how your cubicle is holding you back

As companies look for ways to cut costs, one fast-growing trend is a move away from private offices toward cubicles and even “open plan” offices where workers sit side by side with little privacy. We talked last week about the specifics ways in which these less private work spaces are getting in the way of your work … and I’ve put together 10 of the stories you shared that I thought really represented the impact of this change — from the people who have to book a conference room every time they need to make a phone call, to the person hiding under her desk for privacy, to the growth of “quiet rooms” for when you need to focus (which apparently isn’t most of the time?).

1. We have to book a room for every call

A couple of years ago, my company switched from traditional offices (for anyone middle management and higher, with cubes for others) to a more open plan. Now only C-level execs have their own offices, though thankfully it’s not a completely open space. 

The planners of the new space failed to consider the vastly increased need for conference room space once you take almost everyone’s offices away. Quick client calls that used to happen in someone’s office now require booking of a room, which means that pretty much every conference room is booked solid, all the time. For those execs who are jumping on the open-office train, please think about the fact that employees need places to meet and be on conference calls without annoying the rest of the office!

2. Designed for two, housing seven

We have a space originally designed to house two people that now houses seven. With one bathroom right in the middle of the space. Three of us sit completely in the open, right on top of one another.

For the three of us in the bullpen, it can be extremely distracting when one or more of us is on the phone. There are times when I flat-out can’t even hear myself think. And my coworker right next to me smacks her lips incessantly, even when she isn’t eating.

Add in having the bathroom in the middle of everything, which really offers no privacy and the occasional massive distraction of stench, and it’s not a productive facility.

We’re hopefully moving this year to have more space and cubicles with partial walls. And men’s and women’s restrooms that aren’t right next to all of our desks. I’m crossing my fingers.

3. No private conversations

We are completely open office. No place to have private conversations – we have once small meeting room but its not really private, anyone can hear if they walk by, and everyone sees you going in there to discuss something private so it ends up raising more curiosity. This is hard when you want to discuss a sensitive matter about a project, client, confidential deal, not to mention performance issues or handing in your notice. A relatively minor matter like wanting to ask the boss’s advice/approval on how to handle a performance situation with someone I manage becomes overblown because I have to email her to ask to speak with her, find time in the room that everyone sees us going into, speak in soft voices, etc. Performance reviews themselves have to be taken out of the office to a nearby lunch place, which brings up an whole other set of issues because its in public, the waiter and neighboring diners can overhear, etc.

4. Why don’t we have “quiet rooms” every day?

We have a “quiet room” where people go when they need to focus. I need to focus every day.

Last summer, there was a project that came up suddenly and needed to be done in a few short weeks. My coworker and I were tapped to do the programming. Because it was so high-profile, they reserved a conference room for us for all 3 weeks and put computers in there. Because we needed to be able to focus. Ummm……shouldn’t we have the kind of workspaces already where we can focus? Why is it only important under certain circumstances, and it’s OK to be barely productive the rest of the time?

5. Hiding under the desk for privacy

I work in an open office and while I love it for interacting with coworkers, it’s also sometimes the hub for gathering, and people don’t take the hint when you’re on the phone. I’ve had to take conference calls under my desk because it was so loud. Once, my boss was even in our office area and saw this, but did nothing.

6.Swearing, humming, sniffing coworker

Open plan office here. And one coworker who listens to drum’n’ bass all day long on his iPod, loud enough for all to hear. Apart from that, he makes constant “noises”: coughing, swearing, humming, “popping,” sniffing, sighing, talking out loud to his computer, you name it, he does it. It drives me mad and it’s one of the reasons I’m seriously considering leaving this office. We’ve of course tried talking to him, but he just gets angry and doesn’t change a thing. Management won’t talk to him.

7. I don’t need to know about your issues with the butcher

I have an office now, but when I first arrived I was in a cubicle near to a secretary with anger issues. She was on the phone all day with personal calls, generally swearing at the person on the other end for some or other small matter (the butcher doesn’t have the cut of meat she wants; the mechanic is not finished with her car; etc.). She also swore and slammed things if the printer ran out of paper – when the refills were right next to the printer. It would have been entertaining if I wasn’t quite so close by.

