Re: Do Technical Writers Deserve Their Own Office?

Subject: Re: Do Technical Writers Deserve Their Own Office?
From: Julie Knoeller <jknoelle -at- CISCO -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 10:03:52 -0700

This topic was discussed on NPR at length not too long ago and the
conclusion the speakers came to was that the ONLY reason the trend has been
away from offices and to cubes or open space is COST. They may try to
market the shift to their employees as a productivity issue, or use guilt
to bully them into accepting it (as discussed below), but that's just
smoke. I've worked in a couple of very large companies and NEVER run into
ANYone who preferred a cube to an office. Maybe there are a few of you out
there who actually work better in a cube envirnoment, but I'll bet not
many, and how many of you have ever had a private office to compare it to?
Speaking strictly for myself, my productivity just about doubles when I
shut myself into a conference room or work at home. Also, we shouldn't be
relying on serendipity to communicate with developers, and anyone who shuts
him/herself off and becomes noncommunicative is having a performance issue,
not an environment issue.

just my $0.02

At 12:44 PM 4/16/98 -0400, Barry Campbell wrote:
>At 07:44 AM 4/16/98 -0700, Debra Mazo wrote:
>>Our Documentation Group is having a hard time justifying
>>private offices for technical writers to Product Development.
>>We need some strong reasons to justify that we are different
>>than developers and work more productively in a quiet working
>>space, especially when we performing editing duties.
>>Thanks in advance if you share any of your ideas.
>I think that one of the most important and useful provisions
>*any* company can make for *any* valued knowledge workers
>(programmers, writers, or any other professionals who exercise
>the old grey matter for a living) is a quiet, private workspace.
>I don't need physical proximity to developers in order to stay
>in touch with them and find out what's going on, but maybe I've
>just figured out how to use the phone, e-mail and meeting times
>to maximum effect. :-)
>However, you're fighting a losing battle here. I admire you for
>tilting at windmills, but be careful not to spend all your
>political capital on this, especially if you plan to stay with
>this employer for a while.
>My company recently relocated from a genteel old Art Deco building
>to a newer glass-and-steel office tower. The vast majority of
>employees (who typically shared tradtional offices prior to the
>move) now sit at "workstations" (imagine an extremely small
>cubicle without actual walls) with just a shade under 28 square
>feet of space per person.
>Aesthetically, the arrangement creates a very pleasing effect;
>the entire office looks open and light and airy.
>As a practical matter, when the workspace is populated with
>actual workers trying to perform actual work, it is not unlike
>working in a bus terminal. (I get through most days by creating
>a personal "cone of silence" with a portable CD player and a
>stack of discs containing mostly instrumental music, from Bach
>to John Coltrane.)
>The amount of personal space allocated to *all* employees has
>been shrinking in the waning years of our century. A recent
>article in the New York Times (Elaine Underwood, "Welcome To Your
>Closet: Employers Cut Costs With Smaller Offices," New York Times,
>22 March 1998) explains the trend at some length.
>A few pithy excerpts:
>>In the mid-1980s, a poll conducted by Michael Brill, a
>>workplace researcher and architect, found that 65 percent of
>>recently promoted workers wanted more office space as a
>>reward for their labor.
>>"They wouldn't have the guts to say that anymore," said
>>Brill, president of the Buffalo Organization for Social and
>>Technological Innovation, which designs new office
>>environments for Xerox, Sun Microsystems, IBM and other
>>blue-chip companies. "The world has changed drastically. You
>>are not a team player if you ask for more space."
>Barry Campbell | Senior Technical Writer
>barry -at- webveranda -dot- com | Summit Systems, Inc.
> (personal/list mail) | 22 Cortlandt Street
>barry_campbell -at- summithq -dot- com | New York, NY 10007
> (business e-mail) | 212.896.3463

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