Cubicle wars: Best and worst office setups for tech workers

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"Management has the philosophy that an open plan sponsors teamwork and cooperation, and at times you do need to meet with people," he says. "But most of the time you are heads-down trying to work on something, and when your thoughts are so focused, distractions are really a problem."

High-tech pros share their worst workspace experiences

What do techies really think of their office setups? Readers of Computerworld's Sound Off blog shared their office layout nightmares.

* Walled in. One commenter described the worst of both worlds: A cubicle with walls that were four feet high but very thin, so workers couldn't see their neighbors but could hear everything being said. "This type of setup makes for great sharing of information -- but makes it impossible to concentrate on anything."

* Who gets the view? Another reader wondered why management often gets outside views and the biggest offices, when typically they spend their days in meetings, while others are confined to small cubes with no view. "For the few hours per day that they spend in their office they don't need the best spots."

* Moo. One commenter works in a large, single room with more than 300 people working at stations that are three feet wide by 18 inches deep, with partitions only a foot high. Space is at a premium, so some stations have two workers. "Meeting rooms surrounding the central open area are filled with additional associates whose permanent workspace is a chair at a conference table shared with a dozen others. There aren't enough workspaces for the staff, so people continually hunt for any open space they can find and sit there until the owner shows up and kicks them out, at which point the search begins anew."

* Too much information. Another commenter said he shared a big room full of desks, no cubes, when he worked in the IT department at a mortgage originator. "The row of desks behind me held the debtors team, constantly on the phone: 'Your mortgage is in arrears. When will you pay? We will start legal proceedings...'"

* Excuse me, pardon me. One reader's first job had a very simple setup: two employees and a phone at a folding table in a spot that had previously been the coat closet. Another described working in an office within a warehouse where three desks were put together. Space was so tight that "the third person had to stand up whenever the other two needed to get out."

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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