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Avoiding the Cube Farm - Effective Office Floor Plans? 129

Posted by Cliff
from the efficient-yet-non-soul-crushing-use-of-space dept.
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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Avoiding the Cube Farm - Effective Office Floor Plans?

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  • Just keep the PHB far way form the things they have no clue about and you will be fine.
  • by Michael Pigott (735899) <rpimike1022@yahoo.com> on Saturday September 30, 2006 @02:27PM (#16259615)
    Have you seen Joel's article on what his office looks like? http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/BionicOffic e.html [joelonsoftware.com]
    • by MarcoAtWork (28889) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @02:36PM (#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.
      • by josath (460165)
        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]
        • 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.
          • by josath (460165)
            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)
        • My $800 office chair has been up and running for 8 years and will provide comfort for many years to come. I'm at work most of time, so it figures that I should be comfortable. You get what you pay for.
          • My $400 ESD ergo stool is extra spiffy because it is vinal. I can buff it till it's shiney :-)
            Oh, and while it does not look like much at all, it's actually very comfy for tech work. Not sure I'd want to code in it though...

            Best advice I can give:
            If you must be in cubes, so should your management. Offices are a waste of resources (IMHO) but also, what is good for the gander is good for the goose. Offices are for Legal and HR only. Liberal number of cozy conference rooms for private conversations is a g
      • by drsmithy (35869)
        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/

        • Yes they are.

          My company went ahead and partitioned our whole office with hallways, etc. Every employee has their own office, with a door that closes! Functional groups are grouped by hallway and there are conference rooms in sensible locations. Also every office has a nice big white board with plenty of markers and erasers and the conference rooms have truely huge white boards. Some of the conference rooms also have white boards that'll allow you to print what's on the board.

          Plus when my co-worker wants
    • 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.

      I

      • by matt4077 (581118) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @04:33PM (#16260583) Homepage
        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.

    • Violates Feng shui (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Skapare (16644)

      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.

      • Besides feng shui being nonsense, you fail to realize DOORS CAN BE CLOSED.
        I just close the door if I need to be undisturbed.
        • I also recommend a Room Defender [iwantoneofthose.com]: if it starts going off, someone is at your door.
        • by _Ludwig (86077)
          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."
          • by xyko (1008141)
            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.
            • by CyberZen (97536)
              I'm not defending Feng Shui per se, but isn't it possible that, mystical horseshit aside, the principles therein can result in a functional layout?
              • by RMH101 (636144)
                if you mean principles like "people like light and space", then I guess so. If you mean principles like "pointy-leaved plants radiate bad chi", or "hang a windchime in *this* corner will improve your finances", then no.
                "Feng Shui" actually translates as "the ancient eastern art of taking the piss out of Westerners".
    • You can get much cheaper office space here [wikipedia.org]. It's newer and looks better.

  • Dilbert (Score:4, Funny)

    by Kj0n (245572) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @02:29PM (#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.
  • by Chris Snook (872473) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @02:42PM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      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.
    • by Aceticon (140883)

      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 increase

    • Say it with me:

      There Has Never Been A Study Which Indicated Cubicles Improve Productivity.

      The original claim came from the advertising material for the Action Office [wikipedia.org], designed by Robert Propst. It was a completely baseless claim when the Action Office was being marketed, and after the AO was bastardised and nickle-and-dimed into the cubicles we know and... well.. know today, it was even more untrue.

      Now, you may be able to improve productivity over the normal levels experienced in a cubicle, but that's a bi
      • by sowth (748135)

        I thought managers chose cubicles because they were trying to save money. You have to wonder why that poster was claiming otherwise. Perhaps he is a manager with budget problems trying to justify himself? It is hard to justify yourself when you blow petty cash on hookers, booze and expensive restaraunts. ;-)

    • by NateTech (50881)
      Of course, if you try to unnaturally force specific people into teams that don't follow any particular business function (as my employer has recently done), you end up with three or four "islands" of people who don't interact.

      When we asked "What did all this remodeling get us?" the answer was as inane as it was sad: "The building offered free remodeling, so we *had* to take it."

