Office Ergo

So I haven’t been a member of the working world for very long (2 years out of college) but I’m very quickly realizing the benefits of office ergonomics.  There are a bunch of great examples of cool, inspiring offices.

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/12/29.html

http://positivesharing.com/2006/10/10-seeeeeriously-cool-workplaces/

Something about sitting in front of a computer all day long every day makes you begin to appreciate the little things and the not so little things.  I could be classified as a code monkey which means I don’t get in a lot of meetings or stuff going on outside of my cube.  My day is largely spent staring into my computer.  I’ve noticed the benefits of an ergo keyboard and mouse.  Dual monitors is a big plus.  A laptop is great to take home and when I travel because I don’t have to worry about remote desktop over a slow internet connection.  I’ve just got my development environment right there.  That also means I could move around the office and work for an hour or two just to mix things up a bit.  Too bad there aren’t any places that would be any better than my cube.  There are many things a company can do to make an office better and I don’t claim that any of them are cheap but some indication needs to be made that the powers that be are focused on improving the office environment.

Some things that come to mind…

– Quality chairs!  I love the Aeron chairs, I mean who doesn’t.  They ain’t cheap but the quality means they will last longer than the other ones.  Improved productivity from sitting in a comfortable chair has got to be a factor also.  Morale also takes a boost.  Who wouldn’t be happy to work for a company that values their employees enough to spend big bucks on a fancy chair.

– Individual offices.  Ok maybe this is asking too much but I need to be focused on my job.  I’m easily distracted by people walking by, side conversations and general office stuff going on around me.  If I can close all that out and focus on what’s in front of me I get a lot more done.  Headphones are nice but sometimes I just want quiet.

– Adjustable height desks.  People don’t realize software is lot about design.  Not so much engineering type design but creative design.  This argument could probably be made for most jobs but software development is a complicated process, especially in the enterprise world where you’re dealing with massive amounts of intertwined code, most of which is legacy.  This requires us to come up with some pretty clever ways of approaching and solving problems.  Software development needs an adaptive environment.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could stand for a while?  Bump up the desk and work standing up, then drop it down to the floor.  At the very least as an understanding that people are of different sizes and they don’t all fit into a desk standing 38”.

– Meeting rooms.  All software teams are different but almost always have an aspect of team design.  The Microsoft Patterns and Practices group comes to mind here.  Every team room is lined with glass walls that can be written on with dry erase markers.  You can never have too many whiteboards (or large enough ones).  Ample space allows for large drawings and many pictures without having to erase every 10 minutes only to forget later what you started with. 

Innovation.  A company who creates a unique environment shows that they’re willing to take a risk.  How can an person be expected to take a leap, push the limits or extend the bounds of the status quo when they’re working in a cube farm?  Humans will adapt to their surroundings.  Put them in a bland office, bland work will result.  Put them in a creative place who knows what will happen.

I could keep going but I’m beginning to ramble.  My point is that there are a myriad of unquantifiable benefits that come from a unique office.  An organization that puts a high degree of emphasis on employee well-being will reap the benefits.  Better employees will be attracted as word spreads, existing employees will feel appreciated and be more productive.  People will enjoy work.  Ok maybe that’s a stretch but they’ll know they are being giving everything they need to do their best.

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