More on Workspace Design

October 4th, 2007 16 Comments

So, I’m sitting in our divisional all-hands meeting, virtually of course, and one of the questions is about a remodel that’s going on currently in Building 300 on the Redwood Shores campus.

For those not in the know, 300 is the tallest silo with the big old “ORACLE” across the top floor. I used to sit in this cube farm on the 12th floor. Anyway, it’s getting a remodel, apparently ripping out the cubes and installing open work areas.

So, I guess the idea is to follow a more startup feel for free-flowing ideas and communication. I’ve touched on workspace design before, and I’m curious to hear what people at HQ think about this. Are you affected? What do you think, good thing/bad thing?

Or generally for everyone, how would you feel about going from a cube to an open space or vice versa? I used to sit on an aisle, close to the elevators, and the constant foot traffic and hallway chats were maddeningly distracting when I was trying to concentrate.

Frankly, after working from home almost exclusively for 4 years, I can’t imagine going back into an office everyday, no matter what the space was like. Because then I would have to shave, comb my hair, and wear big boy clothes. Not happening.


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16 Responses to “More on Workspace Design”

  1. jack Says:

    Jake,

    I’ve worked from home most of my 11 years at Oracle so I’m probably not the best person to speak here but…I have spent several weeks in various Oracle APAC offices (Singapore, Sidney, Melbourne, Seoul) which have this type of open space design in one form or another. For the most part, general work isn’t too bad, but anytime you actually have to talk on the phone it is a nightmare as there are some 20 or so conversations going on around you at any given time. To me it just seems to push people to be less interested in speaking with someone and more inclined to use various other forms of communication, i.e. email, IM, SMS, etc. I guess that would make open space offices more Web 2.0ish. Is that a good thing?

    jack

  2. jack Says:

    Jake,

    I’ve worked from home most of my 11 years at Oracle so I’m probably not the best person to speak here but…I have spent several weeks in various Oracle APAC offices (Singapore, Sidney, Melbourne, Seoul) which have this type of open space design in one form or another. For the most part, general work isn’t too bad, but anytime you actually have to talk on the phone it is a nightmare as there are some 20 or so conversations going on around you at any given time. To me it just seems to push people to be less interested in speaking with someone and more inclined to use various other forms of communication, i.e. email, IM, SMS, etc. I guess that would make open space offices more Web 2.0ish. Is that a good thing?

    jack

  3. Jake Says:

    Yeah, open spaces make for newsroom or trading bullpen like noise levels. Not good. We do so much teleconferencing and there are a small number of conference rooms, so I can’t imagine how this is workable.

    The lack of silence for concentration thing is what I think is the worst part.

    Jake

  4. Jake Says:

    Yeah, open spaces make for newsroom or trading bullpen like noise levels. Not good. We do so much teleconferencing and there are a small number of conference rooms, so I can’t imagine how this is workable.

    The lack of silence for concentration thing is what I think is the worst part.

    Jake

  5. John Flack Says:

    Joel Spolsky has an article on his observations about the way to get the best out of software developers. Read it at http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/FieldGuidetoDevelopers.html. In his opinion, going from a cube farm to an open design is a step in the wrong direction. I’m inclined to agree. I have a semi-private office that I share with someone whose schedule overlaps mine by only four hours a day. Yet I’d gladly trade my semi-private with a window for a truly private office, even windowless. I want to be able to close my door and shut out the rest of the world when I’m concentrating hard on a tricky piece of code. I used to be in a cube, and it was worse – very hard to get anything done.

  6. John Flack Says:

    Joel Spolsky has an article on his observations about the way to get the best out of software developers. Read it at http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/FieldGuidetoDevelopers.html. In his opinion, going from a cube farm to an open design is a step in the wrong direction. I’m inclined to agree. I have a semi-private office that I share with someone whose schedule overlaps mine by only four hours a day. Yet I’d gladly trade my semi-private with a window for a truly private office, even windowless. I want to be able to close my door and shut out the rest of the world when I’m concentrating hard on a tricky piece of code. I used to be in a cube, and it was worse – very hard to get anything done.

  7. Jake Says:

    Totally agreed. Someone needs to build a cheap, modular office pod, like a cube with a door and ceiling.
    Just like the itty-bitty, narrow offices in Brazil (the movie, not the country), minus the shared table.
    Add some open areas for bullpen style work and socializing, and you’re good to go.

  8. Jake Says:

    Totally agreed. Someone needs to build a cheap, modular office pod, like a cube with a door and ceiling.
    Just like the itty-bitty, narrow offices in Brazil (the movie, not the country), minus the shared table.
    Add some open areas for bullpen style work and socializing, and you’re good to go.

  9. Tim Says:

    When I worked in the UK offiecs way abck when it was all open plan. My memories may be rose tinted but it was awesome. We were a real ‘tight’ team and got things done and the openess allowed you to interact with team mates, bouncing ideas, etc. If you wanted peace – get some headphones. Telephone calls were a little tougher but not that bad.
    Coming to cube city in HQ was a shock to the system – suddenly no one talked to you – very quiet. I used to make a point of getting up and walking around to have a chat with folks in distant cubes. I seem to remember bugging the heck out of you Jake – maybe it was the other way round :)

  10. Tim Says:

    When I worked in the UK offiecs way abck when it was all open plan. My memories may be rose tinted but it was awesome. We were a real ‘tight’ team and got things done and the openess allowed you to interact with team mates, bouncing ideas, etc. If you wanted peace – get some headphones. Telephone calls were a little tougher but not that bad.
    Coming to cube city in HQ was a shock to the system – suddenly no one talked to you – very quiet. I used to make a point of getting up and walking around to have a chat with folks in distant cubes. I seem to remember bugging the heck out of you Jake – maybe it was the other way round :)

  11. Jake Says:

    Tim sat over the cube farm wall from me at corporate in 300 on the 12th floor for several years.
    Socializing is part of the office experience. I just like the option for silent concentration when I need it.
    Each has its place.

  12. Jake Says:

    Tim sat over the cube farm wall from me at corporate in 300 on the 12th floor for several years.
    Socializing is part of the office experience. I just like the option for silent concentration when I need it.
    Each has its place.

  13. Meg Says:

    Jake, don’t forget you would also need to shower to come into an office. Just shaving and combing your hair would not be sufficient.

  14. Meg Says:

    Jake, don’t forget you would also need to shower to come into an office. Just shaving and combing your hair would not be sufficient.

  15. Jake Says:

    Showering is a global parameter. I was talking about things I don’t do every day anyway, i.e. shave, fix hair, wear big boy clothes.

  16. Jake Says:

    Showering is a global parameter. I was talking about things I don’t do every day anyway, i.e. shave, fix hair, wear big boy clothes.

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