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Apple

Apple is About To Do Something Their Programmers Definitely Don't Want (medium.com) 315

Last week, The Wall Street Journal had a big feature on Apple Campus, the big new beautiful office the company has spent north of $5 billion on. The profile, in which the reporter interviewed Apple's design chief Jony Ive, also mentioned about an open space where all the programmers would sit and work. Ever since the profile came out, several people have expressed their concerns about the work environment for the developers. American entrepreneur and technologist Anil Dash writes: [...] There have been countless academic studies confirming the same result: Workers in open plan offices are frustrated, distracted and generally unhappy. That's not to say there's no place for open plan in an offices -- there can be great opportunities to collaborate and connect. For teams like marketing or communications or sales, sharing a space might make a lot of sense. But for tasks that require being in a state of flow? The science is settled. The answer is clear. The door is closed on the subject. Or, well, it would be. If workers had a door to close. Now, when it comes to jobs or roles that need to be in a state of flow, programming may be the single best example of a task that benefits from not being interrupted. And Apple has some of the best coders in the world, so it's just common sense that they should be given a great environment. That's why it was particularly jarring to see this side note in the WSJ's glowing article about Apple's new headquarters: "Coders and programmers are concerned their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting." Usually, companies justify putting programmers into an open office plan for budget reasons. It does cost more to make enough room for every coder to have an office with a door that closes. But given that Apple's already invested $5 billion into this new campus, complete with iPhone-influenced custom-built toilets for the space, it's hard to believe this decision was about penny-pinching. The other possible argument for skipping private offices would be if a company didn't know that's what its workers would prefer.
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Apple is About To Do Something Their Programmers Definitely Don't Want

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  • Greatly Insane (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:07PM (#54914619) Homepage Journal
    *pple has long been taken over by managers, marketers and fashion designers. The actual engineers are an afterthought.
    • Re:Greatly Insane (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:16PM (#54914703) Journal
      Sad but true. You can see it in the XCode UI changes. A decade ago, it was ugly and sometimes you had to go to the command-line, but it had all the necessary features and once you figured them out it was easy to use.
      Now XCode is pretty but it looks like it was designed by a product manager, the UI changes fairly often and the actual meaning of buttons is utterly opaque.
    • form over function (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lead Butthead ( 321013 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:33PM (#54914859) Journal

      reminds me a lot of Detroit in the 50s and 60s. The cars looked nice, but most are absolute crap under the hood.

    • The Spaceship is reserved for corporate, designers and marketeers. So duh it is open plan. Most programmers at Apple just book the conference rooms for coding sessions. Its absolutely impossible to get a conference room at short notice on any of the campuses.

  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:13PM (#54914667) Homepage
    It's been a long time since Apple was (primarily) about technology. Apple is about fashion. Form over function. Appearance. Show. Illusion.

    Apple has great technology. But unlike in the 80's and 90's, technology comes second (or lower) at the Apple of today. I remember when Apple was a great company. When BYTE magazine [archive.org] wrote that the history of the microcomputer industry was an effort to keep up with Apple, it was true, back when Apple was a truly great company.

    Open plan space for developers to work? No surprise. Quite a difference from the day when Apple would do whatever it took to make developers productive.
  • 3rd choice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:15PM (#54914701)

    But given that Apple's already invested $5 billion into this new campus, complete with iPhone-influenced custom-built toilets for the space, it's hard to believe this decision was about penny-pinching. The other possible argument for skipping private offices would be if a company didn't know that's what its workers would prefer.

    Or the 3rd choice: They don't really care what their employees prefer.

    • Re:3rd choice (Score:5, Interesting)

      by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday July 31, 2017 @02:24PM (#54915353) Homepage Journal

      But given that Apple's already invested $5 billion into this new campus, complete with iPhone-influenced custom-built toilets for the space, it's hard to believe this decision was about penny-pinching. The other possible argument for skipping private offices would be if a company didn't know that's what its workers would prefer.

      Or the 3rd choice: They don't really care what their employees prefer.

      Actually, it's a fourth: They believe that open plan offices promote creative interaction while closed offices promote focused productivity, and they choose to favor the former over the latter. There's also an element of flexibility. The theory is that it's easier for people in open-plan offices to use noise-cancelling headphones to focus when they need to be productive than it is for employees to walk out of their office and into a colleague's office when they need to collaborate.

