Open Office Spaces

Yeah, but you’re giving loads of interesting info. I used to train people for e-mail and chat support implementations, and one of the things we quietly watched out for was language proficiency. (If you asked someone next to you for a translation during the final exam, that was pretty much an automatic fail, because we used to write those things in very basic English on purpose. If you asked the trainer for clarification, that was okay.)


We’ve tried that, but it didn’t work. For one thing, we don’t hire temps as temps-- everybody who works here is an employee. That way I know they have skin in the game. Temps don’t, and it shows in their work ethic. And the quality of employee we got from agencies was very variable. No quality control, and screening was abysmal. They would send what they had, whether the person met our criteria or not. And we have to be very careful; in the EU, it is not as easy to fire a bad employee as it is in the US, and doing so too often will bring scrutiny from the government. We get enough of that already-- this is a very highly regulated industry.


No commute is undeniably a big plus, but why would you spend the time you saved working?!?!?! :crazy_face: Seriously though, my commute is not too bad, so my favorite part of WFH is not wearing pants. Or sometimes even not showering. I am, somewhat shamefully, not joking.

Ah, but with the all-seeing Eye of Sauron VPN logs, it’s trivial to keep tabs on your employee’s work habits, even when you can’t literally peek over their shoulder in meatspace.


On a regular basis I wouldn’t, but it’s nice for deadlines.


I think we’re talking about two different populations of employees. My organization also has 24/7/365 positions, and they share a workspace, but I think of it less as hot-desking and more as a shift-change. I agree that it’d be silly to have two thirds of your office space sitting empty at any given time just to prevent folks from having to share resources. But if all the desks are going to be sitting empty at more-or-less the same time, and the people who occupy them are expected to work irregular hours (i.e. salaried and not punching a clock) then it seems kind of unnecessarily cruel to deny them a predictable work environment.

This is so huge, and a credit to your organization. Seriously, kudos to you. It may be a “basic courtesy”, but lots of places neglect it.

Pay more. If it works for CEOs, then it should work for the hoi polloi.

And I’m only half-joking about this. My first posts in this thread were thinking primarily about more-or-less skilled professionals, or so-called knowledge workers, but I think it can also apply to the unskilled and entry-level positions as well.

Anecdotes are not data, but when I was working various food/service-industry jobs in school, I figured out pretty quickly that one shitty job was just as good as any other shitty job. If my boss turned out to be a bastard, my attitude was like “dude, I’m washing dishes for minimum wage; you are literally not paying me enough to put up with your bullshit” and I’d go find another job. Eventually, I ended up in a kitchen that paid just a little bit more than other places and where the owner didn’t treat everyone like peasants, and stayed there until I graduated. And they had comparatively little turnover.

It sounds like you’re in the EU, where they still have at least a modicum of civilization, so perhaps my experience is not relevant to your situation. Here in the U.S. we’ve abandoned even the pretense of fair play, and exploiting the little guy is genuinely seen as a virtue by a distressingly large portion of the population. It’s more about keeping score than anything else.

One place I worked had had two open positions for forever; they were just enough below market rate that they weren’t even getting decent applications. By happenstance, they found a guy that had just the right set of skills such that he could cover both positions; not quite a purple unicorn, but pretty close. Predictably, he wanted “too much money”, even though it would have been cheaper to pay him what he asked than to hire two other people at the advertised rates. The stumbling block was that he would have been making more money than his immediate supervisor and that simply could not be allowed. The solution, of course, was to pay him what he was worth, but only after promoting his manager so that he’d still be making more money than his direct report.

But I’m not jaded. Really, I’m not. :innocent:

In a thread about open office spaces, I would expect no less!


Fair enough. And I’m betting that if you’re willing and able to work extra to hit a deadline, there’s likely some reciprocal flexibility from your employer, which is always nice.

And lest I come off like a complete crank, let me say that I really do like remote work as a perk and an option, it’s just that the pessimist/realist in me expects some MBA-wielding-weenie to come along and ruin it for everyone, somehow.

But anyway, that’s enough righteous indignation for me on a Wednesday night. I feel certain my time and energies would be better spent at the RDSA.


One of the business that my org provides IT Architecting and Support, just gutted one wing of corporate turning it from “50% Office\Conference room & 50% Cube” to Open Floor Plan…with bar height desks, couches and Huddle spaces.

Because that’s what the “Millennial New Hires Wanted” and they were trying to bring in younger talent.

Oh…and didn’t think to bring in IT until after the original WiFi access points couldn’t handle the influx of now no one being on LAN. And then the other horrors began to emerge. I don’t have anything directly involved with that project. Some ancillary concerns on presenting PPT onto big TVs. (Hint - It’s still an HDMI cable.)

Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy


This. It worked for Henry Ford and it can work for you too.

