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Avoiding the Cube Farm - Effective Office Floor Plans?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the efficient-yet-non-soul-crushing-use-of-space dept.

129

scorp1us asks: "My company, after cramming 30 people into 3000sq feet, has a new lease on life in a 7700sq foot office (pun blatantly intended!). We are primarily a 3D animation/software company and we hope to avoid the cube farm design, but with a large open area in the middle, it is the default solution. We would like to know what effective strategies are used at other places that avoid the cube farm, and produce an inspiring, motivating work environment. This location has a split level and 12' ceilings, so it has a lot of potential."

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129 comments

This is really difficult to do without visuals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16259549)

I mean... how is the 7000 square feet configured? Completely open? Do higher ups want larger offices?

These are actually good questions (3, Interesting)

wish bot (265150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261501)

I don't know if anyone's still reading this topic, but I do this kind of thing for a living, so I can give you some pointers.

Although the parent posted AC, they are actually good questions. What you need is someone asking questions like this, so you/they can work out what it is that you actually need. It's called developing a brief, and if you're serious about having a fairly innovative office space then you should definitely engage an architect or space-planner with experience in "new office design", who can help with this and with the office layout. Probably the best known group in this field is DEGW - http://www.degw.com/ [degw.com]

If you decide to go it alone, then you need to think really rationally about every aspect of your company. Most people here have suggested various layouts of cubes, some of which are pretty good, but you need to go a bit further than that. The one reason that companies are getting interested in changing their workplace design is that the quality of the work place environment is very important to people - especially younger generations - and to attract and retain the best and brightest you need to have an office that appeals to them. The other reason is that you can see tangible benefits by getting staff out of the silo-metality that cubes and single offices generate, and into spaces where they can communicate with each other. This is especially important if your business depends on people working together in teams.

So looking at a really basic level, you need to work our how your business operates. If you have a number of project teams, then you need to get the people in a team together. If your teams change frequently then you might put everything on casters like one other poster suggested. What we do in our own office is have desks without any dividers which are then clustered into groups for each project team. Some outsiders don't like this - because they feel it's too noisy or open - but in reality this is not an issue. With the slight increase in ambient noise, the office doesn't feel as interrupted when a phone rings, or when someone is having a conversation. This actually helps people communicate more freely and openly! - which is a good thing for the kind of work we do. However, if your business relies on lots of individuals doing their own thing - like lawyers or researchers, then you may want a whole load of little offices. This is fine - it's just thinking about a team of 1 rather than a team of say 6. The biggest team you should consider is about 20-30. After this size people won't work together as a single unit.

After working the team structure out, all these people are going to need somewhere to meet. Meeting spaces are generally noisy, so you want to cluster them away from the general working area rather than mixing everything up. Think about arranging your office into 4 general areas - entry, noisy, workgroup, quiet. The noisy places - meeting areas, kitchens, social spaces - should go near the entry and encourage people to bump into one another. It's amazing how much sharing of ideas and information happens in these areas. You should consider social spaces and kitchens as part of the work-space, and encourage people to use them. The workgroup space is obviously where most of your desks are - arranged in teams or however. It's good to provide some really quiet spaces at the ends of the workgroup zone for people to make private calls, or sit to work on specific work without interruptions.

Ok - so much writing and I've only really begun....which is why I think you should hire an architect! But either way, good luck with your new office.

Re:These are actually good questions (1)

tim_mathews (585933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16262617)

I completely disagree with paragraph three. At our office, we have a group of mechanical engineers, a group of electrical & software engineers, a group of researchers, a group of purchasing people, a group of process engineers, a group of accountants and a group of quality engineers. Within each team, the team members are in close proximity to each other. All of our desks are L shaped and most are grouped into X shapes with everyone facing inward. They all hate it, without exception. The only people who think it is a good idea are management who all have their own offices. It doesn't foster communication between teams, when they want to meet with one another, they book a conference room to get away from the noise of the open office environment. Management has banned speakers on PCs (a good thing), but they also view headphones in a dim light and would prefer that people did not have them. The accountants have cubes only because they may have sensitive information on their screens. They like the cubes; they don't like being close to the front door.

Re:These are actually good questions (1)

wish bot (265150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16263279)

I'm not sure exactly what part of the paragraph you disagree with, because in general I agree with what you've written. A big part of getting a office like this to work is having the right office culture and management. If your head guys are locked away in offices while everyone else is stuck in an open plan office - then that actually sends a really bad message to your staff, and they'll probably resent it. It also does nothing for fostering communication and trust within the office. The most successful new office layouts I've seen have gone hand-in-hand with some kind of rethinking of the office hierarchy and structure too - and that means having the head guys out on the floor with everyone else. This doesn't need to lead to a loss of security if done right - there are plenty of huge businesses that operate this way. We don't have the X style workstations either - there are plenty of different ways of arranging desks to suit what ever style team you have.

If the people in your teams can't communicate without booking meeting rooms then you may have other problems in the office - it sounds like people won't communicate/discuss things unless they are required too. Slashdot's probably not the right place for agony aunt discussion about what is right/wrong with your office culture though.

What might be interesting is to hear from someone how Apple or Google have their work places set up - from what I know of Google it's all pretty freeform, which is nice. However if you don't have the cash for huge amounts of space and furniture I still don't see why similar things can't be achieved with workdesks, quiet spaces, and communal spaces. It's all about the balance of each, and to a certain extent - how much you trust your staff to produce results rather than goofing off.

One last point - when I hear people complaining that their office space is too noisy, and too full of interruptions I always take that with a grain of salt. Some people would love nothing more than to be locked up in their own office and not have to speak or deal with anyone else the whole day. Some jobs require this style of working - however that's complete death to most businesses that require staying in front of the field - innovating. There does need to be a balance between interaction and isolation, but often I suspect that people who complain that they don't have enough isolation are actually being made to perform the way their company wants...sharing their knowledge, ideas, and sustaining a cooperative workplace.

idea (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259611)

Just keep the PHB far way form the things they have no clue about and you will be fine.

Re:idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16267095)

So, just tell them to stay at home, yes?

Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office (4, Interesting)

Michael Pigott (735899) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259615)

Have you seen Joel's article on what his office looks like? http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/BionicOffic e.html [joelonsoftware.com]

Re:Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office (4, Interesting)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259689)

also look at

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/FieldGuidet oDevelopers.html [joelonsoftware.com]

basically most developers would be a lot happier with a private office (with a door!) than in the typical cube farm arrangement.

