napping at work, better office design, and more

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several interesting work-related stories in the news right now: whether napping at work can improve your productivity, the best and worst office designs, and more. You can read it here.

{ 75 comments… read them below }

  1. KT

    I would have no problem going to work on Mondays if I had a nap time. I love my job (seriously, I love it), but I still dread the mornings and afternoon slump. A good hour nap would work wonders and I’d be willing to work later for the perk .

    Now excuse me, I’m off to find a pillow and blankie.

    1. Abby

      Totally agree! I’m super productive in the between 8AM-2PM, but the hours between 2-4PM just seem to drag on foreverrrrr while getting nothing done (then comes to second wind between 4-5PM). I’d definitely be down for a lunchtime snooze.
      I wish America was more accepting of (safely) napping on the job. I’d feel much better if I could comfortably doze for 30 minutes, rather than trying to look productive for an hour.

    2. Heather

      I often nap in my car on my lunch break. Just had lunch, park the car in the sun, mmmmmmm. Good half hour power nap and I’m done.

    3. INTP

      I love the idea of nap time at work but I feel like there would be a catch. “Pulled a late night and literally too tired to think straight? No need to go home, we’ll let you take a nap so you can keep working! That is how progressive and employee friendly we are!”

      1. Honeybee

        I’ve heard from some tech company employees that that’s pretty much why all of the perks exist on campus. It’s to subtly encourage employees that they never need to leave.

    4. ReanaZ

      When I was a teacher with my own (lockable) classroom, I had beanbags in my classroom. They were totally 100% there for the students and not for me to occasionally nap on at lunch or between the end of the day and the start of the after school programs. *cough*

      I also worked in an ed not-for-profit after that. It had a few small couches around the place and while it wasn’t exactly encouraged, it wasn’t unheard of for people to occasionally take naps on them. (I did only once, in the one in my boss’s office while he was on leave, when I had a migraine and couldn’t get myself safely home. Slightly different, though.) It was the kind of place where people worked crazy hours though, and it was trying to have a cool-hip-tech-start-up vibe, somewhat unsuccessfully.

      Once, I got in especially early one morning and turned on the lights… to find the CEO’s EA groggily sitting up on the couch and asking what time it was. She was under the wire to have things ready for a board meeting and decided to lay down for “a few minutes” in the late evening before finishing her work… and managed to sleep a full 8 hours. Ha!

      1. ReanaZ

        That said, if I could take 20 minute power naps at work, I’d be so much more productive and be able to work slightly longer hours, particularly with a chronic health condition that requires careful management of energy.

  2. Nina

    After that open thread on office spaces a while back, I’ve really been interested in the different layouts. The Axiom Law office is my favorite; it has enough privacy but doesn’t completely close you off like a cubicle. It also has plenty of space.

  3. CMT

    If only the orientation of my cube were different, I would totally pull a George Costanza and nap under my desk.

    1. Dynamic Beige

      I was on a show once that was very grueling. I was supposed to do rehearsal for that evening’s awards gala but when I went to the room, they were still frantically setting up. I sat there for a while, trying to decide what to do, my eyelids were dropping. So I decided to crawl under the table and have a nap because no one was expecting me back. 20-half hour later I woke up and felt much better. There was so much chaos going on, no one noticed and I was so tired the noise didn’t bother me at all.

  4. BRR

    #1 I’ve often thought if I could have a quick nap or just some time to lie down right after lunch I would be a superstar for the rest of the day. Just a quick rest period would likely make me more productive than not having the rest period and I’d get more done in an hour and 45 minutes with a rest than two hours without a rest.

    #2 We all know nobody ever has the temperature at what they want. Thank you $15 desk fan, best ROI in history.

    3# In a world with phones, email, IM, and the ability to go over to a colleague, has the open concept office ever increased collaboration? But I say this as someone who would prefer to work in the equivalent of solitary confinement.

    1. Charlotte Lucas

      Am I the only one who thinks that #2 & #3 are related? Couldn’t better office design also lead to better temperature control?

      I really, really miss windows that open…

      1. Nina

        ” Couldn’t better office design also lead to better temperature control?”

