In my first full-time computer job, I was a sysadmin on a 7 month contract at the University where I was a student. I took a semester off from school and worked full-time. They paid me well. I had an office to myself (with a door), a Sparc 5 and a Mac on my desk.

In my second full-time computer job, I worked for a mid-sized oil company. I sat in an ugly beige cubicle all day. I had one computer. But I got paid more for my time.

In my current job, I live in a grey and yellow cubicle and get paid even more. It's relatively quiet and dark. The engineers around me all like it that way. It's nicer than our older building and older cubicles. There are a ton of distractions. Phone calls, IM, people stopping by, noise in the hallways, etc.

But in my new job, I'll apparently be in a cubicle bullpen or sweatshop as I like to call them. There goes productivity. Apparently the folks at work haven't read and understood the standard literature. I work from home once in a while as it is just to get away from the distractions of the office. Being in closer proximity, with fewer walls, more noise, and brighter lights will certainly make it worse.


I would have thought that as I advance through my career these things would get better, not worse.

Posted by jzawodn at November 14, 2002 10:53 PM

Reader Comments
# Barnaby James said:

Ug, I do not envy you. I went from a cube to a startup company with no cubes. As bad, if not worse than you can imagine. People blithely having conversations inches away from your head. The people "in charge" said that they really liked the "collaborative environment". Of course they all had offices. Unsuprisingly, that company has gone down the crapper.

Get some comfortable headphones if you plan on doing anything that requires concentration...

on November 15, 2002 07:58 AM
# Basil Hussain said:

I (along with the team I'm in) may also soon be facing a similar fate.

We're currently lucky to be in comparative luxury. Our company owns the whole building we're in, so after our team expanded, we got to have a whole empty floor (approx 4500 sq-m) to ourselves! Six desks don't take much room, so we had lots of fun imagining recreational uses for the rest of the space - bowling alley, 5-a-side soccer, pool table, etc. :-)

But, as the company now want to rent out the floor to another firm, we face having to move back downstairs with the rabble...

Jeremy's right, it's no fun trying to program with 20 other people around you talking on the phone.

on November 15, 2002 09:22 AM
# Dave W. Smith said:

The first 3 chapters of Alistair Cockburn's "Agile Software Development" is effectivly a major update to PeopleWare. It has the best discussion I've seen yet on information flow in software projects. The major headings in chapter 3 are "Convection Currents of Information", "Jumping Communication Gaps", "Teams as Communities", and "Teams as Ecosystems". Office layout plays a major part.

on November 15, 2002 11:05 AM
# Dan Isaacs said:

Hmm. I work better in those situations, as I'm les likely to goof off on the web. Plus, Real Life Goofing off is better for developing trust relationships. It's not all bad. Unless you don't like the people youwork with.

It was refreshing to see those pics. I still laugh at the thought of Asa eating all those doughnuts. You still have the Z I made in your cube?

on November 15, 2002 12:07 PM
# sean said:

feel your pain jeremy. i'm in the same downgrading situation. cube farms are the worst and i have no idea how i got to where i am. i'm trying the headphone thing but people just come right up and tap on the shoulder. i work from home as often as i can.

on November 15, 2002 12:10 PM
# kasia said:

I have an office I share with two coworkers (funny, we're the only three female programmeres here and we're stuck together). My part of it:

It's not all bad.. despite the one coworker who spends all day talking loudly on the phone (in hindu).. and the other one who likes to sing along with headphones on.. or the fact that my monitor faces the door..

At least I have a nice view..

I do miss having my own office with a door I could lock.

on November 15, 2002 12:44 PM
# Scott Johnson said:


As much as I feel your pain, one thing comes to mind: You Have a Job. In the context of that and the alternative, cubicle hell isn't so bad.

A good friend of mine, with a baby due in the next two weeks, had a similar situation (good cube), and just got laid off. I suspect that he'd have preferred bad cube to no job.

Still it does suck. Just thought a bit of perspective might not hurt.

-- Scott

on November 15, 2002 09:43 PM
# Dan de Isaacs said:

i don't like these relative judements of ones situation. For every middle-class persona with a family that has been laid off, there are dirt poor people making $6 an hour, working two jobs and still won't clear what I'd make on Unemployment alone. And let's not forget the poor little Bangladesh child that made my tennis shoes. Shit, i can live on WELFARE and still be better off than %90 of the people in the known Universe.

Your plight is yours. As long as there is electricity, Z would have a job. I should be lucky to have a job. Z's job is lucky to have him.

on November 16, 2002 08:36 AM
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