Re:Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office (1)

josath (460165) | more than 7 years ago | (#16263071)

Be careful with JoelOnSoftware...he seems to talk out of his ass a lot. Especially the part where he claims that most programmers don't care about money. I mean, WTF? This is along with his suggestion to blow $800 on office chairs for your employees.

Check this article for a point by point breakdown:
http://blog.sc.tri-bit.com/archives/171 [tri-bit.com]

Re:Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office (1)

WebCrapper (667046) | more than 7 years ago | (#16264393)

I wouldn't mind taking a hit on pay if I could live comfortably and have an office environment with a lot less stress than what I currently put up with. Sure, money is nice, but its not everything.

Re:Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office (1)

josath (460165) | more than 7 years ago | (#16270307)

Being willing to comprimise on pay in order to get other benefits, is different than not caring about money at all. (Joel seems to claim the latter)

Re:Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16272543)

Being willing to comprimise on pay in order to get other benefits, is different than not caring about money at all. (Joel seems to claim the latter)

Careful reading will disclose that you're wrong. He says you can expect a good salary and take less for great working conditions. He also says that when the troops start bitching about pay it's a symptom of other problems in the organization.

I myself, though relatively well compensated, only started grousing when shit happened like being micromanaged or running into bosses who thought themselves to be "the great man" who had the whole picture and could not tolerate being found wrong.

If you publicly exposed themselves as wrong -- well, as Dilbert's PHB said, "I brand you not a team player".

Re:Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#16265827)

basically most developers would be a lot happier with a private office (with a door!) than in the typical cube farm arrangement.

s/developers/employees/

Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office is a Cube Farm (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260397)

Other than the nice wiring and lounge, I'm unimpressed by this slightly modified cubicle layout. The floor plan is essentially a cube farm with 45 degree walls. That tilt wastes space in the window corner and keeps the window light from reaching the common space. The same reflections that waste window light might improve audio privacy, but that's a high price to pay for the floor space. Actual line of site privacy is provided by the partition which divides the desk in two, creating two ... cubicles.

If it's got a partition the average person can't see over, it's a cubicle. If it's got a floor to ceiling partition and no door, it's a cubicle. If you don't want a cube farm, you are left with half partitioned open spaces and real offices with ventilation and doors that close.

Re:Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office is a Cube Farm (3, Funny)

matt4077 (581118) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260583)

If it's got a partition the average person can't see over, it's a cubicle. If it's got a floor to ceiling partition and no door, it's a cubicle. If you don't want a cube farm, you are left with half partitioned open spaces and real offices with ventilation and doors that close.

Well, they have doors. So you're basically saying if you have a private space with walls up to the ceiling, windows and doors, that's a cubicle.

English is my second language, but I would rather call it an office.

Re:Joel Spolsky's Bionic Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16261343)

But the thing you have to remember about Joel, the overriding thing, is that he's a cock.

Violates Feng shui (2, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16262375)

That office design violates the most important guideline [wikipedia.org] of Feng shui [wikipedia.org] , which is that when sitting at the desk, you must have the doorway in clear sight. This is also a good idea because it relieves people of the nervousness of wondering who might be standing in the doorway looking in. And besides, it gives you enough time to switch back to the desktop your real work is on.

Re:Violates Feng shui (1)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 7 years ago | (#16263613)

Besides feng shui being nonsense, you fail to realize DOORS CAN BE CLOSED.
I just close the door if I need to be undisturbed.

Re:Violates Feng shui (1)

Michael Pigott (735899) | more than 7 years ago | (#16265997)

I also recommend a Room Defender [iwantoneofthose.com] : if it starts going off, someone is at your door.

Re:Violates Feng shui (1)

_Ludwig (86077) | more than 7 years ago | (#16269295)

Besides you not knowing anything about feng shui and assuming it's nothing but mystical horseshit, parent clearly said doorway, not door. Cubicles have doorless "doorways."

Re:Violates Feng shui (1)

xyko (1008141) | more than 7 years ago | (#16270883)

You don't have to know everything about feng shui it is little more than "mystical horseshit". As a matter of fact it takes very little knowledge.

Re:Violates Feng shui (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16274417)

Cubicles have doorless "doorways.

Not if you're Ted on WKRP.

Re:Violates Feng shui (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16274531)

The offices in question are spefically stated to have DOORS.

Re:Violates Feng shui (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16273683)

Feng shui

Fucking superstition. If your spirits are too dumb-ass to get into my home because the walkway isn't straight, they should go back to nursery school.

Electrical code violations (0, Troll)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16262433)

Having electrical outlets in the wall subjects them to the National Electrical Code [wikipedia.org] . This code would place a number of requirements on the methods of attaching the UPSes back to the wall wiring, requirements for overcurrent protection separate from the UPS on each such circuit, minimum available current (e.g. at least 15 amps), and type of wiring used (armored cable, most certainly not anything of extension cord grade). And the most serious violation is the one that requires all power to be shut down with no more than six disconnecting operations grouped together in one location.

Re:Electrical code violations (1)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 7 years ago | (#16263743)

You do realize that office is in New York City? Conduit is required, not armored cables. Don't you think the architect and the union electricians know their jobs better than you?

Re:Electrical code violations (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16264101)

Apparently they don't (know their jobs) given the way they hooked it up. In most places where conduit is required, armored cable is acceptable. Maybe New York City otherwise prohibits armored cable. But I do know places like New York City tend to change things towards the safer direction, so I very highly doubt they have deleted the NEC requirements on available current and number of disconnects.

Re:Electrical code violations (3, Interesting)

dhartshorn (456906) | more than 7 years ago | (#16267041)

Know the code before you speak. There are no obvious Code violations in this article. No mention of using extension cords to connect outlets. In fact, there are no Code-related construction comments at all. If I could, I'd both comment and moderate your post as a troll. Slashdot rules, unfortunately, prevent that. Your current "3, Informative" is a testament to the weakness of this system.

The six disconnect rule is for buildngs, not individual suites of offices. The rule is in place for safety, essentially allowing firefighters to ensure the building is electrically dead in short order. The Code doesn't require that an office UPS be switched off at the service entrance.

Each UPS should be on a branch circuit with appropriate overcuurrent and short circuit protection. Nothing in the article indicates otherwise. Additionally, outlets downstream from the UPS are not the same as outlets on a branch circuit. In this case, the UPS determines both the branch circuit rating and the acceptable load on each outlet, not the Code.

Re:Electrical code violations (2, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16268609)

If the wiring goes through the walls, then it is the building wiring, and is subject to the code. And the six disconnect rule will apply. This article specifically says the UPSes are in a separate server room, so how do you get the power from there to the offices? The picture shows more than six, and these are the cheap office models that can't be paralleled, so they would have to be separately switched.

