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But where do developers actually CODE in these offices?

92% Upvoted
252 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

I cant stand open office plans without at least some partition for privacy, noise is not so much a problem for me. Last two jobs I was on, we had the sitting opposite type arrangement with just the monitors between and it pissed me off to no end. I need my privacy to get into the zone, and not being paranoid wondering is the person opposite looking at me or their monitor?

That's why I'm hesitant to take a job with an open plan. I find it super distracting to have someone's face constantly in your field of view, including these TVs hanging above everyone in Groupon's office.

Is it acceptable to put up some sort of visual divider between desks? Maybe a whiteboard or cork board? What do you do for personal storage at your desk in these places? I keep spare contacts, eye drops, Tums, tea, stamps, and snacks in my cube here at work. Some of those offices in the article don't even give you a drawer...

144 points·3 years ago

That looks like a school computer lab. awful

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67 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

I interned at Groupon last summer in an office pretty similar to that one, and it actually wasn't as bad as the picture makes it out to be.

The TVs are way above eye-level, and mostly contain static/slowly updating graphs showing stats about the different servers and such, so they aren't too distracting. None of the displayed stats were relevant to what I was working on, so they essentially became wallpaper to me after the novelty wore off.

I also personally didn't actually have too much of an issue with privacy/noise -- the floor was made up mostly of developers, so the people naturally kept noise/intrusiveness to a minimum. We also had a bunch of conference rooms, where most of the actual talking and noise would take place. The final alleviating factor was that everybody was always seated next to your teammates in a cluster, so if there was any chatter, it tended to be relevant chatter.

Then again, I've always been good at ignoring outside distractions, and this is all definitely subjective, but I thought I'd just toss my two cents in.

Worked at Groupon when they first moved into that office, where all of their employees were there (sales, editorial, customer service, IT, engineering, etc). It did actually get annoyingly loud sometimes.

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I kinda wonder why actual offices for programmers aren't more common. I know they are expensive and take up a lot of space, but like the article says, if you are paying for knowledge workers, why not get the most value out of them by getting rid of as many distractions as possible. Cubicles are fine a lot of times, but when someone is having a loud conversation or people are constantly moving around behind you it can be very distracting. Maybe small shared spaces/offices (3-5 or however many are in a team and regularly work together).

I am a programmer and I have an office. With a door. That I keep closed most of the day. Its my favorite place to be outside of my bed.

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Cause if you give them an office, they might start to think they're valuable, instead of replaceable, like management wants them to feel.

yep. Give them free snacks and a foosball table. Make them feel like they are still in college, despite being in their 30s. Pay no attention to that massive revenue and billion dollar valuation. Have another Mt. Dew, chump, er, champ.

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At my previous job the first year I was in an open space and I could actually spit on 10 people from where I sat we were so crammed together (not that I tried though). 8 sq ft was all I had for chair and a little table. Then we moved to a new building with cubes and it seemed like heaven.

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I used to be a IT tech (engineer I guess now) and our office had an open plan with a couple sets of desks. I sat across from the dumbest motherfucker we had and hated it, I always got disturbed with dumbass questions. Soon as I got the chance to take a different desk I did.

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196 points·3 years ago

I don't remember the exact article, but I'm pretty sure it was Valve, and I think they always had the right idea.

Bullpens, lots of developers crammed together. But what really set them apart was entire workstations on desks that were on wheels, you could rearrange the bullpen into small groups as your projects needed. All the desks were even the perfect width so they could be wheeled into a conference room, of which there are tons in their offices for just such a purpose. Need some time alone? Grab an office. Need some time in a team? Put your desks together. Need some time with just a couple people, in quiet? Put the desks into their own room.

Yeah, that was valve. And the crazier part was that the entire workstations just needed one power and one ethernet port to use, it had built in power strips and switches. Moving a desk from one bullpen to the next was like, five-ten minutes, max.

Slap a UPS on there so nothing powers down in transition. Boom.

Anyone that moved around a lot actually had one of those.

Built in reversing alarm beeper.


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This sounds like an absolutely fantastic idea.

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597 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

Missing from all of these pictures is that one wanker from marketing sales who, despite having an office for himself, always saunters over to the developer pens to have a loud conversation on his fucking cell phone.

Like that comment in the post above, I've been around for a good long while and haven't ever seen an open-plan or semi-cubicle (i.e. cupboards) environment where that guy didn't exist.

274 points·3 years ago

Sales is more frustrating than marketing in that respect.

At my work they have a bell and when someone meets their target they go and ring a fucking bell in the middle of the office and the whole sales team starts applauding.....

624 points·3 years ago

My favorite response to this behavior was a coworker shouting: "HOORAY! YOU DID YOUR JOB!" He then pushed for the IT department to get a cannon which would be fired every time a ticket was closed. Sadly, this policy was not implemented.

He might have some luck if he asked for a CanonTM .

94 points·3 years ago

Oh Brother™...

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17 points·3 years ago

get a cannon which would be fired every time a ticket was closed

What I imagined it would be like:

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193 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

Same at my office, only it's a gong and none of them know how to hit it properly so it always makes a weird "thud" noise.

Sales people need this crap to function because their actual work (calling people up and lying to them between their teeth) is not fulfilling at all.

EDIT: I should clarify that we sublet the office from these clowns; the part where we were sitting is currently being remodeled. It was peaceful and easy to work until then.