      I'm not saying that money never enters into it. But clearly for the likes of tech companies sitting on enormous cash reserves, money isn't the primary consideration. Competitiveness is. Staying ahead of the rapidly-changing technology world is. And they believe that open plan office spaces, with lots of additional space for ad-hoc collaboration in meeting rooms, lounge areas, volleyball courts, etc., is the best way to do that.

      I'm not willing to say that they're unequivocally right, but they're certainly not completely wrong, either.

      • Re:3rd choice (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @02:32PM (#54915429)

        Actually, it's a fourth: They believe that open plan offices promote creative interaction while closed offices promote focused productivity, and they choose to favor the former over the latter. There's also an element of flexibility. The theory is that it's easier for people in open-plan offices to use noise-cancelling headphones to focus when they need to be productive than it is for employees to walk out of their office and into a colleague's office when they need to collaborate.

        Whereas it is undeniably true that an open office results in more dialogue, I don't think that is the only way to encourage it. Nothing beats face-to-face and easy access to encourage collaboration, but the problem is, not many people are going to want to work like that.

        I know I quit a job primarily for the reason of switching to open-office. (I had other issues with the place, but the moment they switched to open-office I updated my resume and started job hunting)

        Open office is simply a much less pleasant environment in which to work.

        • Re:3rd choice (Score:5, Insightful)

          by markana ( 152984 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @05:19PM (#54916693)

          I'm stuck in an open plan office, and there's plenty of dialog all right. Almost none of it about actual *work*. We have lots of Sales/Marketing/Communications types right next to the small developer group. And boy, do they talk. And talk. Loudly. And about every aspect of their personal lives that we really don't care about. The managers of those group work in a different state, and couldn't care less.

          Noise cancelling headphones work great on repetitive sounds, like engine noise on a bus. But human voices (especially some of these people) cut right through. Most of the development colab happens on email/im/etc anyways, so we're almost always more productive working from home.

        • by chihowa ( 366380 )

          Open office is simply a much less pleasant environment in which to work.

          Of course it is, as demonstrated by the people who made these decisions giving themselves offices with doors. Executives and upper management, whose almost entire job function is socialization and "collaboration" don't deprive themselves of offices with doors.

          I think it's all about management not having a very solid understanding of what the workers do and needing to literally see them in their seats furiously tapping at their keyboards to feel like they're "managing".

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
        My floor just went to an open plan a few months ago. Half of our team rooms-the ones that actually were big enough for 5-6 people to work in together-have already been turned into official offices (with desks and internet hook ups installed) while a good 1/3 of the desks on our floor have no one assigned to them, forcing us to either jam people into small rooms or working feet from other people at their desks. The only people that were all for the change to an open floor plan were the ones that got to kee
      • Re:3rd choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tsqr ( 808554 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @03:06PM (#54915675)

        The theory is that it's easier for people in open-plan offices to use noise-cancelling headphones to focus when they need to be productive than it is for employees to walk out of their office and into a colleague's office when they need to collaborate.

        As if the need to collaborate with colleagues is something new. The part about "they believe that open plan office spaces, with lots of additional space for ad-hoc collaboration in meeting rooms, lounge areas, volleyball courts, etc." sort of contradicts the claim that open-plan offices reduce the need to walk away from your desk to collaborate. Does anyone in an open-plan setting really collaborate by yelling to a colleague on the other side of the room (who can't hear you anyway, 'cause he's got his noise-cancelling headphones on to avoid being distracted)? Or do you send an IM saying, "Hey man, take of your headphones; I need to yell at you"?

      • Re:3rd choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roadstar ( 909257 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @04:24PM (#54916315)

        The theory is that it's easier for people in open-plan offices to use noise-cancelling headphones to focus when they need to be productive than it is for employees to walk out of their office and into a colleague's office when they need to collaborate.

        Noise-cancelling headphones won't help with the visual distraction of people moving in your field of vision. Unfortunately I'm speaking from experience, at least I can't help registering extra movement in my field of vision even if I'm trying to concentrate on what's going on my displays. Sure, there are some occasions where I've picked up a valuable piece of information from conversations going on around me in an open office, but most of the time they are just an annoying distraction. As far as I'm concerned, open-plan office isn't the right place for developers.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Or the 3rd choice: They don't really care what their employees prefer.