Unlike an office UPS sitting there in the room, there is the expectation that the wall outlets will provide the minimum power levels (e.g. 15 amps for the most common type). Just because they are orange indicating emergency backup power does not relieve this.

After the fire department has disconnected power in this building, they are going to be in for quite a shock to find that outlets in the walls of many rooms still have power if they have shut the building down according to code disconnects.

Re:Electrical code violations (1)

dhartshorn (456906) | more than 7 years ago | (#16272531)

The six disconnect rule applies to services, not branch circuits. Once again, know the code before you speak up poorly. While you know nothing about the installation other than what little the article provides, you have decided that the engineer, electrician, and code inspector were incompetent. Did you ever think it might just be you?

Re:Electrical code violations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16274817)

Did you ever think it might just be you?

Like the lady at her son's boot camp graduation. She turned to the woman next to her and said, "See my son down there on the parade field? He's the only one who's in step."

$700 a month per developer? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16263795)

You can get much cheaper office space here [wikipedia.org] . It's newer and looks better.

Dilbert (3, Funny)

Kj0n (245572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259623)

Scott Adams has written some excellent literature on this: first start by assigning 4000 sq feet to a place called scorp1us-ville, dedicated to illegal gambling and drinking.

If you do use cubicles, don't forget to extort money from people in exchange for larger ones.

optimize information flow (2, Insightful)

Chris Snook (872473) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259749)

With some subtle variation, the cube farm can be transformed from a soulless cell block into something that actually improves productivity. If you organize each functional team's cubes around their own central open areas, communication between team members will improve significantly.

Re:optimize information flow (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260677)

Buy the dividers, but let the teams place them themselves. Offices I've seen where this has been done have been quite productive. The best solution is to assign some space and furniture to a team, but let them place it themselves (including walls). The more private people can build a cube, the others can share some space.

Re:optimize information flow (1)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 7 years ago | (#16266291)


With some subtle variation, the cube farm can be transformed from a soulless cell block into something that actually improves productivity. If you organize each functional team's cubes around their own central open areas, communication between team members will improve significantly.


Actually, most of the productivity problems with cubicles have to do with noise and visual distractions.

Working in a "team cubicle" does indeed (in my experience) provide easier communication within the team but it also increases noise and visual distractions since:
A) A lot of work is done by sub-groups within the team - typically experts in related areas. These will engage in conversations/discussions related to their specific part of the work which break everybody else's concentration.
B) There is a lot more "random" movements which can distract the eye (and the human eye is hardwired to detected movement and call attention to it) in a "team cubicle" than in a single person cubicle. This can be reduced a lot by having people work facing the cubicle walls.

This increase in noise and visual distraction actually decreases concentration and thus productivity. In the programming stage of a project this is actually a bad thing since a lot more time is spent coding than communicating (unless you have no design, in which case your whole development process is probably broken and communication is the least of your problems)

Development pits (5, Interesting)

kherr (602366) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259841)

When the company I used to work for moved into large office space with cubicles, we chose to create 4-6 person development pits instead of individual cubes. This worked rather well. Each pit basically had a separate team so team members could interact easily and naturally with each other, while providing enough space to avoid feeling crowded.

The openness allowed the developers to bounce ideas off each other and help each other out. Ad-hoc meetings for each team were a snap, everyone could just swivel their chairs to face the center. Meeting times were cut down to about one quarter what gathering everyone into a meeting room spends.

Depending on the personalities, you could try various sizes of pits and maybe have a few individual cubicles for those who really can't work well in open environments. But I think per-person cubicles create a lot of petty territorial issues, which was another thing avoided by the pits.

Re:Development pits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16259885)

pits are the pits.

One team tried this and they hated it.

I need my own space to concentrate!

Re:Development pits (2, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260035)

I've spent some time in those kinds of environments. The "number of people" vs "somebody doing something distracting" graph is an exponential curve.

Re:Development pits (2, Insightful)

Murphy Murph (833008) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260611)

This does not work well in an enviroment with lots of phone usage.

Re:Development pits (1)

KritonK (949258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260859)

My first job was in just such an environment, and the experience was very enjoyable. Desks were mostly placed in pairs, facing each other, so almost everyone had an officemate, who was just a call away should you need to ask someone a quick question ("say, how do you do x in application y"?). Such pairing was done on a basis of with whom one was collaborating, so having an impromptu meeting was a matter of taking your eyes off that %^$#^% terminal (I'm dating myself here!) and most of the other people in your group were just a swivel of your chair away.

Another advantage of this arrangement was that everyone had access to natural light and the view outside, as window space would not be hoarded by the management. Yes, some times we would gaze outside the windows, but management evaluated us by results produced and not by the amount of wear on our chairs.

For the last umpteen years I've been working in smaller companies whose offices are remodelled houses, so that, part by necessity and part by design, having an officemate is the rule, even though it's not possible to have development pits. I've had both a private and a shared office under this arrangement, and I think that having an officemate is better.

Culture pits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16261477)

"Desks were mostly placed in pairs, facing each other, so almost everyone had an officemate, who was just a call away should you need to ask someone a quick question ("say, how do you do x in application y"?)."

There's one VERY important element that's being left out. Culture! As in what rules and conventions does the OP's culture impose on two or more people facing each other on a regular basis. Let alone all the other daily interactions.

Would a pit work for the Europeans or Asians? How about Ethiopian? When designing a living or working space things like that have to be addressed, even if they pass under your radar.

Re:Development pits (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260993)

But I think per-person cubicles create a lot of petty territorial issues, which was another thing avoided by the pits.
Physical territorial issues perhaps, but I can imagine a lot of social territorial issues will quickly arise. Who's the area top dog? Who's at the bottom? Which other teams do we like. Which are we not friendly with? Who does the boss like best? Their team got a coffee machine/air condition and we didn't. Their team is using our printer out in the hall. etc, etc, etc.

Just pack them into pidgeon holes and avoid the clique wars.

Re:Development pits (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261771)

I've worked for a bit in an environment like this, and it does seem to work quite well. But you'll probably want to add a few smallish closed rooms as well, that can be used for meetings or for when just a few people in the "pit" want to have a chat about the weather without disturbng the others. Add a fixed line phone to the room that is comfortable to use and has speakerphone capability, so people can go there for private phone conversations or when they have to use the speakerphone. (Personally, I think that planning a conference call on speakerphone in an open-plan office should be a capital offence).