This is my first corporate gig and I thought this was unusual. Finding out it's common? Wow, that's depressing.

93 points·3 years ago

No, not unusual. Companies with too many beancounters in charge, yes. Even other types of engineering, yes. But there are a small number led by software people, like this one where the office is designed to maximize concentration.

Software is one of those few things where you need to spend about 2 hours loading the whole thing into your head, remembering where you left off, and thinking about the problem, before you can start making real progress. Then if that wanker interrupts you, you go get coffee and start all over again.

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21 points·3 years ago

Make it feel like a competition, and they'll fight over it.

That was Balmers big idea with Microsoft.

It very nearly destroyed one of the biggest companies in existence. Competition is actually very unhealthy, especially within an organization. Cooperation is always more productive and profitable.

Light competition is healthy. It encourages people to grow and get better. The competition at Microsoft, where if you lose you get fired? Not healthy.

"First prize is a fully loaded Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is your fired.

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8 points·3 years ago

They didn't warm the gong first? Animals...

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You should do the same thing when you fix a bug, but instead use a bullhorn.

114 points·3 years ago

Two horns, one for fixing a bug and one for creating a new one.

Oh God, it would sound like a superbowl game was happening 24/7

23 points·3 years ago

Vuvuzelas are pretty cheap.

Vuvuzelas, so it is more like World Cup: Africa.

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bug fix horn - honk

bug creation horn - honk honk honk honk

I now picture lots of offices with something like this playing all day.

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So that means you honk the horn three to seven times for each commit, right?

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28 points·3 years ago


We use the bullhorn for FIXING bugs, but sometimes bugs happen, and then a vuvuzela just feels right.

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Last place I worked, each sales team had its own distinctive noisemaker: gong, bell, I think one team had a vuvuzuela.. Allegedly it helped sales if a prospect overheard the "we made a sale" hullabaloo in the background on a sales call.

Fortunately, the support engineers were on a different floor and product developers in a different office, so the tech folks didn't have to put up with all the sales floor shenanigans.

"YAY we made a sale!!! That happens so rarely we freak out when someone buys our shit!"

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What. The. Actual. Fuck.

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Take your laptop to his office? Should be quiet for a while.

66 points·3 years ago

Funny you say that but sometimes when I need to make a personal call and can't find a conference room (I don't make them from my desk because I'm not an asshole) I use the marketting folks offices because they're rarely in them.

8 points·3 years ago

Thats how I excell professionally. Its the secret to my success, in a way.

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, always saunters over to the developer pens to have a loud conversation on his fucking cell phone.

There's a guy here at work who puts his fucking phone on speaker and yells into it in the hallway outside my office.

I have two yokels positioned on the opposite cube-wall from me, who will conference each other on speaker phone. It sounds LIKE A GOD DAMNED CALL CENTER IN HERE.

I am losing my me-ness.

Or the manager (one of several) on a speaker phone TWENTY-FIVE FEET away from the person they are talking to on it and it echoes across a hundred+ person semi-cubicle warehouse. They literally could both lean forward and see and hear each other.

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Step out of the office and loudly state embarrassing accusations like "[Coworker name], why are you here without pants on?" or "For the last time [Coworker name], I'm married."

He'll learn.

Or you could just kindly tell him to shut the fuck up. Kindly, of course.

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21 points·3 years ago

Missing from all of these pictures is that one wanker from marketing sales who, despite having an office for himself, always saunters over to the developer pens to have a loud conversation on his fucking cell phone.

Well yeah, because that's where it's quiet!

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16 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

A little over half a year ago I was working for a company that had a chronic whistler who was always wandering around. He was loud, and you could tell that he practices.

Hated that guy. Listed him as one of the reasons why I left that job during my exit interview.

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Haven't you figured it out? It pays to be special. Accountant in an accounting firm? Schlub. Accountant at a tech firm? Direct report to CEO, own office, etc.

Same in the reverse. Tech guy in tech company? Schlub. Tech guy at the accounting firm? Direct report to CEO, access to everyone's shit and ... their own office. Or, at least, shared cave.

I look at it as the opposite. Software developer in a company that sells software? The executives know what you do for a living. They sign press releases when you release something big. They realize you are a big part of why they are successful.

Software developer in a company that sells something else (thus, internally used software)? The executives might not even know your product exists, and probably wonder why they spend so much on software developers.

Yes, this seems to be the majority response. And I agree pure development doesn't quite fit into my theory. Though, I also don't agree that they are treated great at the tech firms, either. My experience has been that sales guys are the cream of the crop in tech firms.

Sales guys are the cream of the crop everywhere, because it's so easy to connect what they do to the bottom line. Gary sold our product! Give him 5%! Does it matter that it was Joe, over in engineering, that invented, designed, and implemented the thing that the customer wanted?

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Hahaha so true. Never thought about it before this way, but it definitely checks out from my experience!

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I never thought I'd be grateful to be in a cube.

127 points·3 years ago

I actually like cubes. The one I'm in now is especially great since outside of it is a huge window over looking a (currently frozen) river.

Cool rocks!

They're minerals Marie!

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Thanks, they're from our CIO's garden. Each department does a sketch for Halloween, we had parodied the Chilean miners incident in 2010 and she brought the rocks to use as props.

11 points·3 years ago

Awww, I thought you were implying they had a garden where they grew rocks...