        Not necessarily. Some people naturally run hot and some naturally run cold. There’s no way to fix it for everyone unless they’re in individual offices where they can control the thermostat. I’m someone who is usually cold, so summer in an office is unpleasant because the AC is always cranked up to 10. I would take an oscillating fan over the freezing AC any day.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          I’m fine with separate offices. :) The truth is that being in a cube farm does nothing for my productivity, and my tasks don’t require me to spend a lot of face time with my coworkers. My experience has been that smaller, shared spaces where the door can be closed is better than a huge, noisy floor full of people.

          Then again, add a door and the Harry Potter under a stairway office sounds perfect for me. I think I was a Hobbit in a past life…

        2. Kyrielle

          And you’d hate my current office. I normally run hot and am glad for AC (68-70 is about as high as I ever want to see the indoor temperature), and I keep putting on sweaters here.

      2. T3k

        That’s like saying why can’t random roommates in a nice dorm layout have nice temp. control. Everyone had different temps. where they feel comfortable (in my case I’m very cold natured and like temps at 75F or above, and I had a roommate who liked things at 50F or lower… needless to say, there was a big thermostat war going on).

      3. landscape architect

        Sustainable design principals actually address this reasonably well (See USGBC, LEED guidelines) and attempt to have much more individual area temp control as well as windows that open–which lead to greater employee satisfaction.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          Offices should just get heated seats, like in cars, for the people who are cold all the time. (I like cooler temps, but I understand that everyone doesn’t like it as cool as I do. But I don’t understand how people can think 75 is a proper indoor temperature…)

          1. T3k

            Throw in a heater (or 2) for the winter and that could work. Also, where I am, it’s actually common for indoor temps. to sit around 72-78 during the summer (a few weeks ago, I saw it sitting around 80). But then again we had 100F temps. going on so we try to not make the AC too shocking when you go from outside to inside.

            1. Pill Helmet

              I used to work for a nonprofit in NYC and they gave each person a heater for under their desk. The open space where you roll your legs under the desk was great for building the heat. My toes were never cold. But there was no solution for my hands, which would be frigid by midday.

          2. Cath in Canada

            I love that idea! I *wish* our office was as cool as 72F – I like my house to be about 68, but the office is sometimes up in the high 70s. Ugh. My desk fan helps a bit, but not much.

      4. Kyrielle

        It could, but zoning is expensive – zoning each office would be prohibitively so. And there’s no one magical temperature. I once had an office that I then moved out of and another coworker moved in. Without adjustments to the temperature (since we couldn’t adjust it), I found it too hot and he found it too cold. I needed a fan and he needed a space heater.

        Though admittedly, designing it to make it relatively easy to keep a consistent temperature would be good too. Had another space where two people in adjacent offices had something like a 5-degree temperature different in their offices. Before the guy in the hotter office blocked his vent, anyway….

        1. Hotstreak

          We have that problem in my office! Floor to ceiling south facing single pane windows, which also happens to be the side of the (several times remodeled) building that gets less HVAC flow. It can easily be 15 degrees different from one side of the office to another.

          To make it worse people run standing AC units without venting the hot air.. but that’s another issue.

      5. BRR

        Interesting though. Maybe at times.

        My building has been reconfigured so many times the thermostats are scattered and we’re not sure which ones control which spaces.

    2. BeenThere

      Yes, absolutely on #2, I would like ot publicly thank the AAM poster who recommended the electric throw blanket. It is my life saver, I can now focus without having to wear ridiculous layers including my fingerless gloves.

  5. Ann

    It’s funny to me that so many people don’t like cubicles, because out of all of the setups I’ve had at my jobs, the cubicle version has been by far my favorite. It had privacy (or enough privacy to get the job done, at least), enough desk space to spread stuff out, wall space to pin up frequently used guides and documents, and the option to do a little bit of personalization.

    That said, my first workspace was literally in an alcove under a staircase (yes, like Harry Potter, except slightly larger and without a door), so it’s possible that my perception of what makes a good workspace is a bit skewed.

    1. MT

      I’ve had all 3, went from a cubical to an open space design to an office. Never want to give up my office now that I have one.

