with your life.

dx034 279 days ago [-]
I think it's more about the noise level. Open plan office means that there's constant noise from talking and phones. Some can ignore that noise but for others, noise cancelling headphones are the only solution.

Easier communication is certainly a benefit but I'm not sure if it outweighs the loss in productivity, especially for people that don't constantly have to talk to others to do their job.

LoSboccacc 279 days ago [-]
Easier communication also lead in my anecdotal experoence to people brain borrowing all day from the resident domain expert. This is great for overall productivity but constant sidetracking burns developer will fast. When combined with performance metrics based on delivery alone it becomes a recipe for total disaster.
richforrester 279 days ago [-]
Yeah, you really have to develop a personality that's able to deal with the interruptions. From both sides: you need to change, and you need to change others.

Besides that part, there's plenty of roles where you can negotiate time to work from elsewhere on the odd occasion. At that point it becomes a time management excercise that's mostly not too difficult to solve.

Oh, and take these types of situations into account when discussing your KPIs, if they affect them. Always have KPIs because they're not just there to help your employer - they're also your leverage in negotiations. You did better than your initial goal because of [X], but you can also be worse than your goal because of [Y]. This means [Y] needs to be adjusted. Or your KPIs.

alanfranzoni 279 days ago [-]
I can develop such personality. I happened to get angry when interrupted. But my productivity is still enormously better when I can concentrate.
gumby 279 days ago [-]
It's not just noise -- people moving in your visual field is very distracting.
fsloth 279 days ago [-]
This. It's not "only" noise, it's not "only" visual distraction. It's a combination of elements that create a very distracting place that by it's basic dynamics impedes deep work.

People who suggest noise cancelling headphones to fix this are childish and immature. The employee has no moral obligation whatsoever to adapt to a working space that is not suited to the work at hand.

Putting expensive software engineers into an open office is wasting a resource that has huge running costs to save on a resource with less running costs. Although, I understand some places the cost of office space actually is quite high, and I realize in these cases the tradeoff has merits.

The problem with this is that management in other locations start to ape this inane concept even though their office space costs are considerably lower.

So, sure, if it costs an arm and a leg to have office space then just maybe an open office has merit financially.

I have nothing against shared rooms that are actually separated with walls as long as they are not used for hotdesking. Those don't have the same disturbance dynamics as an actual open office and I enjoy them the most of all the combination of work spaces I've been in 12 years as a software engineer.

juststeve 279 days ago [-]
end thread. here is visual noise:

"oh there's bob, does bob want to say hi or is he busy? he looks stressed probably dont want to interrupt him, should i say hi? nah well he's talking to fred now so i'll go back to fixing this unit test i where was i? oh look there's gary, i probably should say hi, (he's also a manager), does he want to talk about issue X if i interrupt him", nah it will probably piss him off without a meeting and a heads up, plus i'll look like a noob,

ok back to the code again..."

x 200 times per day.


dx034 279 days ago [-]
Large screens help there and also help with productivity.
tintor 279 days ago [-]
Noise cancelling headphones will cancel low frequency sounds like fans / AC, but not high frequency ones like talking and phones.
NoiseMan88 278 days ago [-]
Disturbances from noise in office environments fall into 3 main frequency bands: low (ventilation/Ac), mid (conversations) and high (some parts of ventilation noise, some noise from office equipment).

The most disturbing frequency band (on cognitive tasks) is probably the middle frequency, especially when the noise has "information" (language, tones, signals); but on a physiological level (directly affecting health (CNS function), performance and well-being it is the LOW frequencies that, albeit not cognitively disturbing at first, will have the greatest effect on a long-term perspective.

Headphones/noise cancelling headphones are good a fixing problems in the mid/mid-high range but perform poorly in the low frequency range.

My suggestion is this: your health comes first, no matter what. If you develop a noise-related disorder, you will under-perform and eventually get fired. I would do two things: use an app like SPLnFFT to document the noise level. Use a spectral analyzer to find out where the noise peaks are. ... then get proper in-ear hearing protection from an audiologist (comes in skin-colored, looks like an hearing aid). No-one can blame you for investing in your health to maintain your ability to perform, right?

Literature: (K.P. Waye. Low frequency noise pollution interferes with performance)

geekbird 278 days ago [-]
Thank you for an occupational health viewpoint and the citation.

Do you have a good recommendation for a recording dB meter and recording app suitable for graphing noise levels over a daylong period? Such a thing would be useful in proving the noise load of a busy open office and allow it to be compared to OSHA standards.

dtech 279 days ago [-]
Have you tried one? Mine significantly dampens and distorts speech so that it becomes easy to ignore.

It's a recent Sony top-model, which from reviews seems to be on the top together with Bose regarding NC technology at the moment.

fyfy18 279 days ago [-]
I recently bought a set of MDR-1000X and this is how they behave. At work I’m sat next to the sales team, and without them I wouldn’t be able to do any work.

When they are on, but not playing music, I can still hear loud voices but it’s significantly dampened (like in the room next door).