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I overlook Vancouver International Airport and get to see planes land all day.

For those interested, Air China and Lufthansa have the best landings with little to no bounce. Stay away from Air Canada, but Westjet is decent. Air Canada lands planes like kids on a bouncey castle

It's currently grey and gross outside so a current picture won't do it justice.

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7 points·3 years ago

I absolutely love cubicles.

You get this little thing called PRIVACY.

Open office plans drain my soul a little more every single day.

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I also really like cubes. The best cube dividers were the ones with a tall wall separating the two halves of the row, and then slightly lower dividers separating adjacent cubes, kinda like:

|    |    |    |
|    |    |    |

|    |    |    |
|    |    |    |

With the vertical lines being lower walls and the horizontal line being the high wall. Means that people who work next to each other can stand to talk, but different groups are easily separated.

However my current cube is the best I've ever had (and honestly will ever have). It's in a corner and I get a huge window overlooking a golf course right next to my monitor: (potato pic)

They recently shrunk our cubes where I work to 6'x6'... had planned to do it to everyone but soon discovered that it was not a great idea due to a huge increase in temperature and power usage density (us developers have several machines in each cube... at one point I had 5). Of course, they didn't give us back our bigger cubes, they just only converted one row. But at the same time they floated the idea of going to half-height walls between the cubes. If they had done that, I would have quit on the spot. I'm not joking. I can deal with noise. What I will not deal with is being line-of-sight to 20 other people.

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The headline reminds me of apartment shopping. All the flashy photos are of the leasing office, outside, pool, common areas, etc. Few photos of the apartment itself because it's humdrum boring. I bet these companies have boring work areas, but what they want to show off all the fancy common areas.

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My current job and my last two jobs all had open spaces.

Job #1: There were 2 rooms. They were aptly named Concentrate and Collaborate. Both rooms had ample light, desks, power outlets, etc.

Concentrate was sound proof, didn't encourage disruptions, respected headphones and most importantly didn't allow any loud talking at all.

Collaborate had light music, whiteboards on all walls and encouraged talking with one another.

A typical day would start with stand up meetings in the noisy room, then people would disperse between the two rooms depending on the task they were working on and the ambiance required.

Job #2: There were groups of 4 desks, everyone had a desk for him/her self. 5 Groups of desk and a round table to accommodate impromptu meetings. There was a TV with volume to please whoever was watching it from 5 meters away, a Foosball table that people made noise on while others worked. Lastly, no one gave a fuck about productivity or respected each others space.

This was a big-ish enterprisey company. 10-floor building downtown. The company was pushing for a hip/cool/likeable work environment to attract young talent and fucked it up big time.

On the positive side, my line manager was fed up with all the shit so he left the company 6 months before I did. And hooked me up with Job #3 below while he was out. Good guy that.

Job #3: Starting next week. Been attending induction/training. Really hoping it isn't anything like Job #2. All I know it has open spaces for work. God help me.

In retrospect, if Job #1 was located more conveniently, and offered enough money. I would never leave that job. Still have the boss on Facebook and we catch up now and then. Good guy.

Really hoping it isn't anything like Job #2. All I know it has open spaces for work.

So... you didn't visit Job #3's offices?

Of course I visited their offices. I saw open space I will be working in. I am hoping it isn't like Job #2 in terms of people and company culture, etc.

Open space is open space. Some are arranged better than others. It's the people working in that space who make it a pleasure or a pain in the ass.

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'rayiner at HN made a good comment that's worth repeating here:

Offices are a really great example of the push to keep programmers from thinking of themselves as professionals, either by treating them like IT or tech support, or like college kids. Google or Facebook's revenue per engineer is probably 3x that of a law firm or consulting firm, but the overwhelming practice in the latter sorts of places is for each professional to have an office with a door.

When you're a growing startup, having private offices costs you flexibility as well as cash because open plan is easier to reconfigure as you grow. If you're at the point where you're commissioning a Ghery, you're well past that excuse.

Just to play devil's advocate (I actually despite open floor plans as well), lawyers usually need offices with doors for confidentiality reasons.

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44 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

This is a nightmare. After reading Peopleware ( you'd expect major players like Facebook and the likes have learned by now*. But nooooo, let's continue to pretend a software company is a huge fabric where people sit in front of monitors instead of working the assembly line. What else could be different?

* It is entirely possible that they just do this to show off to stakeholders, because those aren't impressed by a row of closed doors.

It is entirely possible that they just do this to show off to stakeholders, because those aren't impressed by a row of closed doors.

I think that's exactly it. They want it to look modern and trendy, and to hell with what the nerds think. And for some companies sticking a bunch of desks in a big open room is the cheap option too.

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I just want:

  • quiet space (sharing is OK but quiet)

  • 2 big-ass monitors

  • super fast laptop/desktop with at least 16GB RAM, SSD, i7

  • Decent standing desk

  • bathroom with sufficient number of stools/urinal, fast running water faucets (not the "green certified" craps)

  • flexible working hours/places

  • Good lightning (if not provide a desk lamp)

  • good pay (no free food/drink/snack is OK, just pay me for those stuff and I decide to eat them or not)

I don't want:

  • fancy furniture (sleep pods, heart-shape shit, etc..., foosball/pingpong table is fine)

  • free drink/snack

  • obligatory office afterhour happy hour

Are these too much to ask?