Re:Development pits (2, Insightful)

iabervon (1971) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261857)

I like this arrangement, too. I'd point out a couple of additional things, though:

It helps if unrelated people are sound-isolated from you, either by distance or by walls. Having too many people you can overhear is distracting, and being able to overhear people who are talking about stuff that isn't relevant is very distracting. It also helps if everybody you can hear can see you (cubes are terrible this way), because people get social cues about how many people they're distracting.

Expect people to be away from the office during the heavy development time. There's generally a period after all of the issues are settled, before integration and testing, when there's just a mass of code that has to get written, and some people will be a lot faster at this if they're not distracted by coworkers. People may also work funny hours for this reason, or listen to music on headphones. Insist that people overlap and pay attention at some point regularly, but not for most of the time.

I have no clue what people other than developers need. But the developers shouldn't be able to hear or see them, wherever they are.

Re:Development pits (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16262603)

My experience with this is that it's very distracting. Sure, it's nice that you can just lean over and say "hey bob, what's the syntax for sort?" but it has a downside: someone will lean over to you and ask you what the syntax for sort is, likely causing you to forget whatever the hell it is you were working on. You're stuck in the position of being a real dick and saying "dude, can you two please shut up for ten minutes?" every hour.

> The openness allowed the developers to bounce ideas off each other and help each other out.

aka everyone is doing everyone elses work.

> Ad-hoc meetings for each team were a snap, everyone could just swivel their chairs to face the center.

When meetings are easier to have, they'll be more frequent.

just my two cents.

Re:Development pits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16263003)

Thank you.

Anyone who thinks the "pit" environment is good is a lazy bastard. Solo achievement is the pinnacle of humanity.

Office planning (1)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259843)

I've never had to do this but here's my ideas.

Eveybody gets there own private space with natural light and non locking door.
Individual climate controls, lighting under user control.
8 power sockets, 2 ethernet, no phone. VOIP to a central phone system.

Have a standard office furniture, desk, chair, lamp etc but allow the user to take the cash value and furnish their own office if they wish.

I'd go for :-
Large cheap picnic table, 8' x 3' about 3' high.
Cheap set of drawers on wheels, lockable, for under desk.
Expensive chair.
Large whiteboard.
Bankers lamp.

I'd also sort out the tech a similar way, standard set up with good kybd/screen + IT support or cash value in which case IT is responsible as far as the socket in the wall.

After three years the user is allowed to update, most users will keep their old stuff and take the cash.

Yes the above will cost $$$ and goes beyond the norm.

Re:Office planning (1)

daspriest (904701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260327)

"I'd also sort out the tech a similar way, standard set up with good kybd/screen + IT support or cash value in which case IT is responsible as far as the socket in the wall."

Like an IT department would allow uncontrolled computers to be plugged into their network.

Re:Office planning (1)

gregmac (629064) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260529)

no phone. VOIP to a central phone system.


I'm confused. No phone, but they will have VoIP?

Voice over IP is merely the act of sending phone signals over an IP network.. It's an alternative to an analog signal, or a proprietary digital signal used by many (non-VoIP) PBX systems.

I suspect if anything you're suggesting a softphone, which is an IP phone (usually SIP) that runs in software on a computer. While this is doable, having a real phone (a hardware SIP or IAX2 or MGCP phone) is much nicer. It's nicer to use, and it works while your computer is off/rebooting/compiling something that takes up all the CPU. I have a softphone on my laptop, which is handy when I'm out of the office -- if someone calls my extension, it rings the real phone in my office and my laptop simultaneously -- but it's not as handy as the real phone I can use without plugging in a headset, starting software, etc.

mnb Re:Office planning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16260669)

Eveybody gets there own private space with natural light and non locking door.
Individual climate controls, lighting under user control.
8 power sockets, 2 ethernet, no phone. VOIP to a central phone system.


That would be a Utopia. Where are you going to find a space for your team with enough windows for "everybody"?
Tall, very skinny buildings would be needed, which are not what you find in most cities.

In all offices I've worked (1)

celardore (844933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259919)

I've never worked in a 'cube farm' by definition. Places I've worked have always had 'banks' of desks, usually in groups of four. At my last job, we had low (1/2 ft) walls between each of the desks, and at my new job we just have four desks jammed together. I prefer the later, although it does mean my colleagues can encroach on my office space, but it is handy for passing the holepunch etc.

Anywhere I've worked, the whole team can see each others faces at all times - unless we have our heads down studying papers or whatever, but even then if you call our names we'll look up. I like being able to see my colleagues because I can just say a name and ask for advice/help/etc and get it instantly in person.

Project teams (1)

Cyphertube (62291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259923)

I really like the idea of having project teams situated near each other, with some kind of cubicle walls separating them from each other. It helps build a team spirit, and also helps keep noise down a little.

The most important thing, in my experience, is to stuff the phone-talkers into their own cubicles or offices. They have a tendency to have the phone ring when they aren't there, and also make quite a bit of noise just yammering away. Yeah, I realise this includes sales, project managers, etc.

Use decorative elements to separate groups as well, such a plants. Not everything has to be a cubicle wall. Lighting effects can also create unified workspaces.

And if your teams may switch off or rebuild regularly, find ways to keep everything fluid, so you can shift around as needed.

Re:Project teams (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260377)

I'd rather put all the phone-talkers together in some kind of pit and let everyone else have a nice quiet place to work.

I work with one guy - always on the phone and very loud. Yet when I have music going it's barely audible (can't set the volume any lower - the sound of the printer fan is louder) he'll complain. I *love* the irony. I hate hearing about his personal life, though.

Re:Project teams (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261339)

I'm just curious, why not headphones? The only people I've ever met who insist on not using headphones do so because they think they have some higher taste in music than everyone else and everyone else should be mesmorized by this taste and worship them as a god.

Re:Project teams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16261801)

Because if you wear headphones the boss cannot just yell at you from all the way across the room and they look down on that.

Re:Project teams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16261831)

A lot of people think of headphones as little more than toys, rather than an investment in their own productivity. I needed years before I was prepared to keep looking until I found a really great pair of cans that sound good, isolate me from outside noise, and that I can stand to wear all day, but now that I have I find it's the best $100 I ever spent. (Find a home theatre store that carries a variety of good ones, like my Sennheiser HD 280 pros, and test drive all of them.)

Re:Project teams (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16262659)

It can be hard to find headphones that don't hurt when you wear them for 8 hours, especially when you have giant radar dishes on the sides of your head like I do.