      (Sigh...)
  • Development pits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kherr (602366) <kevin@pupDEGASpethead.com minus painter> on Saturday September 30, 2006 @02:51PM (#16259841) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Murphy Murph (833008)
      This does not work well in an enviroment with lots of phone usage.
    • by KritonK (949258)
      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 yo
    • 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 pid

    • 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 thi
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iabervon (1971)
      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
    • by bunions (970377)
      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
    • This is as far as i have seen the English default.
      With the second addition that meeting rooms and managers offices are in the middle of the room, cubicles around the outside. This way, those that are boxed in anyway, are boxed in, and the most people get the most benefit from natural light.
      Also the walls are much lower than those I've seen in America - mine are at the moment approx 3 1/2' high so you get lots of natural light and don't feel like you're boxed in.
      The only problem is when you have people on th
  • 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.
    Ex
    • by daspriest (904701)
      "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.
    • by gregmac (629064)

      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 u

    • The whole cash-value concept for computers or furniture almost never works. First, if each employee picks their own furniture then what happens when someone leaves the company? Does the new guy get new furniture or is he stuck with the prior set? Second, mismatched office furniture doesn't make it a better place to work--it just promotes individuality. There are other ways to help folks feel comfortable at work.

      I've worked in places that avoided the cube farm. I've worked in cube farms. I've had ocean
  • 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 study
  • 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 decor

    • by hazem (472289)
      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.
      • 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.
        • by bunions (970377)
          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.
        • by hazem (472289)
          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 tur
  • by isaac (2852) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @03:08PM (#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

  • by soricine (576909) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @03:32PM (#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.
    • 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

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wish bot (265150)
        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.
        • by twitter (104583)

          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.

      • by hakubi (666291)
        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
        • by twitter (104583)

          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 thos

          • by TopShelf (92521)
            Remember, he's an architect in training, which probably means he's working on his 2nd-year Condescencion skills...
    • In a pseudo reply to the children here, an architect is probably the right place to start, as ggod ones will have interior designers on staff who are used to working with the layout portion of offices.
  • by failedlogic (627314) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @03:37PM (#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.
  • by bhima (46039)
    After spending over 7 years trying to make that happen... I failed. So I moved to country where cube farms are illegal.

    Problem Solved
    • 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 constant

      • 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.
        • They don't have very many programmers there however.

          They have a lot of things I like there. Grog, women, sun, sea. Cubes or offices, I don't imagine that productivity of programmers in the Caymans would be very high. That is so long as the programmers didn't all star in revenge of the nerds ;)

  • by Bender0x7D1 (536254) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @03:52PM (#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.)
    • by sheldon (2322)
      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
  • by pipingguy (566974) * on Saturday September 30, 2006 @04:27PM (#16260519) Homepage
    Aura Module [poetictech.com]
  • Standing meetings. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zapman (2662) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @05:22PM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pig Hogger (10379)

      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

    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      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?
    • 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 unde

    • 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 ti
      • by Formica (775485)
        That's not a meeting, that's actual work! At least, if you define a meeting as "talking about work" - e.g. planning, getting ideas, etc. rather than actually doing work. If you've got a 300 page document to review, then everyone involves needs to sit down at a work area - which may be a conference room with chairs, etc.
  • 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 uphols
    • 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.

    • 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 cheape
  • Common Space (Score:3, Informative)

    by harves (122617) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @05:43PM (#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.
  • 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.
  • 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'.
    • I used to work in a company that had low walls - They were about 1.5 ft over the top of each desk. At first, it seemed nice, because wherever you sat, you could see around the company, and see out of a nearby window. In practice, it allowed all noise to spread around the area easily. If someone has noisy hardware in a 'common area', you heard it. If someone was making a personal call, you heard that too. I found that it led to no privacy, and negatively affected work. (This was mostly due to noise pollu
    • by psykocrime (61037)
      With cubicles, what do you guys think of the low walls?

      I interviewed with Blue Cross / Blue Shield of North Carolina a little over a year ago... as soon as we walked into the area where the developers were working, I noticed that they had those low walled cubicles. I only stayed for the interview out of politeness. When the HR lady called to ask about scheduling a follow-up interview, I declined and told her that I could not work for a company that did not provide a suitable workspace for their employees.
  • Interesting Video (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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.
  • 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 estab
  • 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 wa
  • In the middle.
  • 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
  • ...levels!
  • Instead buy flat screen TV's.

    Hook them up to a DVR that cycles through the following:

    Pleasant nature scenes.

    random shots of other people's cubicles

    A shot of the boss's desk.

    It gives a wide open feeling, with the power of knowing where your boss is, and the random chance that others will learn you are hard at work.

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