With music playing, at a relatively low volume, I can’t hear anyone - unless someone is shouting right next to me.

slhck 279 days ago [-]
I've found the opposite to be true. Got a pair of QC-35II that block everything but speech, which subjectively appears to become even louder, even when you listen to music.

They're great for airplanes, trains, and low-frequency background noise, but for a crowded office where people are having chats and telcos, I'd rather use Shure in-ear monitors.

VLM 279 days ago [-]
"Wearing headphones will be treated as insubordination, management wants you participating in conversations".

This was only slightly paraphrased from written policy at a former workplace.

You have to show some political savvy; wearing headphones in a open office is exactly like being noticed playing games on your phone or sleeping while the CEO speaks at gathering, or making a big production of refusing to answer phone calls or questions from certain coworkers.

There's a critical distinction of scale; if "they" don't want you working and prefer talking and distraction to the level that they bake it into the physical architecture of the office, that's really bad for the company on a large scale, but on a small scale trying civil disobedience by wearing headphones will just get you fired. Personally on the downside you're better off crashing the company than getting fired and on the upside the people responsible for the large scale operation of the company probably have quiet private offices anyway and aren't going to reward you for fixing the company anyway even if by some miracle you did it.

Open offices are literally in the most straightforward sense a declaration the company has no idea what its doing so talking about it is a good first step. Cutting yourself off from that with headphones means they may as well not pay you.

Civil disobedience in this case has no positive outcome; ditch the headphones.

dsq 279 days ago [-]
My Bose Quiet Comfort 20 in-ears are excellent for machine noises like air conditioners in server rooms or traffic drone but terrible for voices or radio.
andyjohnson0 279 days ago [-]
Active noise cancellation generally works best for consistent background noise. Sound that changes rapidly, like human voices, will be difficult for the cancellation hardware to react to, and headphones that provide sound isolation may be more help. See
magduf 279 days ago [-]
I have headphones which provide sound isolation, as well as noise cancellation: Sennheiser PXC-450. In a room with a noisy server cabinet, I can actually hear people talking better with my headphones and NC on than without. The headphones cancel much of the fan noise, to a greater dB level than the isolation from the headphones attenuates the voices.
eeZah7Ux 279 days ago [-]
Yes, and that makes things even worse.

A constant background noise is unpleasant but not so distracting - and it gets filtered out.

Sudden voices are way more distracting and they don't get filtered out. On the contrary, they stand out even more once machine noises are filtered out.

threeseed 279 days ago [-]
Not sure why this was downvoted. They basically don't work at all for voices.
dx034 279 days ago [-]
I had Bose for a long time but now bought a much cheaper pair on Amazon (TaoTronic brand, £35). They work surprisingly well, without music voices are already much quieter and with music (on low volume), I cannot hear someone calling my name even when they're close to me. It's by far better than the 3yr old Bose NC headphones I had before (I can imagine today's Bose are at least on the same level though).
erik_seaberg 279 days ago [-]
I think it's the unpredictability more than the frequency range. Passive noise isolation always works but takes a lot of mass on your head. I'm on my second pair of HD 280 in about ten years because they're comfortable.
chx 279 days ago [-]
Talk is low frequency enough typically.
chx 279 days ago [-]
Erm, no. It's not just the auditory noise but also the visuals. We are wired to react to movement seen from the side of our eyes. What am I to do, wear sideblinds like a horse?
dx034 279 days ago [-]
Three large screens that cover ~150 degrees will work as well and can increase productivity as well.
nnoisyneighbors 279 days ago [-]
if managers could make people wear sideblinds they would. And the parent would say "Because it's acceptable. Get over yourself."
newfoundglory 279 days ago [-]
If “open office” makes you think “another human nearby”, you may not be informed enough to contribute on this topic. That would be a shared office - an open office generally means many people nearby.
magduf 279 days ago [-]
It doesn't necessarily mean many people nearby at one time, it could just mean a lack of walls (or very low walls), so that people who walk by are a distraction. I worked in an office like this for a while: there weren't many people sitting around me (it was pretty empty actually in my sector), but I was in a low-wall cubicle next to an aisle, so there was a constant stream of people walking by my desk, with their heads constantly appearing over my monitor. It was extremely distracting.
ehnto 279 days ago [-]
It's doable sure but there is a better option so why not persue it? It's a relevant and genuine concern. Any business owner should be interested in making sure distraction free work is possible somehow in their company, distracted employees are less productive.

On the thinking about what they are doing with their life comment, not necessary and what they seem to be doing with their life is finding a better place to work. Seems pretty productive to me.

rhizome31 279 days ago [-]
Yet you'll find a lot of people resorting to remote work when they need to be at their optimal productivity level. In these open office plans, not much work gets done. This isn't necessary a bad thing because working hard is tiring.
KozmoNau7 279 days ago [-]
If you can somehow work with 4-5 people having conversations and (loud) phone meetings right next to you, I envy your powers of focus and discipline.