      1. oldfashionedlovesong

        I’ve worked in all three as well (although the office was only mine alone for several weeks before a new person was hired and I had to share, which wasn’t too bad)– and I agree, having an office is absolutely the best option. Being able to close a door creates for easily-distracted me this sense of, ok, now it’s time to work. Plus, because a cube provides a modicum of privacy, people often don’t realize that having a conversation with their friend on the other side of the wall can be a disturbance. Just because there’s a grey fabric half-wall there doesn’t mean I can’t hear you!

      2. Formica Dinette

        I so love having an office. My door is open 90% of the time, but that 10% is so important. Also, I have occasionally napped in my office. If lying down for 15 minutes refreshes me enough to work for another couple of hours, I’m going to do it!

      3. T3k

        As much as I gripe about my current job, I do love the fact that I have my own little office. It’s not much, and I wish I could move some of the random furniture out of it, but being introverted, it greatly helps keep me mentally at ease so I don’t feel incredibly drained by the end of the day. It’ll probably be the only thing I’ll miss once I get a new job.

    2. Nina

      That’s what I liked about Axiom, the half walls give you the privacy and convenience of a cubicle without completely cutting you off from everyone else. A completely open layout like at Nylon, Buzzfeed, and Facebook would not work for me because there’s no real separation between the computers and there’s too much distraction.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        I would build my own walls out of materials at hand. Finally a use for all those professional development binders! (Problem-solving at work!)

    3. Kyrielle

      Cubicles are way better than open plan, but I’ll take an office any day. I do like to at least be able to see a window, but having a door to close noise out or in when needed is awesome.

      1. Windchime

        I would love to have an office with a door; unfortunately, you have to be at least a manager to get that here. We do have fairly spacious cubicles, though, and I like the illusion of privacy and the space to have my own things around me. I’m lucky to work in a room with good people who are not overly loud, so it’s not bad. There are still distractions, though.

        In my previous office, we were all tightly crammed into a room that had a big long countertop snaking though it in curves. You would sit elbow-to-elbow with your neighborh, and some areas were so tightly packed that you would bump into the person behind you when you scooted out your chair to stand up. That was truly horrible.

    4. Jeanne

      I thought cubicles were stupid until there were 5 of us crammed into a too small room. When I later got my cubicle I was in heaven.

    5. Honeybee

      I think I would prefer a private office, but I like cubicles with walls. As long as they had enough space for me to spread out a little at my desk, I do like the combination of personalization with the ability to easily speak with co-workers – or just even feel their presence. I’m personally much more productive when I feel like everyone around me is also working.

      I currently work in a semi-open space – kind of by accident, as we just moved to a new building and our desks were supposed to have walls, but the wrong furniture was ordered. At the moment I don’t mind, but that’s because it’s the summer time and the space is completely dead. Most days I am in there by myself.

  6. landscape architect

    As an introvert designer, I was horrified when I visited my nephew’s (BIG ARCHITECT’s) office where they had all the people, including my nephew, lined up in rows right next to each other. Gave me the heebie jeebies. If I were a tribal person, I’d be the one assigned to monitor the grasslands for signs of movement, food or foe . . .ie, I am terribly sensitive and distracted by movement in my visual field . . . feeling overstimulated just thinking about that work layout . . .

    1. GOG11

      I am right there with you. I work in a lobby (and am the only one without a door here, go figure) and it’s terrible. It is probably one of the least enjoyable things about my job, and that’s saying something. Unfortunately, it’s not going to change, but it will make me appreciate any office (or hell, even cubicle!) I work in in the future.

    2. Jeanne

      A complete lack of privacy gives me the heebie jeebies too. This open office garbage has to go. Only the executives with big offices think it’s cool to have open offices.

    3. Mander

      Ugh, yes. I visited my husband’s totally open office once and it was awful. Literally one giant room with rows and clusters of desks for each department and no separation at all between desks. I would have been very unhappy there.

      Years ago I worked in a customer service department and we each had our own cube with high walls, shelves for storage, big desks, and even lockable storage cabinets. I ended up staying there late to work on university papers because the setup was so much better than my home desk.

      Absolutely hated the job, though.