It was almost impossible to get any work done without earplugs, and sometimes I would go and work all day in the library just to get away from her. It did, though, teach me to take all personal calls outside so as not to disturb others.

8. No assigned work space

We have a progressive office environment in which most people have cubes, very few have offices, and many people don’t even have assigned workspaces at all but rather must “hotel” into spaces when they need to (otherwise they are out on assignment or working from some remote location, or from home).

The downside of it is that you never know who your neighbors will be from day to day, since many of them are hotelers and will change daily. Another downside is if you have an assigned space but are off, traveling or working from home, your space is up for grabs by hotelers — so you might come back and your supplies are missing or the desk chair is the wrong height or there’s a mess. Just came in today from three days working remotely and my PostIt notes were gone.

But the plus side is that you get to meet a lot of new people, and in certain times there are no people around you if no one has “hoteled” into those spaces.

9. Developers need quiet

My last job had the worst office space I’ve ever dealt with. We were in an old two story building. My software developers’ workspaces were facing the outer walls (backs to the center of the room) at what were essentially long tables with 15″ high partitions every 40 inches. Plus we had two people in the middle of the room. As the manager, I got the part of the table that was in the corner, under the leaky part of the roof and termite droppings.

We had hardwood floors, metal partitions, high ceilings, and everyone in the whole company had to walk through our area to get to the conference room — there was an unbelievable amount of noise. Plus we had a CEO who values “collaboration” and couldn’t understand why all the developers preferred to wear headphones and instant message each other instead of talking. 

I can’t believe how much more I get done every day where I am now, and I attribute much of it to having my own office and being in a culture that understands developers are concentrating and quiet without constant interruption helps a lot of them to do it better.

10. Someone who loves an open office

I am in a large open setting and I love it. I feel that people actually show more restraint than in the cube farms I’ve been in before this job. It doesn’t bother me to be interrupted, I have no problem stopping what I do, answering a couple of questions, and picking up where I left off. And no, my work is not mindless stuff, it’s actually non-repetitive. I feel I am a lot more in the know of what is happening in the company, of my coworkers’ projects, and many things get done faster and easier.

I originally published this at Intuit Quickbase’s blog.


{ 63 comments… read them below }

  1. Nicola*

    That sounds like torture to me. As an introvert, I need a little quiet space to work. I can handle cubicles but an open floor plan would drive me insane. There would be no productivity.

    1. Nicky*

      From one introvert to another, I totally agree. This may be great for those extroverted people who energize from being around a lot of other people all the time, but for introverts, it is so draining. It not only sucks out our productivity to have to be around so many people while trying to do our jobs, but it also hinders our creativity. Being an introvert in an extroverted world is a little bit like being left-handed in a right-handed world. Most people don’t get it and don’t think to consider that a good percentage of your staff will not benefit from being forced to work in certain types of environments.

      1. Anonymous*

        It’s NOT necessarily great for extroverts either — I’m an extrovert in a cube farm and I hate it. We need to be able to concentrate, too, and if you’re an extrovert, having a lot of external noise around can be difficult because you’re kind of wired to be attuned to it, and it can take extra effort to tune it out.

        1. KrisL*

          Interesting. When I work, I need some music or noise in the background. Complete quiet gets on my nerves. Funny, huh? And I’m an introvert.

        2. Anonymous*

          Agreed. I also consider myself being an extrovert. When I am looking to have fun or be entertained, I like to be around other people. That doesn’t mean that people talking and all the other noise in my cubicle-farm workspace helps me focus while I’m trying to work.

        3. Anonymous*

          “We need to be able to concentrate, too, and if you’re an extrovert, having a lot of external noise around can be difficult because you’re kind of wired to be attuned to it, and it can take extra effort to tune it out.”

          EXACTLY. I’m an extrovert, when I want to have fun, I want to be around other people. Not when I’m trying to focus on work. Based on my (anecdotal) experience, I feel like I’m actually more attuned to sounds around me than my introverted friends and family.

    2. Jen RO*

      As a fellow introvert, I can say that I am SO happy I moved out of my office and into the open space part of the office. I felt so alone, especially after my office mate left the company. If I want to be left alone, I just put on my headphones.

