Open Office Plans Increasing

There was a post last week on about the increase in completely open office layouts where rows of people work side by side. I was thinking about this and thought I would mention the various ‘office’ spaces I have worked in.

My first engineering job for Lockheed Martin was in a cubicle city, a converted former 2 floor warehouse with 12″ slits of glass for windows every 15 feet or so around the perimeter. There were approximately 10 rows of 25 or so cubicles if I remember correctly (in our bay). The facility was on a decent sized lot with grassy outdoor space, but we were discouraged from loitering around outside due to security concerns. This was the first time I had ever worked in an environment like this. I did not care for it.

My boss at NorthStar steel couldn’t be bothered to make arrangements for me to have an office, or desk, chair, etc. I was told to clean out a closet that was being used for storage by quality assurance and use that as an office. It was a closet, approximately 8×5 feet, no window obviously. I found a couple of file cabinets and a desktop and turned it into a desk. Found a chair and a bookshelf someplace else and made the best of it. Stayed in that office for about 2 years, then was able to move into a real office. After I accepted a corporate position and started traveling for the company the local people politely moved my things into the hall while I was gone. They needed the office. I ended up moving into another storage closet in the chem. lab. I was only there about one day every few weeks so it didn’t really matter much. The chem. lab closet was quiet, a little bigger than the first but the ceiling leaked.

NorthStar was purchased by Gerdau, a Brazilian company. Gerdau management in Brazil had embraced the open office concept many years ago. Most of their offices in Brazil were open floor plans with walled in meeting rooms available. I spent a decent amount of time in Brazil working in these offices and actually found them to be OK. It was better than a cubicle city. Most people popped in earbuds when they didn’t want to be distracted. The facilities in the US that have been purchased by Gerdau have been encouraged to convert to open office plans.

I worked from home for a year while consulting. This was by far the best office I have ever had. A nice view of the front yard and street, three windows that opened, a 20MB internet connection, comfortable chair, Macbook Pro and a Linux box. I had no distractions, was able to be productive and achieve very deep focus.

We have offices at Sterling Steel. When I started they had an office, laptop, desk and chair ready for me. I’m in the basement, so no window but the office is nice. It needs a paint job which I will probably do myself sometime soon.

The post has a link to a blog post describing FogCreek’s new offices, very nice.

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