Re:Project teams (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 7 years ago | (#16264117)

Like I said, I play it very very quietly... I often can't even make out the words - but since I know all the music, my brain fills in the rest.

The biggest problem with headphones is that I tend to hum and sing along. It's reflexive and I don't even think about it. If I hear myself doing it, I can stop pretty easily... but with headphones on, I don't tend to notice that I'm doing it.

And I am absolutely sure the guy would find the humming much much more irritating than the music I play.

Seriously... it's turned way down. If I stand just a couple feet away, the sound of the office printer staying warm totally drowns out the sound of my music.

As for my taste in music... I like my taste in music and I'm happy to share it with people when they ask.

Anyway, most of the time when he's in the office, I just keep the music off.... but then, without thinking about it, I start tapping on the desk with pens, paperclips, my hands, or whatever. I'm like a sitting percussion section. I usually don't even notice it until someone complains... I even had a girlfriend cite it as one of her reasons for breaking up with me.

I think the very quiet music is enough to keep my brain occuppied as it tries to figure out what it's hearing. That keeps me from humming, singing, and tapping.

So in all honesty, I'm not trying to push my music on people... I'm trying to be the least annoying I can be. It's difficult sometimes.

And if you're curious, I'm a big fan of Kurt Elling, Black Eyed Peas, Dar Williams, and Madeleine Peyroux...

Put everything on lockable casters. (3, Interesting)

isaac (2852) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259929)

Put lockable casters on your desks, conference tables, bookcases. (Hopefully your chairs have wheels already.)

Subdivide the central core into 4 sectors with a tall fixed partition wall, so there's a core wall that spaces needing a solid wall (e.g. a conference room whiteboard) can abut. Put power and network jacks in this wall. Run a grid of 3/8" tension cables a few inches below the ceiling across the space on 12" centers (i.e. create a repeating 12"x12" grid of wires near the ceiling.) Space power and network drops regularly in the floor (or, if underfloor jacks are too expensive, in the ceiling.)

Allow teams and individuals to configure workspaces within that space by hanging various-height fabric curtains (weighted to the floor) from that grid with long j-hooks.

Just an idea I thought was neat - I'm sure there are problems with it, but cube walls are a bitch to move around and don't permit organic shapes or long, straight divisions with no perpendicular support. You could have individuals in C-shaped pods within an open area, or circular common workspaces with desks on the circumference, or any other configuration - and individual teams don't need someone from facilities to show up with tools to move things around, just a grasping pole to reach the j-hook (and maybe a ladder if you put your drops in the ceiling rather than the floor.)

-Isaac

Penrose Tiles? (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#16259955)

Re:Penrose Tiles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16260905)

Fortunately (mercifully) the patent is expired. It's crazy that it ever got patented in the first place. You may as well patent the symmetry inherent in crystal systems.

Re:Penrose Tiles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16261453)

I think he still claims copyright on certain configurations. Penrose, I love ya, guy -- but gimme a break.

Talk to an architect. (4, Informative)

soricine (576909) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260105)

This is a problem for an architect.

A good architect is specifically skilled in making good spaces, and will be able to come up with ideas which you hadn't thought of, and will help you to make the most of the space you have to work with.

Interior Designers for Built Spaces. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260565)

This is a problem for an architect.

Sometimes it is and sometimes it's not. If you are building from scratch, by all means get an architect. If you are refitting an existing space you might want an Interior Designer. Architects are great for making buildings and they should be up to speed with basic layout, fire codes and all that. The devil being dealt with here is interior details.

An Interior Designer is what you really want for most office layout. Interior Design focuses on how to use interior spaces, and there's a large subspecialty dedicated to office space. They deal with color, lighting, workflow, power and communication details. Every major furniture maker has a network of distributors and each of those distributors has several Interior Designers on staff. They also work for Architects and themselves.

Re:Interior Designers for Built Spaces. (2, Insightful)

wish bot (265150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261163)

Errr....any architect worth their fee will be able to do everything that you've mentioned here. Sounds like you've been reading one too many new-age-hippy interior magazines.

Re:Interior Designers for Built Spaces. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261861)

any architect worth their fee will be able to do everything that you've mentioned here.

Sure they will.

Sounds like you've been reading one too many new-age-hippy interior magazines.

No, I'm married to a second generation ASID member who used to draw up office plans for Exxon, Bell South and others. If they were not making a new building, those companies turned to the local distributor and their Interior Designers.

Re:Interior Designers for Built Spaces. (1)

hakubi (666291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261487)

As an architect in training, I can add that architects probably have more experience with "space planning" than an interior designer will. Most firms that I have experience with just use interior designers to take their plans and color/material suggestions and make them coordinate with each other (read: decorate). This isn't to say it's not important, it's essential to a building/space. But "interior designer" is just a newer word for interior decorator. Basically, an architect tells them to put a couch in the lobby, and the interior designer will suggest a brand and color.

Re:Interior Designers for Built Spaces. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261821)

As an architect in training ... But "interior designer" is just a newer word for interior decorator. Basically, an architect tells them to put a couch in the lobby, and the interior designer will suggest a brand and color.

You need some more training before you make a fool of yourself when it counts. I suggest talking to SteelCase [steelcase.com] , or HermanMiller [hermanmiller.com] or any other major office furniture company. Just about every Fortune 500 office is laid out by an Interior Designer working for a distributor for one of those companies. Say something like the above in front of an ASID [asid.org] or IIDA [iida.org] member and you'll promptly regret it.

Re:Interior Designers for Built Spaces. (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261993)

Remember, he's an architect in training, which probably means he's working on his 2nd-year Condescencion skills...

Suggestion: Office at the beach (2, Funny)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260125)

You mentionned having a large open space. How about buying employees laptops, longing chairs and heat lamps, sand and some sound machines to simulate the sound of water. Everyone dreams of working at the beach. So, why not make it happen?

The beach area can be where management works (sits) all day long ... and if any body ever questions their workload, don't bother them since they're working on their tans! You can wear bearfoot (though some you might want to encourage to wear shoes to hide their feet from others). This idea, I hope you will find, will be extra motivation for employees to work harder to make it to management. I think it will be a productivity boost. And who wouldn't want to have company meetings on a beach?

I will forward my resume immediately if this idea is implemented. I've always wanted to work in management, and based on the ability to tan all day long, I believe I will be a great asset to the company.

Re:Suggestion: Office at the beach (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260603)

laptops are not that good at 3D animation work

Re:Suggestion: Office at the beach (2, Funny)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261927)

If we work on our tans, we have to wear speedoes.