  7. oldfashionedlovesong

    That Lego office layout is a dream come true! A lot of my friends work for Silicon Valley tech giants, and as a whole they enjoy their workspaces (Googlers are probably the happiest).

    I work in a cube farm (public agency, so there’s no way we’ll ever switch to a more innovative layout!) While I don’t love the cube, it’s much better than a fully open layout for me. But I do wish cube assignments mirrored the functions of the units within the department. I work in Unit A; but when I started here, I was plopped in a cube in Unit B’s pod of cubes. It’s not a big deal to walk over to my Unit A colleagues multiple times a day when I need to collaborate with them, but what is an issue is that many people assume I belong to Unit B. So my work is constantly being interrupted by people coming to ask me questions about Unit B’s progress on such-and-such document; or where Joe and Jane from Unit B might be at the moment; or do I know if Jane’s door being closed at the moment means she’s busy and doesn’t want to be interrupted and if so can the person leave a message and document for signature with me to give to Jane… None of these are insurmountable problems. But they can be grating day in and day out.

  8. Shell

    As someone who really needs decent ergonomics to work properly at a desk, most of these “innovative” designs horrify me. I have no idea how the people sitting in those teal-coloured pods with mini walls can work through a day on their laptop and not hurt all over afterwards. At least with a cube I can have my, and can adjust the ergonomics as I see fit, get a keyboard tray, etc… Offices are better for this, sure, but they can be a little isolating.

    I’ve never had an office, but I love my cube right now. And while I try not to call over the cube (my coworkers might be on the phone or doing something important), it’s nice to be able to pop over the wall to ask a quick question. It’s all the collaboration I want while still retaining some semblance of privacy (and sanity).

    1. Charlotte Collins

      I hate sitting in an office chair all day. If there were a more couch-like option, I’d take it. (I’ve also asked about standing desks where I work.)

      Then again, if I could get away with sitting on the floor at work, I would do it in a heartbeat.

    2. Nina

      Yes, Steelcase’s layout had me feeling claustrophobic. Cute color scheme, but that’s the only positive. No room to spread out, no real desk for your computer…no thank you.

    3. T3k

      Actually, I love the Steelcase’s concept as it is very similar setup to how I studied in college. I had one of those foldable cushion chairs that let me comfortably sit however I wanted to (legs across one side, cross legged, etc) while studying near my work surface. If they could just make the seat a bit bigger so one could lay back a bit more and make the laptop tray and surface area more ambidextrous, it could work for me.

      1. Shell

        The caption says they were based off of students’ study spaces, but it looks like they’re legit workspaces for office workers. Regardless, even if they were students’ study spaces…I have no idea how students would study like that. The way they’re tilting backwards and not putting enough weight on their feet…it looks like it’d be comfy for a quick nap, but if I were to try to get work done I’d end my day with achy hips/butt/thighs. I need solid surfaces to rest my weight against.

        Or maybe my body is just picky about ergonomics.

    4. Abby

      The thing I dread most about these open concept designs is that they’re usually paired with the “hot desking” concept where there are no assigned workspaces, so you could potentially be working in a different area/at a different desk every day. Some people (namely the designers of the space) tout it as collaborative and dynamic, but as an introvert and creature of habit, that just makes me want to run the other way. I could deal with open spaces and seeing people, but I definitely need my own space to tailor to my needs. Plus, where else can I put my mini cactus plant?

    5. Anx

      If I ever get a full-time job, one of the first things I’m doing is buying a proper chair and perhaps a desktop computer. After a few hours of work, I just can’t sit still any more. That’s so awesome that you can having your desk chair at work.

    6. Cath in Canada

      My office is closest to the Axiom one in the article. I don’t outright hate it, but I definitely preferred having a more private space in previous jobs, even when it was just a corner partially blocked off from visual distractions using a filing cabinet.

  9. Case of the Mondays

    The temperature study was flawed since it asked people if they were too hot in summer and too cold in winter. In my experience, the problem is the opposite. The office is too cold because of the crazy ac in the summer and too hot because of the overzealous heater in the winter.

    1. Anx

      Yep.

      I understand that computers need to stay cool and that menswear requires long pants at minimum even in business casual places. My boss is the only person in my office that wears a suit (and only about half the time, less in the summer). We’re not even business casual. Some dress that way, others dress as if they were students (and many are).

