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    My office is in an orchard – one hundred yards from anyone. No one bugs me. If I roll down the outer (metal) door, I don’t get cell phone service, which can be handy.


    The walk to the soda machine kinda sucks.

    I’d show you a picture of my big monitors inside, but which part of “Private Property” don’t you understand? :)

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      Oh, but even though the soda machine is not nearby, the hen house is.


      How’s that for glossy architectural marketing photos?

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        I’m curious about the structure. Is it some form of shipping container? Can you tell us a little bit about how it’s constructed?

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          Thanks for asking.

          Office is one end of a 40ft x 8ft cargo container. Here are outside photos. The remainder is used for storage.

          Construction was basically framing-in the inside of container. The floor is made partly of wood, so that helps. Then adding electrical, insulation, window, door, and drywall. The container came with a light “rollup” door on the office end. The framing is a little over-engineered since it’s not structural.

          I am a slob, so I have no nice inside pictures. Here is an early one, although, now I’ve added a few bookshelves on the walls above the table.

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            I’d love to do something like this, but have no idea about the cost. Do you mind sharing how much the container and retrofitting ran you?

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              • Grade spot for container, gravel base: $300
              • Slightly used container, painted, 2 rollup doors, vents, delivered: $4125.
              • Framing: $600 incl labor.
              • Electrical: $200 (not including labor)
              • Insulation: $100
              • Door, Window: $200, used
              • Drywall: $200
              • Air-conditioner: Had one lying around
              • Ceiling fan: $40
              • Permit for installing container: Depends on location.
              • Other permits: Depends on location.

              NOTE: You may not be able to obtain building permits for this type of project, depending on location.

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          Looks like your disabled access is a bit ad-hoc. ;-)

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            Good point. In my defense, I have that little ramp. And I can drive up in a golf cart.

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              Heh. Seriously, this is cool. I want something like this. I resigned from a job I love earlier this week to move out of the big smoke and spend more time with family and less time commuting.

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                Too bad they wouldn’t let you work from home :(

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                  Yeah, I was initially disappointed at that but I’m really looking forward to the sabbatical now :-)

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          That third picture gives me the shakes. I had more privacy and personal space than that at the minimum-wage telephone survey job at which I lasted one day when I was a teenager. It makes a cube farm look downright utopian. Thank god for remote work–without it I don’t know if I could have managed to stay in this industry.

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            Having worked in a cube farm, literally anything is better than a cube farm. They have the worst aspects of an office (cut off from your team) combined with the worst aspects of an open layout (noise). The teams I’ve worked on with the highest cohesion have been open layout. The teams I’ve worked on with cube farms have always had the lowest job satisfaction and the worst team cohesion. So from my perspective, open layout has been great and I’d highly recommend it. Are there better layouts? Possibly, and sure, I’d be willing to try them. But in my experience cube farms simply don’t work in any regard.

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              Having worked in a cube farm, literally anything is better than a cube farm.

              Research tends to back this up - overall dissatisfaction is highest in workers with low-walled cubicles. But having said that, the open layout office comes in almost immediately behind.

              Are there better layouts?

              Research also confirms what we all knew - private offices are king!

              It’s interesting to note that what you identify as the worst aspect of having a private office - interaction - isn’t reflected in the article I linked. And that mirrors my experiences as well. I’ve worked at a company with low cubes, companies with open floor plans, and currently work at a company that provides everyone with private offices.

              The reality I’ve experienced is that interaction with a team is improved with offices: we’re more likely to communicate in ways that preserves records for later (chat/Wiki) and when we do communicate face to face, it’s always done with respect to the other person’s availability. In other words, I’d never crash into a coworkers office if their IM was set to DND, but can’t count the number of interruptions I experienced when the only real cue to leave me alone was my wearing headphones.

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                Not to mention that at some (most?) companies arranged into cubes, it is assumed that if you’re not at your cube you’re not being productive- hence having to conceal breaks in awkwardly frequent trips to the bathroom and vending machines. Private offices give you the space to do what you want! Which, contrary to the claims of cube-purists, ends up being work a lot of the time.