Or thongs.

Not Easy (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260211)

After spending over 7 years trying to make that happen... I failed. So I moved to country where cube farms are illegal.

Problem Solved

Re:Not Easy (1)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 7 years ago | (#16264865)

After spending over 7 years trying to make that happen... I failed. So I moved to country where cube farms are illegal.

Where are cube farms illegal? I'll move there too. Our company recently moved into a new building and they asked the opinion of all the staff about office design and it was unanimously decided that cubes are a bad idea. Everyone wanted their own office.

You see, you take a bunch of socially awkward, private, people like engineers and put them in a situation where they have to constantly overhear the social lives of others, and have their own privacy basically removed and you're going to reduce their productivity by a huge amount.

You put the same socially awkward people in individual offices with closable doors and they will close themselves away and hammer away at their tasks with much less distraciton. Joel on software talks of the 12 minute workday. Apparantly the average worker cannot go more than 12 minutes without some kind of distraction that completely bursts their concentration bubble. I know that some of the tasks that I work on can take hours to get into the "zone" to be able to nut out a solution. A constant stream of interruptions means that the tasks takes a lot longer than required and the solution is almost always hacky rather than well thought out and complete.

But I digress; our company wanted to increase productivity and make its engineers happy. Problem was that building offices was about 50c per engineer more expensive than cubes or something like that (yes, I exaggerate but initial outlay per engineer was insignificant compared to the amount of money they spend on Rational products yearly...) and the powers that be decided that the cheap cube solution would be better. Sure, the company was more profitable in that year because of the reduced expense but at what cost? Completely shattered overall productivity. This means that they are getting less than half the value out of their engineers that they could be!

Good luck convincing management to give you a decent work environment because decent environments cost money. Managers tend to think only in dollar terms.

Re:Not Easy (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16270127)

Where are cube farms illegal? I'll move there too.

I'm not sure cube farms are illegal like gambeling, nudity, and playboy magazines, but I never encountered a cubicle in the Cayman Islands while I was there.

They don't have very many programmers there however.

It's not the cubes... (2, Interesting)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260255)

It's the rest of the place that can make it good or bad. One big problem with most cube farms is that the walls are close to the same bland color as the cubicles themselves. They are also all neutral colorsl which makes it a big "boring" space. I'm not recommending you paint the place yellow and blue or anything - just use some color. Plants and trees are always nice. If you have 12-foot ceilings you could get some nice "trees" that could be seen over the cubical walls to break up the monotony and there are plenty of companies that will lease them and maintain them. You can also get into "art swaps" where businesses get together and share art - every month or two you get new paintings for the walls - some change in the environment is always good. If you really like one, you can generally buy it.

Now, people need personal space when they want to get focused on something and communal space when collaborating. My advice is to give people larger cubes (10x10 or 7x14) for their personal space and encourage them to customize with pictures/posters/objects as they like. This will eat up about 4000-4500 square feet including aisles and other overhead space. Take the other 3000 square feet and make some nice communal areas that people can enjoy. Why not have a "garden" where there are a lot of trees/plants and a fountain? If you don't have fish, keeping the water clear is pretty easy. (Fish die if you mess up the chemicals.) Throw in 2 or 3 cafe tables and people can eat lunch, take a break or have small meetings. It's only a few hundred square feet and it gives a completely different feel than a regular office and allows people to clear their minds. Also, if you want to divide the area into groups or sections - don't use higher walls. First, they eliminate the advantages of having the high ceilings and they are more of the same - just higher. Use greenery or glass so you don't make the space feel smaller.

I'm not sure if you have a need for large meeting rooms or not, but they should be larger than strictly needed. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a small room with too many people that slowly heats up as the meeting progresses. Also, if you have a green area, have a glass wall in the meeting room that gives a view of it. If you need privacy you can close the blinds but people generally don't like cramped spaces and if you have something nice to look at, use it.

So don't blame bad offices on the cubicles alone - if you don't use colors or variations, everything looks bad. Try visiting a university campus and seeing how the hallways in old buildings feel. Sure, everyone has their own office, but it almost feels like a cube farm - narrow halls, no natural lighting, no variation - just door, wall, door, wall, door, water fountain, wall, door, wall.... Then visit some of the newer buildings and see what you like about them. I'm guessing it will be open areas and use of windows and greenery (or windows that look over greenery.)

Re:It's not the cubes... (1)

sheldon (2322) | more than 7 years ago | (#16262035)

Not bad ideas.

Our office was recently redesigned. We have an odd shaped building, it's like an octagon with the elevators and bathrooms in the center. So the new design works well... basically the cubicles are like spokes on a wheel, coming straight out from the window. The walls between cubicles are like 4' high... the ones between spokes are 6' high. This configuration allows a lot more light to come in from the windows. Versus before where the cubes were rings, and the guys with the windows won.

They also took all of the offices and meeting rooms and put them right in the middle... on either sides of the elevator banks. So the big boss get's a office with a window, the smaller bosses get offices with doors but no windows.

All in all it makes effective use of the space, and allows more light and openness.

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16260331)

"My company, after cramming 30 people into 3000sq feet, has a new lease on life in a 7700sq foot office (pun blatantly intended!).

Reminds me of the time my boss asked me why I was late on a very complex piece of code. I told him I was interupted too often to get my head into it long enough. He was a good boss, and asked me what I needed to get it done. I said 2 weeks ALONE uninterupted! He granted my wish, I had an office with a locked door, no windows, he told no one where I was and QUIET. 10 days later I came out with the code, the others plugged it in and said it went five times as fast as expected and exceeded the expected optimization of all 1120 known business cases. Only one minor issue on code review. Got an award for it too.

But good programmers do also need social environments and open space with people. This is important or else you get "geek" syndrome, not good.

So take 40% of the space, add a pool table, darts, a good caffene machine, tables and trees. Even add wireless for portables. Maybe even a pinball machine. Take the other 60% of the space and make private offices with doors that lock. Keep the office ceilings open so the air is good but high sound absorbing walls.

The idea being, come out and be social, plan in the open, get an extra strong coffee, look out the window and be happy. Clear the mind and think global. But once the planning is done, and you have to learn/punch code you can go to your office and shut the door and punch up the good code without trying to multitask between being human and a machine.

Re:Simple solution (1)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | more than 7 years ago | (#16263123)

But good programmers do also need social environments and open space with people. This is important or else you get "geek" syndrome, not good.