    3. Torture is the Word*

      I worked in this type of cubicle farm where the walls were three feet tall. I’m an introvert who needs quite time too. But this would drive any extrovert crazy: My co-worker who sat three feet from me would make comments at her desk all day long. Even after ignoring her, she still spoke out loud. All. Day. Long.

      There were private conference rooms equipped with electronics at this office, but all of these people chose to have conference calls on their speaker phones and meetings in their cubicles. Not to mention people shouting to one another across the office.

      It was near impossible to concentrate and took me longer, even with headphones and earplugs, to get my work completed.

      I don’t work there any longer :)

  2. Jake*

    My favorite setup is sharing a private office with a colleague that I am working with hand in hand. It keeps me from goofing off, and it gives me a good sounding board for when I can’t figure something out.

    I’ve worked in every set up imaginable except for an open floor plan. Cubes were a pain, but not unmanageable, but an open floor plan would quickly become a problem.

    1. Samantha*

      I agree – of all the office/cubicle setups I’ve been in, the one you described is my preference.

    2. Anonymous*

      That’s my idea of hell. I hated sitting with one other person all day, I found it really stifling.

      1. Kate*

        I don’t prefer it either. It has been okay the few times I’ve tried it (and way better than open office plans), but I hate having to be “on” and being self-conscious about every awkward stretch I might make, worrying about whether my lunch smells or if I’m eating too loud, or worrying about making small talk. A small personal office or a cubicle is my preference by far.

        1. cc*

          I’m the same. I share an office with one other person. While we’re both quiet and tend to keep our noses to the grindstone, she gets a lot more visitor traffic than I do, which means distractions to my concentration multiple times I day. I do a lot of data analysis and report writing, and I work best when I’m able to get (and stay) in my focus zone. She also likes to listen to the radio all day (which I do not mind – it is better than sheer silence), but the type of music she likes is not my cup of tea. When I really need to, I wear headphones and listen to my own music, but wearing them for a prolonged period of time gives me headaches. I absolutely cherish the days when she is on vacation and those are the times I’m the most productive.

    3. Ursula*

      I think the key here is a colleague with whom you work hand in hand. My partner in crime and I get much more done now that we only have to turn in our chairs to look at one another to talk about things instead of getting up and moving over to the other’s cube. We collaborate a lot, and he thinks it’s funny that I talk to myself.

    4. BadPlanning*

      I agree! Right now I’m in an office by myself but I rather miss my prior officemate. It was nice to have someone to snark with and/or bounce ideas off quick and/or check things (is your email working?). Of course, I’ve only had good officemates.

    5. Jamie*

      Sometimes I miss this. I like having my own office, but lately I’ve missed sharing with someone.

      Sometimes I need company – weird for me.

  3. lachevious*

    There has been only one time in my career that I have had the privilege of having an actual office with a door. That was back in 2006 when I was a contract paralegal for a nonprofit.

    Every single job I have had before and after that (in an office setting) has had either cubicles or the low-walled built-in secretary stations (currently in this type, ugh). These days, especially in the legal field, it seems commonplace that only attorneys or other higher-ups have actual offices.

  4. Lizabeth*

    We have offices BUT the walls don’t go to the ceiling (3 foot gap) which basically acts like a cube farm. I wear my headphones most of the time to block my coworker next door – annoying fingernail on the blackboard voice plus lots of personal calls and TMI that I really don’t want to hear.

    I wish they would develop headphones that really block outside noise, particularly voices…

    1. Lizabeth*

      But then again, I know I annoy her with my laughing at “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” podcasts :)

        1. Midge*

          Me too! I went to a live taping two years ago, and it was so much fun. There was an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, and a woman (who was there with her fiance) asked Carl to marry her. It was definitely a bucket list kind of experience.

    2. Rayner*

      I have Sennheiser HD 202 Closed Back On-ear Stereo Headphones <– copied and pasted straight from the amazon link, and they're about twenty five quid in the UK. I love them so much – they're really good at blocking out noise, even if you're on a bus, which says something. Playing music at a normal volume – or even white noise – makes them all but perfect.

      Obviously, if you listen REALLY hard, you can still hear people doing stuff, but if you're just listening to music, and focusing on your work, they're pretty darn good.

