Joel Spolsky on Facebook’s Open Office Mess

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the inimitable Sarah Cooper

Recent observation by Joel Spolsky about Facebook paying a premium for developers touches on the open office model problem:

Joel Spolsky cited by Dan Richman in Just shut up and let your devs concentrate, advises Stack Overflow CEO Joel Spolsky

Facebook’s campus in Silicon Valley is an 8-acre open room, and Facebook was very pleased with itself for building what it thought was this amazing place for developers,” Spolsky said in an interview with GeekWire co-founder Todd Bishop. “But developers don’t want to overhear conversations. That’s ideal for a trading floor, but developers need to concentrate, to go to a chatroom and ask questions and get the answers later. Facebook is paying 40–50 percent more than other places, which is usually a sign developers don’t want to work there.

The growing backlash about the open office model continues. We have to get past the sunshine-and-flowers whitewashing of the anywhereism trend. It’s just an economic effort to shave margins by taking back all the real estate that could/should/would have been dedicated to offices if in fact the real goal was higher productivity, serendipity, creativity, and innovation.

The open office model brings together the worst design features of discount airlines and elementary schools while promising increased human potential, camaraderie, and higher engagement. Instead, people are opting to work from home whenever they need to accomplish ‘deep work’ as Cal Newton calls it. In fact, only 7% of workers say the office is the best place to do their most productive work. This is a failure of business thinking on par with discrimination against women and minorities, or the myriad ways that organizations impose conformity.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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