      Well Apple has long thought they know better than their customers, it would not surprise me if the hubris has reached the point where they think they know better than their workers. I don't work at Apple, but we're moving to an open floor plan. I don't care because I've worked on one before and seem to have grown mental ear muffs but I know most are against it. They're perfectly aware however we are just resisting change and don't understand how improved collaboration will make us better. And yes, some say

    • Re:3rd choice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eth1 ( 94901 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @02:44PM (#54915529)

      Or the 3rd choice: They don't really care what their employees prefer.

      Definitely this.

      One of my primary red flags for bailing out of a place (or avoiding working there in the first place) is when they start opening up/making less private work areas, accompanied by some huggy-feely BS about why it's a good idea.

      It's a sure sign that management either doesn't know or doesn't care what people want/need - either way, time to think about leaving.

      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        When the CEO starts working in the open floor plan instead of his penthouse office, then I'll believe it really is the better option. But as long as the top levels of the organization keep their private offices it's pretty clear that the change is out of malice, not ignorance.

  • Brain Dead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by byteherder ( 722785 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:16PM (#54914709)
    I don't know why companies like Apple hamstring their developers with these open office design abominations. Study after study shows that developers are most productive when they have an office with a door they can close. The pointy headed bosses argument that they can wear headphones or take their laptop and move to a conference room doesn't work in reality.

    For the salary they pay software engineers, it would seem that companies would not still be practicing outdated, brain-dead policies that are costing their company millions. Or in Apple's case billions.

    just my 2 cent worth.
    • It's a simple matter of the real estate cost of square footage, and in the case of office space, the cost of the building. The 'everyone sits around a table' and even 'you don't need enough seats for everyone, and just assume x% of work from home' is all about that. Of course the problem is people *believing* the warm sounding rationalizing and starting to adopt it for things like this, where *clearly* cost efficiency was not at the top of the list.

      • It seemed like a good idea at the beginning. More worker crammed in less square footage. Save on office space rent. That's ok when you are paying all your worked minimum wage and productivity is not significantly impacted.

        The reality is that you lose 30% productivity from a large group of highly paid employees. All so you save a couple of bucks on your monthly rent.
        • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:40PM (#54914931) Journal

          I am currently in an office that *just* went open plan...
          Support folks like it because they can communicate easily. Devs... not so much, and now there are additional issues.
          Case in point, I put on my headphones so I can exclude other sounds, unfortunately my office mates can hear my music and it annoys them, so I can't actually listen to my music while I code. Instant 30-70% hit on productivity, since now I hear their conversations and my brain is dragged away from its focus.

          • You've got the wrong headphones. You'll save your hearing and your sanity if you get the right ones.

            I have a fairly cheap $20 pair of earbuds with a thick rubber insert, and they do wonders for dampening the world around me. As a side-effect, I don't need my music up very loud, and you can't hear it from 2' away when I have them in. If I can accomplish that with a $20 pair of earbuds, you should be able to do the same with a more expensive (and likely more comfortable) set of headphones.

            If

          • I have had the exact same experience. People who need to communicate a lot like open plans. They want to talk to their coworker around them.

            People that have to think, as opposed to talk, want quiet spaces, free from distractions. Headphones can block out some of the noise but not all of it. If you turn it up too loud it distracts your neighbors. Also, there is the visual distractions. Nobody has told me how to get rid of those.
            • People who need to communicate a lot like open plans.

              Developers, despite the weird obsession with solitude expressed in this thread, need to communicate more, not less.

        • by Junta ( 36770 )

          Of course, the business leaders view people claiming they are less productive as whiners trying to get nice space back, and they should suck it up.

          Which is why we are where we are, abstract bs about collaboration and open spaces resonate because it also is cheaper.

          Conversely, complaints about productivity that would require more money be spent are dismissed as whiny bs because it's convenient that way.

          • I see this all the time from business 'leaders'. It is always easier to dismiss the complain. Claim it is from a bunch of whiners than to actually fix the problem.