What are you talking about? My co-workers are all family men and women that just want to put in their 8 hours and go home to be their kids soccer taxi service. Why would I want to socialize with them?

feng shui (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16260475)

I mean this in all seriousness when I say to look into some basic feng shui techniques. Sure, a lot of it is presented as mystical bullshit, but at it's core, it is composed of very sound and well thought out ideologies regarding human/environment interaction. Or just hire a decent architect/interior designer.

Pre-Bubble Burst (3, Funny)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260519)

Aura Module [poetictech.com]

Standing meetings. (2, Interesting)

Zapman (2662) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260939)

Not strictly speaking cube design, but relevant if you're re-designing an office:

Stand up meetings.

Tables that stand at about 4.5 ft tall (average elbo hight for an average sized adult), that force people to stand and interact with each other. Intel uses this idea, and from what I've heard it's really effective at shortening meeting times, since it's less comfortable. And shorter meetings are a good thing.

--Jason

Re:Standing meetings. (2, Interesting)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261945)

Tables that stand at about 4.5 ft tall (average elbo hight for an average sized adult), that force people to stand and interact with each other. Intel uses this idea, and from what I've heard it's really effective at shortening meeting times, since it's less comfortable. And shorter meetings are a good thing.
My great grandfather used to have a distillery, and his workdesk was that high, and he worked standing-up. Which made sense since he had to be all over the place, he did not waste time sitting down and up all the time.

And I've seen people holding their condo association meetings in the garage. So they do not last too long, and they're strictly business...

Re:Standing meetings. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16263585)

Sure would be great if a employee wasn't disabled.

Re:Standing meetings. (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 7 years ago | (#16264073)

Are there also comfortable meetings? Didn't you ever have a meeting in a room with a very badly regulated temperature or other condition, and still there were people that managed to go on and on about the subject?

Re:Standing meetings. (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#16265221)

Not strictly speaking cube design, but relevant if you're re-designing an office: Stand up meetings. Tables that stand at about 4.5 ft tall (average elbo hight for an average sized adult), that force people to stand and interact with each other. Intel uses this idea, and from what I've heard it's really effective at shortening meeting times, since it's less comfortable. And shorter meetings are a good thing.
4.5 feet is chin-level for me. I don't think I'd be very interactive if most of me is hiding under a table. And forget about anyone in wheelchairs. I guess they just woudn't come to meetings.

Re:Standing meetings. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16269985)

There could be a hole in the middle of the table for you to stick your head through. You could even get a fake platter and arrange some baby carrots, new potatoes, etc around your neck.

Re:Standing meetings. (1)

theLOUDroom (556455) | more than 7 years ago | (#16266265)

Tables that stand at about 4.5 ft tall (average elbo hight for an average sized adult), that force people to stand and interact with each other. Intel uses this idea, and from what I've heard it's really effective at shortening meeting times, since it's less comfortable. And shorter meetings are a good thing.

Only if your company doesn't do anything even remotely complicated. Do you really want to stand up for a review of a 300 page document?

Too many managers think meetings are an expensive waste of time to be reduced as much as possible.

Cubes CAN be a workable, cheap, design... (1)

sirwired (27582) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260999)

Cube farms have many cost and flexibility advantages that should not be dismissed out of hand. They can be reconfigured for less construction cost and disruption, are easier to wire, easier to light, easier to ventilate, easier to build, and much cheaper. You may also save on the office lease if the landlord won't have to tear down too many fixed walls for the next tenant when you leave.

Simply put, there are good cube farms and bad cube farms. "Bad" cube farms have partition walls under 6ft, beige upholstry, poorly designed desks, no door, poor insulation, no open collaboration areas and no rooms with doors for meetings.

"Good" cube farms are possible. Select good partition walls that are 8' tall (but do not stretch all the way to the ceiling), have doors and have good sound insulation. Look for an attractive pattern on the cloth, a design with very configurable and comfortable work surfaces, roll-under file cabinets, etc. (Some old Steelcase stuff we have at work even has electric raising and lowering motors for the desk!)

To go with ANY office area, you need areas with comfy chairs, swing-out writing surfaces, and whiteboards and projectors. These are great for collaboration, but folks can still retreat to their cubes when they need privacy. You can have the cubes surround the open areas if you wish.

For manager cubes, it would be a good idea to have walls that go to the ceiling for private personnel discussions. You will also need conference rooms for your more "rambunctions" meetings, speakerphone conference calls, client meetings, etc. These should be equipped with projectors.

Your local "serious" office furniture supplier in a fair-sized city (i.e. NOT Staples) should have a whole showroom where you can check all this stuff out, arrange what you want, and have a good idea EXACTLY what it will look like before spending a dime.

SirWired

Re:Cubes CAN be a workable, cheap, design... (1)

wondafucka (621502) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261077)

I'm actually a big fan of the four foot high wall with another three feet of glass. Depth of field which lets me see the windows is a big deal.

I know where you're coming from with the 8 foot tall walls, (i.e. privacy, sense of personal space) but I do better with shorter walls that let me see over them.

Poster should ask their employees what they would like.

Re:Cubes CAN be a workable, cheap, design... (1)

QuestorTapes (663783) | more than 7 years ago | (#16268045)

Let me start off by saying I have never seen a decent cubicle layout, or a decent cubicle outside of a magazine. They may exist, but judging from responses by others, they are more rare than most of the animals on the endangered species list.

> Cube farms have many cost and flexibility advantages that should not be
> dismissed out of hand. They can be reconfigured for less construction
> cost and disruption, are easier to wire, easier to light, easier to
> ventilate, easier to build, and much cheaper. You may also save on
> the office lease if the landlord won't have to tear down too many
> fixed walls for the next tenant when you leave.

You used comparatives all over the place in that paragraph; easier...to build, wire, light, ventilate, etc., without once mentioning what you were comparing them to: private offices. Yes, they are cheaper than private offices, easier to wire than private offices, etc., etc.

So is a cardboard refrigerator box, but I wouldn't recommend one as an workspace. I'm not being facetious; by dismissing private offices in your paragraph above, the way you structure the argument also discards out ot hand other options, that are also cheaper than private offices: shared offices; an open floorplan; probably many others. The choice isn't one thing or the other; the real decision is to find the right mix of cost and utility.

> Simply put, there are good cube farms and bad cube farms. "Bad" cube
> farms have partition walls under 6ft, beige upholstry, poorly designed
> desks, no door, poor insulation, no open collaboration areas and no
> rooms with doors for meetings.

