How Much Work Space Is Necessary For a Programmer?

Jan 3, 2012

The contract I just started is at a recognizable (at least the part I work at) company housed in a large campus setting. Yet everyone is packed in like sardines. The parking facilities cannot even support all the people who work there yet they have no plans to build anything else. Does this make any sense or am I too picky?

I have a grand total of 12 square feet including my little table and chair. Most of the other folks in the group don't have much more including the manager yet they seem to not notice or care (many have worked for years for this company). Both contractors and employees are crammed in alike.

To me I feel like I have been squeezed into a closet except you can look out and see everyone close by. Many people zone out with headphones which I guess provides some sense of quiet. Everywhere you look there are people in little groups and pressed into corners. Yet this isn't a sweatshop but a large technology company.

In my contract at the game company I had a little office for a while and then shared a big space with one other person. My job before that I had an 8x8 cube to myself. In fact in only one other job did I ever have something other than a whole cube.

Maybe this is the modern thing, toss everyone into a pit and hope the cross communication works wonders. Personally I think it sucks. I don't need that much room to work but I am a tall person and being crammed into a tiny space is hard to deal with. I have to get up to let the next guy even get away from his table. Yet everyone here is well paid and the company makes decent money. Is it wrong to be comfortable in a workplace when you work in front of a computer all day?

People hate cubes but at least it's a place to work where you have some privacy and quiet to focus on writing code, drawing diagrams, reading notes and spreading stuff out when you need to. A cube would be wonderful but no one has cubes here at all.

If this is the common feature of companies today, that the solution to the cost of office space is to eliminate even a minimum of personal space I wonder what the point of offices is at all. It would be cheaper to have people work at home and instead invest in good conferencing solutions instead of treating employees like an exercise in a bin packing algorithm to save money.

In my first job at a defense contractor I laughed at the enormous cube farms they had when I visited from my offsite location, where I had a nice room. Now 30 years later I find myself staring at a wall 1 foot behind my laptop. Not exactly progress.

Maybe a criteria for a job should include square footage like looking for a house!