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              Don’t they just wear headphones all day?

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                Headphones don’t provide privacy or freedom from visual distractions. (And sometimes music can be a distraction of its own.)

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                  This. My preferred means of focus is a quiet environment. While I certainly could wear noise-cancelling headphones without any music playing to achieve that, it’s also a pretty big hint that something has gone very, very wrong.

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                    Agreed 100%. I find listening to music very distracting, so I only use headphones when working to block people out if they’re being super annoying. And even then I’d normally just listen to white noise, rain on a car roof, or the sounds of heavy rain to block them out.

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                      Music is always a distraction, but probably less of a distraction than the discussion taking place at the desk next to you.

                      In my opinion, low cubicles are the absolute worst. They provide a slight illusion of privacy and personal space, but everyone else is always encroaching on your personal space by walking by and looking in or polluting your personal space with noise.

                      A completely open office seems equally terrible in terms of distractions, but you have no expectation of privacy, so you aren’t as annoyed by people peeking at your screen as they walk by.

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                  Those offices look like really cool dorm common areas. I doubt they’re doing it willfully, but it really feels like they’re designing to appeal to the workforce they want - people who are just out of college and want to hang out where they work.

                  I liked a recent short New Yorker piece about where open offices came from and how they’re being recognized as bad: http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-open-office-trap

                  I’ve worked at and visited enough buildings with all private offices, and they’re wonderfully quiet and serene. People can close their door and think in silence, with no visual distractions. It’s pretty hard to make those places look cool in a marketing photo, though…

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                    My home office:


                    More photos here.

                    From my notes on Parse.ly’s distributed team. I’ve never seen a startup office I like, including my own startup’s business team office in NYC, which I had a hand in designing. Offices are just unnatural places, especially for engineers and other “flow-based” creative workers. The greatest engineers always get their best hacking done outside of those awful places, no matter how wonderfully designed they may be.

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                      To counter most of the commenters here, I find that open offices are fantastic for communication and whole team productivity.

                      Having worked in cubes, offices, open floor plan, and now remotely, open floor was by far the best experience.

                      I want to elaborate more, but its difficult to type out a long explanation on a phone.

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                        I’ve had open plan offices in all four jobs. Two of them were small companies where each team had a room each, while two had massive open plan offices with hundreds of people in them. I found the team offices to work quite well, but multi-team open plan offices not so well. Visitors are impressed by our cavernous office with its chandeliers but IMO it can be very frustrating with lots of interruptions. Especially with floors that bounce when people walk by. (Which they inevitably do because there’s toilets & tea-/coffe points only at each end.)

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                          Two of them were small companies where each team had a room each

                          What did the team sizes look like? Small team offices can be manageable if the team dynamics are right, but I still prefer the approach of giving each developer their own office and having enough larger rooms that teams can grab them on an ad-hoc basis. If you’ve got enough space that you don’t need to strictly schedule rooms, that’s perfect; if not, as long as a team can get a room with little friction that seems to be perfect.

                          This is why I like developing software inland - real estate is really cheap here so it’s very easy to provision like this.

                          while two had massive open plan offices with hundreds of people in them.

                          Holy moly. I bet the noise pollution was overwhelming.

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                            In one of the jobs my team was 6 people at its peak. I found a picture of my team area here: http://www.andarchitects.co.uk/content/commercial/56 - it was my favourite office so far. There were 4 desks not showing in this picture, so 10 seats in total. Another 12 on the other side of the red wall there, and kitchens & more desks downstairs.

                            Latest job… well, noise pollution certainly is a problem. (It’s even busier now, as they’ve crammed more desks into the same space.)

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                        I work in a POD. A giant cube with my team. So half way between cube farm and open office plan.

                        But the best part? Nobody cares if I leave and work in a coffee shop, or private place, or work from home.

                        The only benefit of the pod is space. I have 5 monitors, and we have a giant TV.

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                          I would work from the bathroom stalls.. or get distracted and ride a unicycle around.

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