  5. Betty*

    My office has gotten way too social! I don’t mind the occasional casual conversation but it’s most of the day now and I can’t focus. I finally bought large headphones and listen to white noise to drown out the sound of conversation. Even then people will still try to have non work-related conversations with me. I think it’s sweet that people ask how I’m doing and ask about my children but seriously, you don’t need to ask me every single day, multiple times a day?! Don’t get me wrong, I am a very social person but I need a relatively quiet environment to work. The worst is when two people happen to meet in front of my cube and end up carrying a conversation I’m not even apart of!

  6. LV*

    My husband’s employer is undergoing serious renovations at their HQ, so in the meantime everyone has been moved to temporary offices in another building nearby. Almost everyone had offices before, and now they have a semi-open arrangement. There are cubicles, but the walls come up maybe one foot above desk height. I have to say that it LOOKS a lot nicer than a traditional cube farm. The visual effect is tidy and airy and there’s a lot of natural light.

    Husband said that he thought he would miss his office a lot more than he actually does. Funnily enough, he ended up being really happy with the move because his employer purchased a bunch of Keurig machines to replace the massive old coffee dispensers that they no longer have enough room for in the new offices. He told me that if he had to choose between cube farm + Keurig and personal office + no Keurig, he would happily remain in his cubicle.

    1. MJH*

      This is what we have in our office. The low walls and windows make for a ton of good light, compared to high cube walls and fluorescents (so depressing!).

      I enjoy the open office, as I can put on headphones when I need to focus and chat and be involved the rest of the time. Also, Keurig! It’s awesome.

  7. AAA*

    I have my own office with a door–but I think I’d prefer a cube if I could see a window! I love that I can focus and close my door for calls, etc., but it really gets me down not to have any access to natural light. My office is windowless, and even with my door open I can only see the cube maze outside my office. The opposite wall on the other side of the cubes has offices that do have windows that are for the execs. The problem is that it means the execs are the only ones with access to natural light. (If you have a cube you can *sort of* see the window when one of them has their door open.) I work 10+ hour days and it is sad not to see the sun or have any idea what the weather is like out there.

    1. LV*

      I spent years working retail on the underground level of the mall. Customers would come in saying, “Can you believe the weather out there?” “Do you know if it’s still raining?” etc. I didn’t even know it was raining to begin with, I haven’t seen the outside world in about 8 hours, sorry…

      1. TK*

        My mom’s worked over 30 years in a basement office where it’s completely impossible to tell what the whether is. You don’t even know what time of day it is unless you can see the hallway and tell if there’s some light drifting through from up the stairs. I guess she’s made do, but it would drive me crazy to spend so much time away from natural light.

        1. AAA*

          Ugh! I couldn’t do that! I’ve only been here a year (and less than that in the windowless office) and I am already ready to quit — solely because of the lack of access to a window. I realize I must be unusually sensitive about these things, but 30 years without seeing the sun on a regular basis during work-time would drive me totally crazy!

    2. Anonymous*

      Ugh yes. I have a sometimes shared office with a door but no window and it’s killing me. I miss the natural light and the fluorescent overhead lighting is causing headaches and watery, strained eyes!

    3. Anonymous*

      I agree, I think having access to natural light is so important for our well-being. Cabin fever is a real thing.

    4. EvaR*

      I just want to chime in that not everyone WANTS access to natural light. I have issues with bright lights relating to Summer SAD and to migraines and it’s a constant battle with my coworkers over the stupid window shade, even when I convinced the person who does our building maintenance to physically remove the fluorescent tubes above my desk. Basically my desk is on the eastern side of the building and it’s great in the evenings but early on in the day if the window shade is not at half mast or lower I feel like my eyeballs are going to pop out of my head.

      I’d go to an open floor plan even though I like my cube if it meant that at minimum either half of the lights in the office were turned off or that the windows on the eastern facing side of the building were shaded completely until noon.

  8. Biff*

    I do highly repetative, detailed work…. the semi-open floorplan I’m in now is suckorama. I think an open plan would work well in a different business. It seems like most of these “workspace ideas’ come from highly creative companies, or the creative departments of high rolling companies, and they trickle down without thought to WHY they work in the environment where they were successful.

