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Chris's Random Ramblings

Wed, 02 Mar 2005 - Life in a cubicle farm

Steven writes about office space for programmers and notes that he and many others like individual offices rather than cubicles. At my first fulltime job, for the most of the time I had an office to myself, and occasionally sharing with one other person. Until then I would have said I definitely preferred to work alone in an office.

When I moved to Linuxcare we had one large cubicle farm (though there were less than 20 employees). Now I actually prefer working in a cubicle, with lowish walls. I think that the open layout really helps with communication between developers. It makes it very easy to ask or answer quick questions. You are more aware of what other people are working on and as a result are more likely to know who or what to ask when you are trying to solve a problem.

Noise can be an issue, and I think its important to have a few rooms set aside where people can concentrate in silence if they need it. Also important is a separate area where groups can have longer discussions away from everyone else. Mikal says there is no way in cubicle-land to mark yourself as busy. But wearing headphones works fairly well - the louder the music the more you want to be left alone :-) Music is also a good way to block out conversations if they get too annoying.

In my current group of coworkers (about 15 people in the group), I think that the open cubicle design works much better than if we were all in separate offices. I do agree with the observation that you need a lot of power and network ports. I have about 5 network and power ports and I still run out of room.