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I've been in this business 35 years (as of last Sunday, I just realized!),
and I've seen various seating arrangements - bullpen, cubes, low and high
walls, with and without doors, plastic plants, "hoteling," - you name it.
For various reasons, they all suck.
People define their own spaces, whatever arrangement they find themselves
in. Everyone finds personal space, even in an open office. Everyone
periodically wants to choke the daylights out of someone else in the
vicinity. I'm sure you could swap stories with me over a beer sometime.
It's all a part of the corporate and team culture. As Doc points out, the
arrangement in question is a great way to get team members to work together,
in part because it's the only way to survive in that environment. But it is
a very hard thing to sustain. So it changes to match the latest corporate
fad - including chintziness. (Wait, that's not a fad, it's a "corporate
value" around here.) The one thing you can be certain of is that it will
change - eventually!
The fact that everyone's in it together is significant here. Asking for
what's perceived as a "special privilege" (a separate cube) will definitely
NOT help you in your work! I'd expect to find it "decorated" appropriately
if you were absent for a period of time. The possibilities are endless.
Pitching into the fray with everyone else will help you get the information
you need to do your job. Isolating yourself, or even creating the perception
of isolation, is deadly.
As for the commute, it appears that you have three choices: quit, move, or
put up with it. In the last instance, I would definitely recommend book
tapes. Helps you catch up on your reading, relax, and have something to
think about besides how angry you are at the commute. Yes, carpooling helps,
but it's a real pain sometimes.
Not a lot of help, I'm afraid, but at least some encouragement!
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