Think of it this way. If you pay minimum wage then the opportunity cost for the worker to quit and find a similar job paying a similar amount elsewhere is small. But if you pay more (and Ford was paying twice the going rate) then they may find a similar job, but they won’t find the same money and suddenly losing the job is expensive. This stops you hemorrhaging staff which means you can then focus on managing performance (or promoting them to customer depending on how competent they are) which improves productivity and provides a much richer pool of talent for internal promotion, which has a knock on benefit of requiring far less training for the new role.

It’s a win-win.


But upper management can’t afford a second yacht. Where is their winning?


Did it work?


Mixed opinions is what I hear.

I think ultimately, there was a “cool Idea” that cost $X (where X is a very large dollar amount) and so they did it for $Y (Where Y is a much smaller sum) and it checked off the boxes, but (IMHO) didn’t quite make the cut.

But, I’m just a man. In an Office. With a Door. At the end of the air duct run so I’m either roasting or freezing if I leave the door closed.


Fortunately for me, we don’t have actually open office plans where I’m at. Everyone has an assigned desk. But the cube walls are half height or something and each of us is crammed into less than half of the space of a traditional cube. I can only back my chair about 2 ft from the typing position without hitting the cube wall of the person behind me.

If you need to have a sensitive conversation, you have to book a conference room. We have actual managers and supervisors sitting in these “cubes.”

In an ideal world, all of that might be tolerable. In practice, though, it’s really not. I had to invest in noise cancelling headphones.1 The majority of my “wing” neighbors work very different positions than I do. They’re unboxing, reboxing, and moving equipment constantly. The equipment they’re working on is constantly making noise.

1And, no, the company wouldn’t have paid for my noise cancelling headphones even though they caused the situation. :joy_cat:

If I’m in a teleconference with a group of people, I regularly get the notification that the other participants wish I was unmuted. Even in a regular situation, I don’t get being unmuted when you’re not talking.2 But you really don’t want to hear my background noise and conversations from my neighbors when I’m not talking.

2Why do I have to hear all these people typing and clicking? If you’re going to put the meeting on speaker, can you not put your keyboard close enough to the phone that it literally shakes when you’re abusing the keyboard? Membrane keyboards aren’t meant to be wailed on like that.

Fortunately, my department doesn’t involve people in meetings unless they need to participate in the meeting. Unfortunately, that means people all over the world get to hear the sound of boxes being broken down or what my neighbors are going to do next on their project car whenever I say something on a call.

Even though we limit unnecessary meeting participation, I spend roughly a quarter of every work week in meetings and booking conference rooms requires another department’s approval.

I’m sure this compromise between traditional cubicles and “open office spaces” isn’t worse than open office spaces, but it sure is hellish.


I’d say that’s still an open office space. Non-open office spaces have corridors leading to offices with real walls and doors that close – the likes of which started to become vanishingly rare in the late 70s, when companies like Hewlett Packard bragged about their cube farm setup (and they were still thought of as forward thinking).

Most office workers these days have only ever worked in an open office plan. With things like hot desking, they’re getting more open all the time.


Hey, look. Real scientific research now confirming that yes, open offices are shit.


Wow. I would have expected open offices to have a lot of problems, but I would not have expected them to completely subvert the one specific thing that they’re intended to improve to that much of a degree. Yet in retrospect it does make sense. With no relaxation and eyes on us at all times, we are naturally less productive and isolate more.

It’s actually good news though, at least for the increasing number of hybrid companies that have some workers in office and others working remotely. It means that the office workers are using the same communications methods as the remote workers, so the remotes aren’t left out of those critical interactions (since they’re not happening F2F). That was the #1 expected problem with remote work, so the fact that open offices fix an entirely different problem than they were intended to, and do so by completely failing at the one thing they were supposed to do, is kinda cool.

It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!


Coming in late… well I have been busy for awhile.
I am current in a open office situation but it works as we all have 6 monitors and need to be able to yap at each other easily for help, conformation, etc.
It is a bullshit job mostly… The proper escalation management we do when IT things go south is needed and then it is nice to yell out ‘Hey Jason crank up the management bridge, be on it, and send the page out for it’ while you are busy getting the tech bridge going and the general ‘this thing is b0rk3d alert’ written.

But 98% of what we do is be the go between for the call centers and the engineers who support their tools for 2 reasons, the call centers are too busy to keep up pressure on the engineers and the engineers would let 90% of the tickets just sit and rot till the next release in hopes that makes the problem go away.


I need to figure out a way to leave this anonymously on the desks of certain key people at work.


Really? Me and mine do our best to figure out how to reproduce a problem, and then solve it. But reproducing can be incredibly difficult. And it’s really hard to solve if you can’t reliably trigger the error condition. I like to think that the only things we leave sitting are those that we can’t relliably/accurately debug. And they do irritate us. We want to solve them, but if you can’t actually observe the bug happening, it’s really hard.


I have in one case… They need to fix a phone number on the support site or get the local phone system to route right or something like that. If I ping them in IM they just go away or don’t respond. I will have to get their manager in the loop if there isn’t even a ‘hey it will take a few days, here is an ETA’ by Wednesday.


Note that adequate ear protection is not available.