101 points·3 years ago

I'm sorry, instead you get:

  • constant visual distractions

  • constant audible distractions

  • limited storage

  • intimacy with coworkers habits on a level that married couples don't enjoy/endure

Don't worry, you can have peace, tranquility and control as soon as you enter bumper-to-bumper traffic outside work.

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211 points·3 years ago
  • Enough conferences rooms so people don't have to chat at desks

  • Stock the conference rooms with monitors/projectors and laptops so they can want to work there in teams

  • flex time

  • flex time

  • flex time

  • dare I say flex time

  • run company changes by senior staff. Nothing like investing 9 years of your life to be told by management that we're now an outlook company or that you need to take vacations on their schedule, etc... or product planning without consulting developers...

Enough conferences rooms so people don't have to chat at desks

I worked at a place that had "break-out" rooms. They were really about the size of an office, but with a table and some chairs in it only. They were first come, first serve.

Did a good job keeping the impromptu meetings somewhere quiet, and keeps distraction down for all parties.

We have those. They are great for when you need to make a phonecall and don't want to be that asshole that makes personal alls loudly for the entire office to hear.

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Flex time is difficult to manage when you are part of a large team. If you don't enforce at least core hours, it's very hard to get people working together.

I like the model of "flex time as long as you're on top of shit" - and that seems to be what flex time usually means.

Hard to be on top of your shit if you need to communicate with others while they're flexing. Tootie makes a good point. I'm all about core hours in the middle of the day, leaving the rest of work time up to the employee.

I currently have the most productive work schedule I've ever experienced.

Wake up at my convenience (a looming deadline or particularly bad bug doesn't allow much sleep, so it's self regulating)

Answer emails, do easy stuff, or dive right in at home while eating breakfast etc...

Around 11 or so head to the office. Spend the next couple hours (divided by lunch) Doing work with my partner that requires communication, be that working on each other's problems or planning new strategies etc...

Partner leaves (he gets to the office early, being a morning person) and I stay behind to work until I've finished what I needed to, or throw in the towel if it's getting late

Rinse and repeat.

Without those core work hours during the day I don't think I would get nearly as much done, and same should be said for the alone work time as well. When people talk to me and ask me questions while im coding, my progress slows to the speed of smell.

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Agreed. At mine the core hours are 10-4, which I think is pretty reasonable.

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Most places with flex time have some hours in the middle of the workday where you need to be there. But before and after you flex as you please.

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Nope, work on a team of over 600+ on a pretty important, high pressure contract. All of our time is super flexible. As long as we get done shit, it's fine.

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Can I add


  • An absolute minimum of meetings

Let's have a four hour meeting discussing why nothing gets done.

Don't forget that you need to have a meeting to discuss what the meeting should be about.

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There's a copy of that stuck on our meeting room door.

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12 points·3 years ago

but... but... meetings are my only social life...

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Yes, absolutely. Let's have a meeting to decide if we really do need to attend all these meetings. After we stop attending meetings for a while, let's have a retrospective meeting to really think about if not having all these meetings is good. If it's not, we'll go back to having the meetings.


Hey! That's Scrum master, for you are my scrummy slaves.

Although last place I worked the retrospectives were really good, but then again we were a 4 man team.

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That's a really long list

I only want one thing:

  • Remote working

51 points·3 years ago

Let me step that up:

Remote working, but still a desk I can go to. No programming job exists in a vacuum, so you'll always need to talk to people. When you do, it's good to know there's a space with a docking station, comfortable chair, monitors, etc., at your disposal.

Definitely! I've been 100% remote for 8 years now. Since I don't work directly with anyone in my nearest office, I would only go in occasionally. They eventually took my desk away because they needed it for other folk who don't get to WFH.

Now when I do go in (sometimes I just want to go have lunch with like minded folk or whatever) I borrow the office of someone who is not in that day (travelling or WFH themselves) and it sucks. Sitting there surrounded by pictures of someone else's kids. Feeling like I don't want to disturb their world I try not to move anything and put it exactly where it was if I do.

Then when I leave for that day I feel creepy, like I was in someone's house and but they will never know. So I started writing a note on the whiteboard or something thanking them for the office, which then feels like "hey buddy your wife was great!"

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I can't tell you how much I hate it when my office has shitty lightning. I mean, c'mon! If you're gonna have lightning, it should be spectacular, none of that faint fizzle crap. I want thick, massive bolts that splay out across the entire sky and make you question existence.

Or glare from lighting on your black terminal screen...

I've had to twist the light bulbs to turn them off in the area in order to see the screen

I find it helpful when I notice glare from the lightning on my monitor. Helps me know when to take cover.

"quick, alt-tab alt-tab!"

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oh god the afterhour happy hour bullshit. I just spent 9 hours working here (and have a 1 hour drive) and you think I wanna sit around and bullshit with you people instead of idk going home to my fking family? fuck the modern office environment.

126 points·3 years ago

- So... how about that work that we just did.

- Yeah...

But have you seen the size of new receptionist's tits?

Hostile after-hours work environment! beep beep beep

Hey sweet tits. I see you typing an email to HR. Why don't you come back to my place so we can just bang it out?

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I pictured an office robot saying that with arms flailing around wildly

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yeah, the happy hours are where the real decisions are made.

that said, it's not happy hour if you aren't getting there until 5:30 or something. Happy hour starts at 3. That's why it's happy.