Agreed on all points, and a few others to add to it:

  - Tech-unfriendly design: many cubicles are designed for people who use exactly one PC; never need to refer to technical manuals; never need to keep things under lock and key; never need to keep large amounts of printouts. They have itty-bitty drawers without locks, no shelves for books, and no %$#@! extra flamin' electrical outlets or network jacks for when you need to test on a second box.
  - Small desks, just big enough for a PC but not to have a binder on the desk at the same time.
  - Tiny little spaces for monitors, so you can't shove a 17" screen back all the way and end up sitting with your bloodshot eyes 2" away from it.
  - No %$#@! wallspace for tacking up diagrams with pushpins or hanging up a whiteboard.
  - No extra floorspace for just talking with -one- other developer and seeing the same screen or whiteboard.

> "Good" cube farms are possible. Select good partition walls that are 8' tall
> (but do not stretch all the way to the ceiling), have doors and have good
> sound insulation. Look for an attractive pattern on the cloth, a design
> with very configurable and comfortable work surfaces, roll-under file
> cabinets, etc. (Some old Steelcase stuff we have at work even has
> electric raising and lowering motors for the desk!)

All sounds good; add extra outlets and network jacks, built-in locking bookcase or room to put a freestanding one, and enough floor space for 3 people to look at the same monitor/whiteboard at the same time without getting a neck cramp.

> To go with ANY office area, you need areas with comfy chairs, swing-out
> writing surfaces, and whiteboards and projectors. These are great for
> collaboration, but folks can still retreat to their cubes when they need
> privacy. You can have the cubes surround the open areas if you wish.

> For manager cubes, it would be a good idea to have walls that go to the
> ceiling for private personnel discussions. You will also need conference
> rooms for your more "rambunctions" meetings, speakerphone conference
> calls, client meetings, etc. These should be equipped with projectors.

And enough of them; at least one per floor, and enough that one or two are empty more often than not.

This kind of thing can be really hard to get past the furniture police. The empty space, the disused conference rooms, etc., strikes that type as a terrible waste of money. You need a management type to hammer it home that this is not excess, it's an investment; that cutting back on floorspace, etc would reduce expenses, but only at the cost of reducing profitability.

It sounds good, but the closest I've ever seen in in a company that used a combination of shared and open office areas.

Common Space (2, Informative)

harves (122617) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261073)

At my current workplace everyone who is involved in teamwork sits on an 'island'. An island is a simple arrangement of 4-6 desks facing inwards, so most people can see everyone on the same island. There are no cubicle walls or similar. You just run power/network across the ceiling and to the centre of each island. People who work on the same projects tend to sit on the one island or on a nearby island (almost pit style). People who work on similar tasks in your company should be put on an island together as that minimises the amount of desk-hopping that needs to be done.

This layout has at least one huge benefit - windows are common space. Sure, some people sit closer to the windows, but everyone has access to them. I often get up and just stroll over to a window and look out.

Some people might criticise this layout for privacy reasons. Frankly, what you gain is much better. Our developers work better together because it's a very grassroots team-oriented environment. We also don't have any employees whose concentration is so fragile that it is broken by a phone call being taken by a neighbour. The only people who don't sit on islands are senior management (CEO, the lone marketing guy, the secretary, etc). They sit on individual desks near each other. This helps to break up the whole "it's just a bunch of islands" that would give it a "forced team-building" feel.

Finally, we have 3 separate meeting areas. A long table near a corner used for whole-company meetings, smaller quiet meetings, or lunch. A separate room with teleconferencing for serious, noisy or brain-storming meetings. And a couple of couches near the entrance used for casual meetings where you want people to be relaxed and candid; most often used for people management or task assignments. It doubles as a place for visitors to sit if they need to wait.

PS. One of the reasons I really wanted to work at this place was the open office, huge windows and overall team/family feeling. You might find the same applies to your developers.

My Alternative (1)

Skewray (896393) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261407)

I have always thought that the center of the room should be a big open area with a lot of open desks, like a newsroom. Around the walls are closed offices. Everyone gets both an office and an open desk. When someone wants privacy and quiet, go hide. When communication is essential, come out in the open.

Low cubicle walls? (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 7 years ago | (#16261461)

With cubicles, what do you guys think of the low walls? Where I work now, we have low walls. They're so low, that I can see everything while standing up since I am only about 5'.

Interesting Video (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16261785)

There is an interesting video on Channel 9 - http://channel9.msdn.com/ [msdn.com] - that gives a tour of MS's new office space for the Patterns and Practices group. It shows some interesting ideas.

Keep it open (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16262109)

Just put in floor outlets with covers in a big grid, then give people tables/desks on castors that can be locked.... then let them move things around.

Pick an area and stick a big wrap around couch on top of a cool area rug, some end tables with lamps and put a big plasma display in front of it all with a square coffee table in the middle... this is the conference room, hook up a laptop to the plasma and your good to go.

Make a few more smaller seating groups in other areas for team discussions. Finally establish a rule... shhhh be quiet, people work here. If the place has decent acoustics you should be able to have normal conversations without disturbing everyone else. People who like it quiet will migrate away from the meeting areas and those who like the noise or don't care will be wherever.

This will get you started. You'll think up better ideas over time.

Give the employees power to decorate (1)

KU_Fletch (678324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16262517)

I work for a mid-sized (70-100) person video game company. We're moving to a new floor in the same building shortly. We'll now own the entire floor instead of 2/3rds of the floor we're on now. While we do have some common areas, we're really trying to focus on giving everybody a space of their own, even though we all share offices (2-4 people per office). The plan so far is that rather than forcing decorations on people, we're going to give each room the equivalent money to order their own stuff. If they want small desks so they can use the rset of the sapce for a meeting table or couch, so be it. If they want to buy bookshelf dividers (no cubicles walls allowed), so be it. All the final purchases have to be approved, so they way whatever gets purchased will at least be professional in appearance, but each room may do as they please. Rooms will be given an extra bonus to spend if their plans incorporate shared space such as meeting tables, design tables, or multi-person desks or if they incorporate ideas that encourage outseide people to come into the office (comfy chairs for guests, small couches, entertainment units, etc). The idea is that the the offices will encourage people to go visit each other more often and hold impromptu meetings in their offices rather than booking the conference room 3 days from now.

Beer on tap. (1)

Kevin143 (672873) | more than 7 years ago | (#16263751)

In the middle.

Room to move (1)

knuxed (854959) | more than 7 years ago | (#16273991)

Give employees room to do their work,where ever,whenever.the place where I work makes everyone sit in islands(with laptops facing one direction).Hence,most of the time,i usually just get my work done in the pantry,its simple and conveient
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