    1. Sasha LeTour*

      As someone who works at a large global ad agency, I can assure you that the open-office plan does not even work well in a highly creative or creative-tech environment, especially at a company like mine that employs thousands of people. The problem is that the open office does not scale up. It’s perfect for a start-up employing 4 or 6 people, where everyone is highly disciplined and focused on detail-intensive work for 8+ hours a day. It’s the worst idea imaginable when you have hundreds of people on each floor herded to rows of desks like they’re cattle, and various people are talking to spouses, discussing the game, showing off, singing, yelling, or whatever.

      My floor at the agency still has offices and cubes. They’re toying with the idea of going all open like the other floors. I rue the day this happens, if it does. I like my office. Sharing it with someone else is hard enough on my ability to concentrate and complete tasks with skill and speed. If we went totally open plan like the “experimental” floors of the agency, I’d have to start working at home at least 50% of the time.

  9. CollegeAdmin*

    I work in an office with three others – we all work for the same department, but I report to a different person than they do. We each have a cubicle within the office, which gives us some privacy, but we all get along extremely well so it works out quite nicely.

    I just went back to read the original thread and was inspired to take a look around my space. Changes made:
    1. Pulled my monitor closer to me and raised it up with a catalog (so it’s perfectly centered in my view through my glasses – hopefully I’ll stop leaning in towards it)
    2. Raised the height on the chair again (an ongoing battle concerning the unchanging desk height, my long legs, and my high heels)
    3. Found an adjustment bar for the lumbar – hurrah! Now to figure out what the other three levers/knobs under the chair do…

  10. Modular Integration*

    I was lead on a project recently that had all the developers in the same room. The company said they wanted better collaboration. It was more like…better and more distractions. One developer would talk about something no one else really needed to know and some others would talk to themselves while working. Others needed to get up and leave to take a phone call….and so on.

    I am actually a big fan of working remote and only coming into the office when team collaboration is needed. For example, to do sprint planning or to figure out design patterns. I think companies try to control the environment too much. Controlling the environment makes people feel they are not valid.

    Here is the deal….give people more freedom. Keep tabs on production. People who don’t get their work done on time…..get rid of them….period! There are a lot of people out there looking for work and who are self motivated. They don’t need someone looking over their shoulder all the time.

    Modular Integration saves money by not needing a big fancy office with conference rooms and so on. I sometimes wonder, when clients come into a place like that…..don’t they realize that they are paying for it?

    1. Sasha LeTour*

      Working in digital/mobile advertising, I too have been the lead in a ‘war room’ situation. When it works, it works wonderfully, and we can really crank out good stuff. When it fails, it fails epically – and often, it takes just one bad apple to upset the cart. I once worked with a guy who took delight in going around the conference room, pointing out people’s shortcomings and making offensive jokes about them. Needless to say, he was fired, but we were a month behind on the project and nearly lost the client because of his “participation.”

  11. Juli G.*

    The open plan has worked really well at my company but there are more conference rooms than could ever be filled – every old office was converted to a conference room (some with computer based scheduling, some with no). The conference rooms are all near each other in hubs that include kitchens and seating that are removed from the desks.

    I recently moved to an old unremodeled building (it’s a slow rollout) and it’s damn near depressing to go back to my big old isolated cube. And I’m pretty introverted.

  12. recruitergirl*

    My first two HR jobs I had an office that I ended up hating. I felt like I was cut off from everyone and I never had access to natural light. I needed that privacy due to the confidential nature of my role, but it made me feel unapproachable.

    I now work in a corporate environment and have actual peers at my office, so we are in a cubicle environment. I love the collaboration, and it’s so much easier to bounce ideas off of each other. I have learned so much, just by listening to the way others do their jobs.

    My company will be adopting an even more open plan where there aren’t assigned desks and more hoteling cubes. We have a lot of flexibility to work at home, so I see this as the next step. If I need to do ‘heads down’ work I can just WAH that day, but if there is a meeting or project that requires collaboration, I can come into the office. Best of both worlds.

  13. Meg*

    I went from cubicle farm with the feds, to a more… open… cubicle farm with private sector. We had desks with partitions between then, some partitions had whiteboard attachments, or pinboard, etc. I was part of an Agile pilot team to introduce Agile to our company, and with that came the open floor plan.