That's not where I make my decisions. What's the point of working for 8 hours a day if you're going to postpone important work-related decisions until after work? What are you supposed to do at work then? Play ping pong?

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I work from home and am a homebrewer with a 5 tap keg setup. Every hour is happy hour.

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46 points·3 years ago

You have time for a fking family? slacker!..

Clearly s/he is not a leet rockstar code ninja (seriously, this phrase appeared in an email from a recruiter today).

I write or review most of the job descriptions for the openings we have here in our company and I forbade everyone to use the terms ninja, jedi or "wear the company t-shirt" (the last one I guess is a local expression).

I try my best to respect the people who I want to apply for these jobs.

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How can you be both a rock star and a ninja? Rock stars are noisy, ninja are silent.

31 points·3 years ago

What does a rock star ninja concert sound like? The sound of one hand clapping.

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I guess you are not a Team Prayer. Velly bad.

In my experience, the people called "team players" are really just the biggest suckers. Working Saturdays doesn't make you a team player, it makes you dumb.

Agreed. I know a few people who worked a lot of overtime sacrificing their health and personal lives to get projects over the line with the promise of time off later on, only to be thrown straight into another project when that one finished. And these are people on hourly rates, not permanent.

Well if they're hourly, wouldn't they earn a lot more from so much overtime? I'm not saying it's all that good but it would explain the additional motivation.

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I like the friday evening bar as an excuse to get drunk and play lots of table tennis...

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I want a water tube leading to my chair, like I were a hamster, as well as a urinal built into my Aeron butt-pedestal.

Okay, but you are going to have to power your computer by running on this wheel thingy. Sorry, gotta be green about this.

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16 points·3 years ago

A good chair!

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I did an internship (software engineering) at a large investment bank who shall remain nameless. They get a lot of hate from a lot of places, but I can confirm they probably tick more boxes on your list than the companies listed in the article.

I've actually visited Google/Facebook offices in London and I have seen first hand the things mentioned in this article.

I had the same reaction to that list. Did an internship after my junior year in a certain Investment Bank's quant group and they checked like every single box on that list. The main downside to working there was the lack of breadth in the work you got to do, but that's also true for lots of "real" software companies.

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"obligatory office afterhour happy hour". WTF, it seems like is come out of TV commercial. That is the most stupid thing that I ever heard.

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In a typical employer? Definitely. It seems in the Canadian IT market at least, getting anything other then open concept is as rare as hen's teeth, and the places that you do get it in, you pay through the nose with almost all of those perks you listed being verboten, along with your salary being 50% less then the open concept shops.

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Are these too much to ask?

Yes. Except for the no free snacks part.

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It's not perfect, but the Fog Creek bionic office gets a lot of things right.

Bullpens are great for some developers sometimes but not for everyone all the time. Sure, I can code in a noisy environment with distractions everywhere, but I'm more comfortable in a quiet space where I can get in the Zone™ and get things done.

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116 points·3 years ago

I MISS MY CUBE SO MUCH! I work in Silicon Valley, and my office held a book discussion group on introverts during our transition to an open office plan. There was a short quiz to see whether you were an introvert or an extrovert, and lo and behold, most of the office were introverts. This was brought up to higher management (they also fell in the introvert category) but they disregarded the input.

70 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

Most engineers tend to be introverts. Was also working somewhere with a push towards the open office plan ("to promote COLLABORATION!" as touted by management). Could see that productivity was heading downhill in the "one big open office" format and left.

Comment deleted3 years ago

True. I have worked in a building where all of the software devs had their own offices. If you wanted to collaborate with someone else you'd walk over to their office, close the door and collaborate without interrupting other people.

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I hate how people think being introverted is automatically a bad thing or that it means that you don't like people. It just means that it takes energy when you spend time with others.

The same people that think "good communication skills" means talking directly to people.

My emails contain more information and correct information and the can be used as a reference later.

Email is good communication.

53 points·3 years ago

If someone comes to my desk and tells me something I tell them to send it in an email or "I'll forget".

I won't forget. But if you can lay your words out properly in text not only do I have a better understanding of what was being said, but I can cover my ass, you can cover your ass, and that text will be there forever for reference if shit hits the fan.

Email, as far as I'm concerned, is the only way to talk about work related tasks.

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This was brought up to higher management (they also fell in the introvert category) but they disregarded the input.

Well duh... I mean all of you introverts need to become more extroverted!

And how are you going to do that unless you are put in a place where you are forced to be "collaborative" and "social".


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A few years ago, I was working at a company where they had just purchased an old shoe making factory and were renovating it into office space so they could have room to grow. In each spot where a person had sat for 8-12 hours hunched over in front of a sewing machine, I was told to install a workstation and run network and electric cable down from the ceiling where the sewing machines had been hooked up.

At the end the project, a co-worker of mine that had the foresight to take a picture of the old setup took one of our finished work and compared the results. The room looked a lot cleaner, and didn't have the smell of oil and leather anymore, but in the photo, it looked like a factory that you'd see in the early part of the 20th century by its layout. The lone difference being instead of looking like it would make shoes, it looked like it'd make code. They both looked like you'd have the same amount of privacy (aka none), and unless you bought headphones, the same amount of silence for concentrating on your task(s).