            Call the complainant a whiner. Don't fix the problem. Sweep it under the rug. Where have we seen that before. Oh yeah, didn't Uber do that to the sexual harassment complaint. And Well Fargo, didn't they do that to the people complaining about the fake accounts problem.
      • Nah man, real programmers are going to sit around the campfire that will be lit ablaze right smack in the middle of the ring; arms in lock singing Kumbaya.

        Don't you love the smell of burning plastic? Ohh the toxic fumes! *whiffff*

    • What matters is getting your developers or other employees buy-in. I've seen open office plans work great. There are a brand of developers now, agile/extreme etc...that prefer the open office plan. It works great if everyone is into the idea of high collaboration methodologies like agile and they choose it. Nothing hurts moral as much as environmental changes like this being forced on a group. Even if they would love it, even if they would work so much better in that environment...when it's forced
      • It is hard to get buy-in to open office plans if one of the requirements is that I need a space with no distractions. That just doesn't work with the open plan. Now if you are all in offices and want to collaborate with a fellow developer, you both can go into one office or book a conference room to share ideas. Best of both worlds.

        Some methodologies are more about collaborate like pair programming. For that case, two developers can share an office. There is nothing about agile methodology that forces col
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I worked as a C developer in a shop that converted to both open floor plan and Agile development. They had previously had been using something like a loose waterfall-method combined with offices and fairly private cubicles. Here's what happened.
        • Productivity fell drastically. Less code was checked in and less of it was high quality code (more comments and BS/fluff).
        • Morale dropped quickly. We all complained about how much we hated the noise, disruptions, and distractions.
        • All the best developers (including
        • Folks were already starting to to get disillusioned and looking for the next magic-bullet development method by then.

          Thank god for that. It astonishes me the extent to which we play around with process here, rather than just getting on with the job.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:19PM (#54914721)

    Who would have thought. The next thing that happens is that the best ones leave for greener pastures where they _can_ close the door.

  • And raise you a privacy screen filter and noise canceling headphones.

    No way i'm letting all of these noisy do nothings around me see my occasional facebook posting while my code is compiling!

    • It sounds like a perfect place for Apple to purchase my new product, the iCone-of-Silence.
    • Headphones don't work.
      Even good ones let enough sound in that you can hear conversations, if you turn up the volume enough sound leaks out that your co-workers will complain about your music selections.

      • For a while I tried earplugs + shooters ear muffs. It didn't work: at some point you block off your ears enough and bone convection brings the sound to your ears through your skull. Also when you open your mouth things get louder.
      • by Arkham ( 10779 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @02:26PM (#54915367)

        I work in an open office in Atlanta. It's so damn loud that some days I just send my developers home to work.

        I bought some $300+ Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones to cancel the noise -- they help, but it's not enough.

        I can use the foam earplugs you use for working around heavy machinery, but honestly, at that point how much degradation of productivity have you taken on when that's your own recourse?

        I truly don't understand the open floorpan. It's only result is unhappy employees.

        • by lsllll ( 830002 )

          I work in an open office in Atlanta. It's so damn loud that some days I just send my developers home to work.

          You are in a position where you can send developers home, but you don't have an office with a door?

          • by Arkham ( 10779 )

            You are in a position where you can send developers home, but you don't have an office with a door?

            Nobody in our office has a door (even the VP in charge of the whole site). We have the entire development staff in one large room (300+ developers and QE). I measured the noise level today at 67dB. It's really absurd.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:22PM (#54914757)

    I'll refrain from the obvious jokes about the workers' pods only having rounded corners...

    I really think the companies that get this trend right and actually want to keep employees happy will eventually settle on a mix of public and private spaces. Those of us who are older and like our private spaces have to remember that this is the age where "social media manager" is a real, full-time, highly compensated position. There are some people who thrive on collaborative spaces, constant noise and distraction, and love to work at cafeteria tables with zero personal space. There are also some (me included) who can't get any serious work done unless I'm in a private location with the door shut and "do not disturb" turned on in my various messaging accounts.

    Unfortunately, the more extroverted among us tend to have the ear of HR more than heads-down workers like me. In addition, most corporate HR departments just copy what Google is doing verbatim regardless of fit. Google's where all the kids work, and companies love to have as many young exploitable employees as possible, so it makes sense...sort of. Unitl it meets an organization with a high average age of employee, that lives and dies by conference calls and work that requires concentration.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Junta ( 36770 )

      Of course, it's not a simple matter of age.