    So we had 10 people – two business analysists, our Scrum master, 5 developers (I’m a developer FYI) and two QA testers – sitting at 10 desks arranged like a large conference table – five on one side, five on the other, facing each other. Since we still have individual desks, we have enough elbow room and desk coverage. Our file cabinets are nearby. Whiteboards galore (and trust me, we use them!). At first, it was great. We could have our sprint grooming and planning and retrospectives in our open area without bothering others. The noises from collaboration doesn’t bother me. What distracts me is people socializing loudly.

    Full disclosure: I’m a Workplace Socializer. Current events, mostly. My tech lead and I can get into some deep philosophical conversations. And I’m conscious about who is around and keep my voice lowered when talking privately and socially. Work-related collaboration though – talking to the business analysist two desks down about a feature requirement or clarification, daily standups, telephone calls – doesn’t bother me, or anyone else in our area (general environment noise does come up in retrospective often).

    Since our pilot went so well (our first sprint resulted in ZERO defects in both regression testing and functionality), my company started rolling out Agile and the open floor plan in mass. Most of us got moved to our “modern warehouse” style building. Environment noise increased since we’re hearing everything echo. We are kinda cramped close together (the teams, not individually) and would like some more OPEN space. It seems like our facilities people and CIO and whatnot – whoever makes these decisions – decided to go into an open space style, and then just fill every open space with a 5×2 arrangement of desks to plop another team in.

    As far as productivity goes though, I don’t think the floor plan was the major factor; the Agile process was. And I have to keep reminding folks that Agile isn’t a floor plan. Agile just opens up the channels of communication between business, developer, and QA. Yeah, it helps that they sit in the same area as me, but just being able to go up to them makes us more productive (versus the old Waterfall method. I’d get a 40+ page doc of feature requirements, never talk to the BA, never talk to QA, and never really know what other developers are working on).

    Open floor plans DO help facilitate collaboration and such, but some industries just don’t require that level of collaboration. I don’t deal with sensitive information, I don’t deal with private conference calls, I don’t work directly with customers. So the open plans work just fine WITH the Agile methodology of development.

    1. Anonna*

      I wish I could “like” this! My company is adopting aspects of Agile and has moved us from a beige cube farm (with nice, private, spacious cubicles) to a bright and shiny open office with floor-to-ceiling windows and tons of natural light. Literally every aspect of my job is easier if I can just chat with my coworkers and stakeholders instead of sending emails or walking up two flights of stairs. I would quit rather than return to the cube farm.

      And yes, I’m an introvert. :)

    2. Sasha LeTour*

      Frankly, I think it’s the fact that open plan doesn’t scale up. My agency employs both agile and waterfall, depending on the project, and the experimental open-plan floors host the projects that most reliably fall behind. Agile or waterfall doesn’t matter so much as the fact that you cannot put hundreds of people into an open space with no privacy or ability to think about complex math and interfaces and expect the end result to be good.

      I envy your ability to work in an open plan though I’m an extrovert/socializer like you, and I loathe open plans with every fiber of my being. I tend to think that whether you like or dislike open offices has everything to do with your ability to focus in the midst of chaos and nothing to do with your socializing style. My introvert friends are 400% better at focusing amid chaos than I am, and I envy them for it, as they are better equipped than I to succeed in the modern, money saving world of open-office plans.

      1. Anonymous*

        “I tend to think that whether you like or dislike open offices has everything to do with your ability to focus in the midst of chaos and nothing to do with your socializing style. ”


  14. Going Anon for this*

    I have no idea if this would work, but my pipe dream way to do things:

    Create a cube farm with reasonable-height (7′?) cubes, but the top 3-4 feet (above desktop, basically) are plexiglass or the like on all sides except the center divider down rows. Allow natural light to flow through the cube farm, in other words. Why not the center divider? A little more privacy/less staring at each other, and a place for a white board / pictures and notes to be tacked up.

    Consider cubicles with doors. (Saw some at a client’s years ago, That was awesome! The doors were plexiglass or something like it, which would work perfectly with letting the light flow.

    LOTS of SMALL (3-4 person max, with a phone) breakout rooms along the interior, where there are no windows anyway. Also where you want to put break room, restrooms, server room, computer room if any, and the big conference room that can handle all-hands meetings, etc.