      Yet our office is freezing in the summer. I don’t think it’s the temperature alone, but the near constant draft of the vents (practically inescapable). I’d love to be able to work on the computers, but to keep my joints from locking up I spend some time in the smaller offices hoping my body heat will warm it up over time. The most frustrating part is either having to carry sweaters and scarves in my bag where they get wrinkled or walking into the office sweaty and going from 95F to 68 F .

      I hope menswear relaxes a little more in the coming years. I’m not saying the degree of formality has to drop, but that we reframe what professional wear means in a way that keeps indoor temperatures more reasonable.

  10. Jerzy

    For me, it’s as much about having a personalized workspace (i.e. ability to adjust the height of my desk and chair, as well as light levels) that would help make me more productive. I have migraines and a bad back, so crappy office chairs and bright fluorescent lighting can make me miserable some days and cause me to need to walk around and stretch. While this can sometimes be a good thing for my brain, it often comes at times when I’m moving along steadily in my work but can no longer ignore the shooting pain in my back or behind my eyeball.

    I am also a bit spoiled with my second real job out of college being one where I had my own office. Then I was in a moderately sized cube. Now I’m in a small cube. The paychecks keep getting bigger and the titles keep getting better, so it’s a small sacrifice overall.

  11. Bob from Accounting

    My coworker and I share an office, but he’s out of the office right now, so I have whole entire office by myself. I’m currently enjoying it. Most of the workspace is of an open office layout, but it’s a small place so it’s not bad. I don’t think I could handle a bigger open office layout.

  12. Michelle

    Hell to the yes on naps! I so needed one earlier today, to the point I almost used sick hours to go home and catch a few Z’s. I had to take a muscle relaxer last night and I got up fine, but after about 2 hours in the office, it boomeranged me and I needed to sleep. I’m cruising on caffeine and ice packs to neck now.

    I love the new office designs, too. Especially the 2nd photo, where the offices looked like bee hives and the one with the orange semi-circle partition.

    1. oldfashionedlovesong

      Hopefully you’ll come back and see this, Michelle! I’ve got chronic pain from an old neck injury, and I highly recommend pain patches (Icy Hot or whatever drugstore brand). I keep a pack in my desk at all times for when the pain reaches a distracting level. They’re gently adhesive, not at all messy and they don’t smell that strong (or at least no one has ever mentioned the smell to me). There’s all different sizes, but the smallest ones (Icy Hot’s are called Micro Patches) are best because you can apply two or three at key spots. I don’t like the larger ones; although they’re flexible, they still feel like you’ve got tape wrapped around your neck and can be irritating. Patches won’t solve the pain completely, but they tamp it down until you can get home and take better measures.

      Hope your neck feels better soon!

  13. Cath in Canada

    I suck at naps – I’m missing the nap gene or something. Even though I have chronic moderate insomnia, I can only sleep during the day if I’m sick or if I got less than a couple of hours the night before. It would be nice to have a space for other kinds of breaks, though – a little reading pod, or somewhere to get some low-impact non-sweaty exercise. I guess I could go up and down the staircase a few times, but it doesn’t seem terribly attractive…

    1. Tau

      Same here. It doesn’t matter how tired I am – if I’m sleeping during the day I’m either ill, jet-lagged, or seriously sleep-deprived. I used to think it was just part of being an adult – interesting to see it’s unusual.

      Luckily for me, I live very close to home so it’s possible for me to head back if I take a longer lunch. I’m trying to arrange my schedule so I can do that once a week or so, because it’s a really nice break.

    2. Honeybee

      I used to love naps, but my problem with a nap is that if I take one for longer than about 20 minutes, the nap is going to be 2 hours minimum and I’m going to be groggy for the rest of the day. I agree – I’d much rather use the time to kick back and read a book for 30 minutes, or recharge with a short yoga session.

  14. LJL

    My question is pragmatic: I noticed a “canine employee” in one of the offices. How can I get my dog a job? She’s really cute and fairly smart, but her lack of opposable thumbs makes some physical work a challenge.