      In our company, we have one building that is 'a workspace designed from the ground up for the millenial generation'. One of the new college grads in our group in one of the old fuddy-duddy buildings (at least per the real estate people) is glad they don't have to work in that. In fact when we do talk to them, they hate it.

      Most folks like having a space to call their own. They may have different levels of privacy desired, but a random seat at a random table makes

      • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:44PM (#54914975)

        'a workspace designed from the ground up for the millenial generation'

        Agreed it's not all about age, but I generally haven't seen older people outside of sales and marketing who love working in one of these Millenial workspaces. I have seen that younger workers are coming into the workforce being used to more distractions, so while they may not be getting a lot of work done, they prefer the "collaborative preschool" environment with the bright colors and the beanbag chairs. It's different from a more traditional work-style, where older people are used to going to an office, doing their work and leaving. Younger people (at least in IT/development) seem to want to continue their college years and work in a dorm-style atmosphere. Without as many commitments at home they find it appealing to basically live at work, which is a huge bonus for employers.

        • by bungo ( 50628 )

          'a workspace designed from the ground up for the millenial generation'

          Agreed it's not all about age

          I think it is about age, and not generational. As you said, Millenials like it because they are younger and has less commitments.

          When I worked for a large tech company, about a dozen miles south of the San Francisco airport, I happily spent most of my time there. It was 25 years ago, I was young, no wife/kids. All of my friends and everyone I knew worked at the same place. If I went out for a drink, it was with the same people. I went on holidays with the same people. The office wasn't open plan, but cubicl

      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        Maybe it's more that the 'workspace designed from the ground up for the millenial generation' is garbage, and NOBODY wants to work there?

    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:34PM (#54914869)

      There are some people who thrive on collaborative spaces, constant noise and distraction, and love to work at cafeteria tables with zero personal space.

      I've yet to meet any of those people.

      To clarify: I've met people who love that sort of work style, and *claim* to be productive... but they don't seem to actually be getting much real work done. They're good at deflecting, and subtly throwing others under the bus, when asked why A and B and C aren't done or are done badly.

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:23PM (#54914769) Homepage

    Let's consider the opposite strategy, then, if programmer is the 'single best example' of needing flow.

    Should Apple sacrifice, I dunno, half the open area to work-pods you slide into like a fighter pilot? Basically a ring of three 4K monitors wrapped around you, the backs of the monitors 6" from the walls? I'm thinking four feet by six or seven. No windows, obviously. Sound insulation.

    Is there no minimum to the amount of "distraction", that is, anything but what's on your monitors - that should be removed for optimum results?

    If so, you've got the only argument they'll listen to - that you will take up even less of that precious office space. Open plans were never about anything but reducing that square-feet per person number.

    That, and one other thing: 10x10 private offices were often places where people had some privacy in which to goof off. Watch YouTube in an open plan, and people notice. This is just not a real issue in a well-run place where the supervisor knows what the hell all her subordinates are doing and has done the work herself so that she has an idea how far along everybody should move every day. But when the super is too dumb to measure outputs, they will measure inputs.

    • Today all you need is a network connection to know what your employees are or aren't doing. You don't need to look at the screen.

      For the life of me I don't understand why most engineering spaces don't have private offices surrounding an open area for collaboration or whatever. If you need to save money on your workers square footage requirements you are doing something wrong and you certainly aren't Apple who could afford a McMansion for every coder and engineer on the payroll.

    • 10x10 private offices were often places where people had some privacy in which to take micro breaks while their brain churned on an issue in the background.

      There FTFY

    • I know a few companies going with 7x6' private offices and a 6x2' sit/stand desk. They are tight, but you can get very good noise control. Only really supports a max of 2x27" screens though.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:24PM (#54914777) Journal

    When one of our corporate offices moved to a new location and got a ground-up remodeling as part of the deal, there were great opportunities to make a more functional space for everyone. Instead, the top level management for that location took charge of everything, designing a floor-plan the way THEY envisioned it. The "rank and file" employees barely got a chance to see it before it was approved and work begun on it.