So to get to the point, every time I see articles like this one that's linked, I don't see a fancy office, or a stylish work environment, or a hip new way to collaborate and be all super productive. I see a cleaner, digital sweatshop, a modern version of an age that many thought we had left decades ago. It hasn't really left, it's just had the cleaning crew in and been given a few runs through the marketing machine to make what was once undesirable "sauve and sexy!".

Picture please?

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The people who decide are not the people who code. The offices pictured are stylish, and I imagine the people involved are very pleased with their choices. Lowered programming productivity is difficult to measure, and therefore invisible. In fact, there might even be overall contempt to the staff that actually makes things happen, because technical staff is generally too different in person, and too low-level in organization to matter to the bigwigs.

I left when my prior employer chose to relocate and go for open plan office. They rehired me as consultant a few years later, and I was sitting with the remnants of the development team next to sales and project management. One particular person had the most irritating ringtone and her phone was ringing like 3 times an hour -- quite a step down from the private rooms that contained 1, 2 or at most 4 people before the move. I was really glad when I got my VPN stuff, and I literally vanished that day, never to return. It's been 2 years and I've worked from home all that time.

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People don't get much coding done in those kinds of offices. They generally have to do their coding after they get home in the evening. (from my experience with that kind of office setup, anyway)

That's what I did. All the decor + layout + etc was pretty much something people pretty much wandered through and jabbered about. I ended up just working full time from home. If I get in a 6 hour "work" day, I'm FAR more productive than anyone on-site.

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22 points·3 years ago

Or the guys from r/sysadmin who have their "desk" crammed in between racks in a 65degree F data center where you can't hear other peoples conversations you also can't hear anything from all the 1u fans and HVAC units are screaming like banshees.

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145 points·3 years ago

Mark Zuckerberg is brilliant. The less you are able to work, the more you're probably on Facebook.

The less you are able to work, the more you're probably on Facebook.

So you’re saying their business model is to hire lots of people and lock them in silly open plan floors where it’s impossible to do anything more productive than clicking through FB, thus raising the ad sales. Brilliant, indeed.

No, their business plan is to sell everyone else on the idea that this is an effective way to run an IT business, thus convincing lots of other companies to hire lots of people and lock them in silly open plan floors where it’s impossible to do anything more productive than clicking through FB, thus raising the ad sales.

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My dev environment at work:

  • 2 monitors

  • Linux + i3 + vim

  • 32GB ram, Core i7 3.4Ghz, SSD

  • Open plan office, but everyone is nice and quiet.

  • Regularly cleaned bathrooms just around the corner from the office

  • Flexi-time

  • We use git and people write sensible commit messages

  • Unit tests encouraged, but no test coverage metric nonsense

  • We use slack, which is essentially a bunch of glorified irc channels all the devs talk in (We have a team in the US and in the UK)

It's not particularly extravagant, but it's very productive.

34 points·3 years ago

but everyone is nice and quiet.

This is where it gets tricky. Open plan offices can absolutely work if people who talk DON'T YELL EVERY TIME THEY OPEN THEIR MOUTHS.

Now, finding a group of people who all agree that inside voices should be used inside, is the hard part.

5 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

This plus standing desk. Standing desks are amazing.

Edit: I mean adjustable sit/stand desks.

I don't like standing desks.

I understand why some people love them, but I wouldn't choose to have one if given the option.

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34 points·3 years ago

I'd prefer 40 hour weeks. This place looks like they expect you to live there.

17 points·3 years ago

How common are these bullpen setups?

I haven't gotten a coding job yet, I finish my BS in CS this May, but I cannot imagine getting work done in these places.

The smallest interruptions set me back a long while when I'm thinking through how some method is working to find the bug. It's like my brain's just a damn etch-a-sketch.

I'm incredibly noise (and general disruption) sensitive, but I've been working in an open plan for years without issue. It's simple - you put your headphones on when you want to be left alone, you take them off when you need a break and want to socialize.

One thing you have to get over if you have it is screen anxiety - you need to stop caring if someone is watching your screen at work. Most of the time no one is, but people stare ahead when thinking and they might be staring in your general direction and not seeing you. At the good companies no one cares what you're doing - I might be playing a game on my big screen and no one would blink an eye; they trust me to get things done when they need to be done, and to manage my own time.

+1 for screen anxiety. Look, here's the deal; I can't code 8 straight hours a day every day. Every once in a while there's going to be CNN or maybe a forum on my screen. Deal with it.

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Cubes seem really common; noise-wise, cubes are just as bad.

I sit across from a guy who chews ice all day. This guy is really, really big so it's not only the noise, but the visual distraction of his exaggerated cow-like chewing motions right to the side of my monitor. Hard to focus on code when I see this in the corner of my eye all day long:

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From Eric Schidt (Executive Chairman) and Jon Rosenberg's (Advisor to Larry Page) 2014 book "How Google Works", from a section titled "Keep them crowded":

"What most outsiders fail to see when they visit Google is the offices where employees spend the bulk of their time. Follow your typical Googler (and probably LinkedIn, Yahoo, Twitter or Facebook employee, although last time we got stopped by security) from the volleyball court, cafe or kitchen back to their workspace and what will you find? A series of cubicles that are crowded, messy, and petri dish for creativity.