    1. Honeybee

      March her up to the office and have her bark for it, of course! Tell her not to take no for an answer – if the hiring manager starts to say it, she can always silence them with a well-timed lick to the face. ;)

  15. Beancounter in Texas

    RadioShack’s headquarters in Fort Worth incorporated a lot of the same concepts. It was cube-world, but laid out intentionally well enough for everyone – even me in the corner – to get a direct eyeful of the window from their cube, without much movement from their chair. Each cube faced a little differently and before it was built, existing employees were allowed (as much as their managers would allow anyway) to select one of four cube layouts.

    Low filing cabinets with chair-pillows on top to invite you to sit lined the huge windows with a nice view. Small little meeting spaces were first come, first served and larger conference rooms were reserved by Outlook calendars. Common areas were comfortable too. The floor was raised and each cube space had a private vent by which you could adjust the airflow (if not the temperature).

    On every other floor were lactation rooms (key access only) and nap rooms. I don’t know whether many people utilized the nap room, but I did. I would infrequently get a migraine headache and instead of running home before I couldn’t drive, I’d use the nap room after taking some drugs. The lights could be turned off, door locked, and I’d recline in the sofa recliner with a pillow and a light blanket (both supplied). About 80% of the time, I’d feel well enough when my phone’s 35 minute timer ended to return to work and finish the day, and stay late if necessary.

    1. Honeybee

      Normally I would not take naps during the day, but a migraine headache would be an amazing time to take one. A lot of times the only way mine will subside is if I take the drugs and then lay in a cool, dark room for a while. Normally if I get one at work my options are go home or continue to slog through under the bright fluorescent lights until the migraine is far worse and then go home.

  16. Nobody

    I don’t know why people hate cubicles so much. I’m in an open office and I would kill for a cube! Obviously, I’d rather have a private office with a door, but I’d rather have some privacy in a cubicle than none at all.

    The thing I don’t get about some of these modern office designs is that even the privacy/refuge/breakout rooms have glass walls. For me, a big part of wanting privacy is not having people looking at me. I’m an introvert and I’m self-conscious about my appearance, and I find it very draining to be out in the open all day where people can look at me. Occasionally, there are times that all my coworkers leave for lunch while I’m still working on something, and I’m all alone in the office for a little while, and it’s so nice to have that short period of privacy, peace and quiet. It feels like a weight has been lifted. I’ve got used to the open office and I’m good at tuning people out, so I don’t know if I’d be more productive in a cubicle, but I’d certainly feel less stressed.

    1. Jeanne

      The cubicle can really help. I’m too much of an introvert also to do well in an open room.

  17. AcademiaNut

    My office has A/C that’s controlled by office, which is good.

    But the A/C physically cannot be set lower than 25 C (77 F). And isn’t generally run in the hallways. And for energy savings reasons, it doesn’t function at night. And, of course, we don’t have heat in the winter. The windows do open, but you can’t leave them unattended, due to the frequent thunderstorms that will blow rain directly into the office.

    The first is actually something I’ve only heard one person complain about (interestingly one of the few Americans in the department). When the normal summer temperature is 36 C (97 F) and very humid outside, 25 plus the dehumidifying effect is still a pretty drastic change. The night part is more of a problem, because working odd hours and weekends is pretty normal in my field.

    No heat in winter isn’t usually a problem, unless we get a cold front when it’s 12 C (53 F) and humid out. I will work from home with my space heater when it gets cold enough that I have trouble typing.

    1. Cautionary tail

      As an American that just finished a holiday in France I understand your comment and yet am culturally confundled by it at the same time. It was 40 deg C/104 deg F and yet people didn’t seem to think that A/C was needed. Folks, if there was ever a time for A/C, 100 deg+ is the time. We were sitting in people’s houses and they closed the sunny side window shutters and we just had sweat pouring off us. They didn’t even have fans so it was just hot, humid stuffy.

  18. Kvaren

    I can work more comfortably when it’s too warm compared to when it’s too cold. If I get too cold, my fingers stop all accuracy when typing, and if I can’t type accurately (I write a lot of code), then I get frustrated and my productivity plummets.

    For this reason, I keep gloves that are cut off at the fingertips at my desk.

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