    The group of us in I.T. got a sneak peak at it, just before work started on it, and we collectively said, "Woah! Hold up! BAD ideas here!" The whole space was an open floor plan, except for a row of 6 "phone rooms" where you could shut the door to talk on a phone, placed on a small table, with a few chairs around it. That, and one short hall of offices with doors.

    To be fair, it is a marketing oriented company, BUT a lot of the people working in this space are designers, or at least have jobs that require a lot of conference calls, video-conferences, and negotiating with clients over the phone. In other words, lots of need for quiet in the surrounding space so you can sound professional while communicating with people.

    Our opinions held no weight though, and everything proceeded despite our complaints. So now? The office tends to be largely empty, because everyone decided they can get work done more effectively by just working from home whenever possible. The upper management folks who pushed for it? Well, they're rarely in the office anyway because they're constantly traveling. I guess they think it's fine when they finally come back for a few days though, since it's so quiet with so few people wanting to come in now?

  • While some studies say that open office workers are less happy, there's nothing to say that all Apple programmers will work in open offices. Indeed some of their teams might have closed off sections like those working on the top secret projects that Apple doesn't want anyone to know about.
  • The penny pinching most likely doesn't happen on Apple's side but on the architect/project manager side that promoted it in the first place. The brass doesn't care about details like that, the middle managers see the project and will put "saved $50M" on their resume and by the time anyone picks up on it, the project is already halfway done and changing it would cost more than double.

    You can't imagine how penny-pinching general contractors and architects are, not because the clients wants it, but because mar

  • Offices are unrealistically expensive, open spaces are distracting, and cubicles are depressing. I don't even know what I want anymore.
    • by mbkennel ( 97636 )
      Offices, with closable doors, surrounding nice communal areas. Steve Jobs designed the Pixar building that way to encourage the right amount of interaction and production.
    • If you are lucky they will just give up and close the office. Most of my time at the office interacting with others was spent on the phone with people who were offsite.
  • The very idea that a company spends $5 BILLION on its headquarters should speak volumes about conspicuous consumption, ostentation, and Apple. (And the fact that we're celebrating it not finding it abhorrent should be a comment on our society, generally.)

    In 2017 dollars, the Pentagon (for years the worlds largest office building, not sure if it is today; more than 2x the size of Apple's building in square feet houses 26000 workers vs Apples 12000 - so it's not like Apple's staff are getting huge offices) w

    • Re:The very idea (Score:4, Interesting)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @02:12PM (#54915271)

      It seems like when big-name companies build new office space the people at the top of the organization value HUGE open spaces for their dramatic value. I've walked into wholly owned office buildings where the main entry way is like walking into a cathedral, a giant mostly empty space meant to make a big statement to visitors (possibly even the same psychological impact cathedrals were meant to have to peasants).

      At Apple the building is so large that they have to have the "main cathedral" for the really big impact, and then mini-cathedrals for various major departments and to provide a secondary impact for people having meetings with specific departments or who didn't use the main entrance.

      The Pentagon comparison is interesting -- I got a tour inside last year, and there's like a ton of space used for what amounts to a freaking mall *and* a mall-sized food court, so that they fit even more people is surprising. Combine this with the huge amount of security, where lots of areas are extra-secured and hence totally walled off, which I'm sure results in a large amount of space inefficiency and Apple's space seems REALLY ostentatious.

  • it's a fad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:49PM (#54915019) Journal

    Open office plans seem to be the fad for this decade. (See: "Management by magazine article".) The fact that it demonstrably only works for certain types of environments, and doesn't work at all in an environment where the workers are expected to dive deep and perform long complicated tasks, hasn't made an impression on upper management yet.

    As our group had more than one physical location, conference calls were common. Very quickly after we switched to an open office plan, came an edict that employees would be required to book conference rooms for calls. The noise was, naturally, disrupting the people trying to write or debug software. (It wasn't just that the cubicle walls were gone, it was also that we were all sitting elbow-to-elbow in a 1950's-era bullpen arrangement. Wow, how progressive...)

    Shortly after that, it was discovered that we did not have enough conference rooms to meet demand. This was never solved, and it became common to see employees in the cafeteria or visitor's lounge trying to manage a conference on their cell phones, with laptop balanced on their knees. This raised the issue of discussing company intellectual property in a semi-public place, but I don't think that was ever solved either.