    And if you have to put real offices that people sit in all the time on that inner wall, for goodness’ sake give them good windows so some of that light wandering through the cube farm can make it in.

    Would it work well? I think so, but really, I have no way to ever know, since I doubt I’ll convince our company to try it. (I have suggested it! We’re due to move within a year. Maybe some elements of it will at least be considered, but…. I suspect standard cubes or standard open-plan will be preferred as they are cheaper.)

    1. Hooptie*

      This is really close to our new office config – I sent Alison the pictures so many she could post them if she sees this.

    2. Sasha LeTour*

      We literally have that on most floors. And it works! For years, on and off, they’ve been discussing the idea of getting rid of it. Why? You guess is as good as mine, but I bet it begins and ends with $$$$.

  15. IronMaiden*

    I work in an inbound call centre and we do a lot of outbound calls too. There are many difficencies in the design of the workspace. There are 12 mini-cubes, arranged in pods of 2 or 3, with singles on the end. The middle pods end to get very hot, and the aircon doesn’t reach there unless it is cranked up.
    I’m in one of the middle pods, but on the end. I am near a window and can see trees, joggers, dog walkers etc, which is good for my mind and eyes.
    The noise levels in here are astronomical at times, and there are certain people who make it worse. Like this woman who is here this week, “training” us in a program that is going to be superseded at the end of the month. She speaks so loudly and condescendingly to people in the one on one training where she practically sits on top of you. She has no idea about personal space and know idea how to train adults who actually know there jobs.
    BTW, I identify as an omnivert, if that’s relevant.

      1. IronMaiden*

        Someone who gets energy both from socialising and solitude. A balanced person.
        Also a shade of green used in heraldry.

  16. Julie*

    Where I am now, I’m in a large room with seven other people. It’s usually OK because it’s quiet, and when there is talking, it’s work-related and/or brief, so it doesn’t bother me. I hadn’t thought about the natural light vs. fluorescent light issue, but the offices between where I sit and the windows all have glass half-walls from about midway upwards, so we do get some natural light. We are all moving next month, along with a lot of other colleagues from two other buildings. I assumed we were all moving into the new building down the street, but apparently only certain groups are going there. The rest of us are moving to an existing facility 90 minutes (one way) from my house (and it would cost $20 per day to commute). I was really disappointed to find this out. I like being able to work from home AND at the office, and now I won’t really have any choice but to work from home. I guess I shouldn’t complain because a lot of people would love to work from home, but I get a little nutty if I’m by myself for hours on end (day after day). I’m going to see about working at a couple of the coffee shops nearby for part of the day. Maybe I’ll even try that tomorrow and see how it goes!

  17. Popados*

    As a lead dev, sitting in a conference room with other devs and a BA is driving me nuts. I’m ready to leave and even take a pay cut to escape being in that conference room. I just want to hit the zone and stay there without getting interrupted every 20 minutes with questions or being asked to listen in on some discussion I don’t need to be a part of.

  18. Nerdling*

    Ha! I initially posted #2; it’s kind of cracking me up that it got used in the column, considering that there are some true horror stories in terms of space out there. :)

    We just got the final word on the floor plan for our future space: separate bathrooms away from the main space, a decent-sized conference room, a teaming room, and then the bullpen. We’re actually losing desk space, but it looks like we might be gaining some small distance between chairs because of the way the workspaces are set up. I’m going to be investing in some noise-cancelling headphones for times when I really need to concentrate — we’re getting more people along with more space, so I suspect the noise level is only going to increase.

    While I don’t think this setup is terribly efficient or effective, even though we do a decent amount of collaborating, it’s an improvement over our current setup. Hopefully we’ll be in by the end of August/mid-September.

  19. Anonymous*

    I would die in an open space. I am glad to hear I’m not the only one! My company is getting larger and was trying to figure out how to expand in our building, and one of the options was moving to the suite on our floor that is almost all open plan. I was so nervous that they were going to take it! Fortunately they decided to keep our current office and expand to the open suite next door.

    I had a friend who was the HR Manager for a “cool” company that had a completely open office. Nobody had privacy – not even her or the CEO. She would have to take employees to the coffee shop around the corner to have any meetings.

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