Do you like where you work? Not the company, but the physical workspace. Open workspaces, lush corporate campuses and tons of perks are all the rage these days, but how much does design really influence productivity and employee satisfaction? Facebook just moved to new digs where employees can roam with laptops and meet on sofas. Whither the cubicle?

Georgia Collins, North America managing director for DEGW
Allison Arieff, design and architecture writer for The New York Times and editor of The Urbanist, the magazine of public policy think tank SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research)
Jeremy Neuner, CEO of NextSpace

  • Susan

    I teach prenatal and postnatal yoga atop St. Luke’s Hospital — in the Solarium — and love it. There is a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Bernal Heights. We enjoy a cross breeze of fresh air when we open the doors. Recently, a hawk or peregrine falcon has been perching on a rail outside. When we walk outside on the roof you can also get a fantastic view of the Bay and MT. Diablo. It’s great to do sun salutations in this space. Mothers stay after class to breastfeed their babies.  Alas, most of San Francisco’s hospitals are being rebuilt for earthquake standards, but I doubt they will let patients be able to open their windows for fresh air like St. Luke’s does now.

    Thank you.

    Susan Arthur

  • CatSynth

    The opportunity to communicate and interact in an open environment is great, but it can sometimes be overwhelming, particularly when certain people who never stop talking are around.  Headphones are a very important accessory at my work.

  • Liz

    My traditional old line apparel company in SF recently transitioned from cubes to open plan desks -think library carels. It’s dreadful. Managers still manage by expecting you to be at your desk but the noise and distractions at my desk make concentration impossible. We have had our flexibility to work from home rolled back and were told we were expected to be in the office M-F 8-5. I never thought I would miss my cube but I do. There’s a huge disconnect between mgt style and the open plan design. Productivity from my end has tanked. I’m in an IT (tech) function btw.


  • Denise

    I work at SFO, in an interior area where there are no windows nor natural light.  My energy level decreases significantly as the day progresses at work, whereas on my days off, in natural light, I am feeling charged-up throughout the day, even though I am doing more physically taxing work.

  • Michaelwong

    I used to work at a noted ad agency where we had no offices, no private space other than a locker, and shared computers and wireless phones. Was this virtual office an anomaly or were there lessons that could broadly be shared?

    After the virtual office, I spent almost 10 years working at home successfully for a very large tech firm with the skills I mastered in the virtual office, but not everyone had the discipline to take those lessons to heart.

    Ex-virtual worker

  • Karen

    Open floorplans do nothing for productivity, but they are a good way for management to monitor their employees and reduce materials costs with low cube walls. On those occasions where I have to meet with coworkers, we can find a conference room or meet in our cubes. I’m in the sort of job that requires concentration 90% of the time. I’m not going to be able to get through 400 databook edits in a noisy “collaborative” environment with nothing to block the sound and visual distractions. I’ll take a cube any day of the week.

  • DeanCutlet


  • Oscia Wilson

    The virtual architecture office that Oscia was talking about is called Boiled Architecture.

  • guest

    Can anyone recommend a mouse for someone with tennis elbow (not carpal tunnel)?
    Preferably something wireless that works well on many surfaces, since I work at different job sites throughout the day.

    • Frank

      Try a trackball instead.

  • Loujudson

    YOu just mentioned the new Apple offices and that you have a link on the facebook page. I don’t use facebook – can you post the link here?

  • Frank

    The classic book “Peopleware” by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister (1st edition 1989, 2nd edition 1999) discusses workplace extensively as it pertains to knowledge workers.  They say it is important for workers to have a
    private space that they can customize.  And that doesn’t mean
    cubicles, but actual offices with doors that close.  The
    most important reason is to allow workers to get into “flow”, because
    interruptions are huge hits to productivity when one is working alone.  But it also allows people to take care of personal business, and thus be free to focus on work.   Of course there are
    also shared areas.  A software company I worked for in the ’90’s had an
    environment like this, and it was awesome.

  • Molli

    One of the callers mentioned a networking site similar to “facebook” but for private companies…What was it called?

    • Oscia Wilson


  • Terry

    I would really like to hear an audio replay of this program, but it is currently unavailable. I am rebuilding my office space and have an ‘open design’ for 6 administrative employee’s but have run into a need for privacy. Several friends heard this program and suggested that I listen to it. when will it be available?

  • Reubenw

    Woman running a small Architecture firm mentioned a small free software package (name begins with “P”). Can anyone give me the name of the package for communication…she said it worked like Facebook, but was for small firms.  My email is

  • CasioCA32W

    Wow, what a difference a host makes. Great job! Great topic!

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