  • I started in a more open office (not a buzz word back then - just room with cheap desks) and eventually was promoted and in the process got an office. Then eventually moved to a new building and lost the office had a cubical, etc. Worked at another company where we had cubicles -- but often teams would move into a conference room around a table. So I have had basically experience with all.

    Open Office

    There are times where you cannot seem to get your mind in gear -- and a little goofing off from time
    • I found that working from an office can be just as bad since you are not likely to work together as a team -- since the effort of getting up and setting up an impromptu meeting for help when you are working on items - is also a very poor situation which limits mentoring and learning.

      That is complete horseshit. I work in a place where everyone has their own office, and we have no problems working together as a team.

  • It's not like Apple is moving every single employee into their new campus. They will have their old campus and many additional office buildings for a long time.

    They can, over time, effectively do A/B testing to find out what teams work best in the new campus, and what teams work best elsewhere with different styles of offices.

    They could end up with very little engineering types in the new campus, and having the marketing teams there working well in an open environment.

    Apple has sufficient resources and cash

  • Hopefully their fashionable office is more flexible and able to accommodate their changing needs than their phones. I miss phones with protective bezels, distinctive-feeling controls at the edges, changeable memory cards, upgradable batteries and standardized audio jacks. Fair or not, I generally assign blame to Apple for for the loss of these features and laughably-thin form factors requiring after-market protection shock-protection on even the majority most non-Apple phones. If their office is absolute

  • ... the century has had an open concept plan... workers and QA routinely working in easy eyeshot of eachother, and only the project managers or the owners had their own private offices.

    The number of times that another employee has distracted me in that entire time is zero.

    If you ask me, I think that the devs are probably opposed to an open work environment is because it gives them less opportunity to waste company time using their computer for non-work-related activities.

    • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday July 31, 2017 @03:33PM (#54915895) Journal

      The number of times that another employee has distracted me in that entire time is zero.

      Lucky you, but I've been in places where people were tossing beanbags and nerf balls around, and it gets old, really fast.

      -jcr

    • "If you ask me, I think that the devs are probably opposed to an open work environment is because it gives them less opportunity to waste company time using their computer for non-work-related activities."

      Like posting to slashdot? :P

      Well i work in an office with a door and only one other person in it, and it really depends on your co workers. If one of us is having a meeting, its pretty distracting to the other office mate, and things like the other person joining the meeting they werent invited to does occ

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        Well, all of the places I have worked have always had a separate conference room away from the open work-area for any meetings, so that people don't get disturbed by them.

        People who talk on the phone all day, people who play music, people who chat constantly about their insipid lives.. etc.

        None of that behavior would be tolerated at any place I've worked for the past 20 years. Anyone who was incapable of conducting themselves professionally would likely be told to leave and come back when they've calmed

    • The number of times that another employee has distracted me in that entire time is zero.

      Seventeen years, and you have never had another employee distract you from your work?

      While that may be true for you, if it is, you should probably realize that your experience is way, way outside the norm. People with other experiences are likely to feel very different about the subject.

  • "It does cost more to make enough room for every coder to have an office with a door that closes."

    It does not cost more, and that's the point. Any up front savings on the building will be lost in diminished productivity. It doesn't make sense to pay people as much as programmers are paid without doing everything possible to make them as efficient as possible.

  • They're keeping Infinite Loop and all the rest of the space they've already got in Cupertino. They have a lot of individual offices, and coders aren't even the majority of their staff.

    I can't write code in an open-plan office, because headphones are not an adequate substitute for office walls. If I ever went back to Apple, I'd just make it clear that I'd need a private office, or I'd be writing all of my code at home.

    -jcr

  • There's a section in John Gall's "Systemantics" that discusses what he calls "Climax Design": the biggest, the awesome-est, and that's where the big donut fails IMO. The place is over-designed and meant to do exactly what someone envisaged, but what if that's not what it needs to do? After all, the real thinking bit of Bell Labs - to take one example - was a hodgepodge of shacks that the occupants felt entirely free to modify any way they damned well pleased. It's the diametric opposite of the big donut: so

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