Cube vs. Office at Microsoft
I received a short email from Patrick Merlevede, a researcher on emotional intelligence as applied to the HR space, asking questions about Microsoft’s practice of providing each programmer with their own office. In my 8 months in the company, I’ve actually been asked this a dozen or more times, and so I thought I’d share my reply:
For the most part, yes, everyone has their own office. Of course, with rapid expansion in many areas, there are a lot of folks doubled up – and sometimes even tripled up. But the Microsoft space planning model has always been to provide individual offices. Having said that, the company has purchased a few buildings in the area with open floor plans, and plans to leave them open. Some groups are interested in moving into these spaces. Steve Ballmer made a speech this summer regarding the expansion of employee benefits, and on this point he said that those teams interested in moving into cubes/open space would be able to move, those that were interested in staying in offices would stay. So things are fairly flexible depending on an organizations needs and growth.
Personally, I can’t stand being in a cube, and find myself much more productive when I can shut the door and have a conversation, an impromptu meeting at my whiteboard, or crank the music up and get the content out. I realize that some people prefer the open floor plan, and some teams operate more efficiently with the increased collaboration that can come from cubes — IF organized in a way that also allows individuals to retreat into their own personal spaces.
Thanks for the note, Patrick.