Are you in your office right now? Are your coworkers nearby? Spin around and wave your arms. Do you hit anyone? If you have a quiet conversation on your phone while sitting at your desk can your coworkers hear you? We're guessing no."

They continue:

"When you can reach out and tap someone on the shoulder, there is nothing to get in the way of communications and the flow of ideas. The traditional office layout, with individual cubicles and offices, is designed so that the steady state is quiet. Most interactions between groups of people are either planned (a meeting in a conference room) or serendipitous (hallway / water cooler / walking through the parking lost meeting). This is exactly backward; the steady state should be highly interactive; with boisterous, crowded offices brimming with hectic energy. Employees should always have the option to retire to a quiet place when they've had it with all the group stimulation, which is why are offices include plenty of retreats: nooks in the cafes and microkitchens, small conference rooms, outdoor terraces and spaces, and even nap pods. But when they go back to their desks, they should be surrounded by their teammates"

I'll probably get downvoted through the floor for posting it, it's not MY opinion or anything I necessarily agree with, but I just felt like it gives a bit of insight into why some of these companies are still insisting on keeping everyone in bull pens when they've got the space to build basketball courts.

Programming is not playing in a band. You need to discuss things with people sometimes, but that passage seems to imply that programming works like this:

A: OK! Next variable? foo?
B: Yeah. Now for loop?
A: Hmm... no, maybe a while loop!
B: A do while loop!
A: Yeah!
B: We're collaborating!
A: Yeah!

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11 points·3 years ago

I can come up with a lot of good arguments and point out faulty logic. But what I really want to say is fuck everything about this.

The arrogance in this book is off the charts. (Not referring to the sample you posted).

I think the section that really surprised me was "our offices include plenty of retreats: nooks in the cafes and microkitchens, small conference rooms, outdoor terraces and spaces, and even nap pods"

See, even as an extroverted and really social person, who would probably enjoy being at close quarters with a load of other extroverted people most of the day (and absolutely hated the office I used to work in where everybody was so introverted there was practically zero conversation, not even polite "good mornings"), the commenters here are right about something: To be genuinely productive I probably do need a monitor and ambient music loud enough to phase every other distraction out.

Those "retreats" sound about as good for getting work done in peace and quiet as trying to work on an 11inch laptop crammed into an airline seat.

I feel like you could get away with asking everyone to come in and spend most of their time actually talking to one another (an idea I can get behind) if maybe those "retreats" sounded like somewhere you could really get shit done when you needed to.

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Have an upvote, i much prefer this environment to cube city, although I can't imagine everyone in one room, pods some amount of people with people i can take, the important thing that people seem to be forgetting (I suspect all these offices have them) is:

Employees should always have the option to retire to a quiet place when they've had it with all the group stimulation

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45 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

The best policy I've seen implemented involved a noise canceling headphone allowance. Leaving the office just required taking them off, and people could still think and talk with other developers in a heartbeat if needed.

That and it allowed people who could grind out code under noise and pressure to choose to do so.

edit: budget allowance. i.e. here's 300 bucks for headphones. renews every two years

The problem with the headphone model is that you need to listen to something on them to truly block things out. For some folks (like myself), it's just as distracting as ambient noise. might help, if you need neutral ambient noise for your headphones.

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Not absolutely required with noise-cancelling headphones if they're any good. You turn 'em on, even without anything playing, and sounds drown out unless they're loud or sharp.

Sharp, like people's voices? :) I have Bose QC15's, they block out constant noise well, but more inconsistent stuff still comes through.

What headphones do you have?

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Yeah, it's real fucking collaborative when everybody has noise canceling headphones strapped to their heads just so they can hear themselves think.

Oh yeah! 3 of my last 5 companies had no headphone rules and that included eng and dev. And all of them were open plan.

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Wow, I'd immediately begin looking for a new job. I can barely cope with headphones, mostly because of a bunch of inconsiderate loudmouths that sit in my cube-farm.

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I don't think I've ever worked some place that doesn't allow headphones. Is that common?

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15 points·3 years ago

I 100% have horrible luck with open offices.

99% of the people I work with I love to death and get along great. It's the 1% that end up sitting right next to me that drive me fucking insane and makes me want to seek new employment.

The guy who sits about 2 1/2 feet away from me isn't the worst I've had, but really annoys the piss out of me pretty often. At any moment of the day he is either talking to himself or humming a tune. He regularly takes very private phone calls (like arguing with collectors about medical bills) at his desk.

The worst though is that he does this thing with chips that drives me fucking bonkers. He keeps a huge bag of cheetos in a drawer that he regularly pulls out to snack from. I don't mind snacking at your desk, we all get hungry, it's just what he does that drives me nuts. He pulls out the bag and uncrumples it in no quiet way at all and eats 3-4 chips. After the 3-4 chips he will crumple the bag up and put it back in the drawer. 30 seconds later he will pull the bag out and do it again. He's done this consistently for 45 minutes straight once. I've been inches from turning and yelling at him to have his fucking fill of chips and to stop eating 3 at a time. Keep the fucking bag out until you are done and then put it away.

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This blog post is a few years old, but it has all the elements I look for in a workspace:

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"My name is Matt Blodgett. I'm 6'7", obsessed with independent music, and a software engineer."

I wonder which software engineer he's obsessed with.

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22 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

In all those pictures all I could think was, man everyone they could all have large private offices, instead of all that crap.

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i worked in an open space like this before i started working from home. it was hell

also whats with this one monitor nonsense, you need at least 2. personally i switched to 3 ~two years ago, shits amazing

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I get my best work done in coffee shops. I don't know why, but something about the continuous susurration helps me to focus. I've written 3 3D engines ( C++, OpenGL ), several dumb games, and a few iOS and Android apps almost entirely in coffee shops.

59 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

To that end, I'll suggest a subtle difference in modes.

In a coffee shop (at least the ones I've been to and worked in), odds are pretty good you don't know anyone and no one knows you. Accordingly, nobody is going to be coming up to you and talking at/to you or about topics you are interested in or impact your work, while you're trying to get things done. What you're describing is your personal flavor of white noise -- effectively the same as someone else having music on in the background, nature sounds, etc.

In an open plan office, surrounded by coworkers who all know you and are working on things either directly or indirectly related to your work, conversations are extraordinarily distracting. Somebody might suddenly come up to you and start talking, breaking your focus. Alternatively, a conversation might occur in earshot that has something to do with something you're working on, which your brain keys on, either for familiarity of voices/concepts, or because you need/want to participate to ensure your work is not impacted without proper contribution (or vice versa, if your work impacts them you can share to minimize conflict later). Sounds totally awesome from a "hey we're all on the same team!" perspective, which is true, but is completely awful in terms of focus/productivity for each individual. In an open plan office, I'd be surprised to hear of anyone that can sit down and get more than 30-60 minutes of sustained productivity without hitting one of these distractions (or a multitude of others).

To an outsider / manager / etc, it seems like small distractions wouldn't matter much, but it's actually a really big deal due to warm-up time, threaded thought, etc.

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I think a general background whitenoise probably works for a lot of people.

I think what doesn't work is being able to hear bits and pieces of discussions ( especially phone conversations ) because I think our brains are naturally wired to want to know what other people are talking about.

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31 points·3 years ago·edited 3 years ago

Honest question. Is office space so expensive that you can't give employees their own office? If you can hire better employees and the existing employees are more productive, it seems like a bad move to not have offices.

The claim that an open office space allows you to better communicate and monitor employees is false. You just have to design things correctly. Require everyone's door to be open (literally or figuratively) at certain times of the day. That facilitates communication. Give them a smaller office with a window (that the employee doesn't face) so that you can see what they're doing. Or put an entire team in their own office.

It's basically an attempt to recreate the feel of a bunch of people working together in a university lounge, while forgetting that for most people that was like 20% of their work and the rest was done alone hiding in the back of the stacks.

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my company is in the process of moving. cubes are 3x more expensive than open floor plan adjustable height desks.

What's the cost of a cube vs the cost of hiring a good developer?

you're thinking like an engineer about this. there's your problem. You need to think like an accountant.

--- Entering accountant mode ---

1 developer = 1 productivity unit per day

Therefore if we cut everyone's personal space in half, we can double our productivity while keeping overhead the same!

Am I doing this right?

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Extroverted office environments are just god awful. I think I'd be able to tolerate about 30 minutes of work in any one of those environments before simply tenuring my resignation. What's worse is that since the whole concept of the "modern" work environment is one which purely targets extroverts alone, anyone who is actually mentally and physically drained by these environments enough for it to compromise their ability to work are simply considered to be bad employees.


Since companies are so desperate for talent, couldn't giving people offices be a big selling point? I'm surprised no one has picked up on it and given it a try.

I've never worked there but Microsoft gives every engineer an office AFAIK. Why doesn't every MS recruiter kick off their cold emails with subject-line "Hey, want your own office?"

The last job I interviewed for (and subsequently got) they came to the end of the deal, said they were very interested in bringing me on, and asked if I had any qusstions.

"I haven't seen the work space yet. Does it include four walls and a door or would I be working from one of the three cube farms I noticed during the tour?"

They stammered around a bit and admitted that they hadn't actually determined where they were going to put the person who filled the position, and that an open cube had been discussed. They asked if that would be an issue for me.

I just flat out told them "I know this is going to sound pretentious, and so I'll just own that, but I'm not interested in taking any full time position in a cubicle."

They made some notes and said they'd be in touch.

That afternoon, they called and asked if I would drop back by and look at some remodeling options they were considering. Long story short, I got four walls, large east and north facing windows, a nice door and new furniture.

The moral of the story is, just grow a pair and tell them what you expect up front. Don't take the first place that gives you an offer and don't bitch after the fact when you find out it isn't what you (didn't) bargained for.

I've worked in a small bullpen that was noisy and full of interruptions and I've worked in a large, cubicle-d office that is fairly quiet. I hate the latter and miss dearly the former. So many friendships made, so much knowledge learned in the bulpen. I would trade my quiet office for any of these bulpens.

Just one person's opinion.

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Those pictures might only capture 2/3 of the office. If these were photos of where I work, that would be the case.

We have the awesome community areas, where people go to meet and socialize. We also have the open-concept "pods", where 10 to 20 people have desks together, which are great for project collaboration. Just like the pictures in the article.

But what we also have are dozens of isolated nooks and rooms where a developer can go for some quiet, uninterrupted work. It is the combination of all 3 that makes the office work.

If you really need some quiet time where no one if going to interrupt you, then working from home is an option. Or anywhere else you can get an Internet connection. There is no need to be in the office.

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