Hardware

New Office Ideas


Today, my boss took us out to look at potential office space. Our current space, while having enough square footage, simply does not meet our needs in terms of heating, cooling, power, and network connectivity. Looking over this space actually got me a bit excited. It is in a warehouse, and the offices are more like extremely permanent cubicles with drop ceilings. You can actually go to the back of the office, take a ladder, and get on top of the offices and still be indoors!

So now I am thinking about my ideal office space, set up to maximize my productivity. Some things that I would want:

  • Aeron chair: never underestimate comfort and ergonomics; my current chair is literally impossible for me to sit up straight in, and the armrests are a few inches below the height of the desk (even at the tallest chair position), making typing extremely painful.
  • Lots of network connections: as a developer who works with a few test PCs from customers, I need lots of network ports. In our current space, I have a 5 port switch on my desk which is full, and all of my wall ports are full too. It is easy and cheap to run extra connections when doing a build out and a lot more expensive and problematic to do it after the build out.
  • A deep equipment locker: I have tons of spare desktop switches, mice, keyboards, and other odd shaped things that need a happy home.
  • A small workbench: I am also the systems administrator, so I need a place other than my chair to pull apart PCs.
  • Quality ergonomic keyboard: my hands, wrists, and elbows ache by 10 AM if I am on a roll. For what even a Kenesis keyboard costs compared to an IT worker’s salary (about $300 for the keyboard, $45,000 per year for “just above entry level

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

40 comments
jos
jos

I miss in all the messages only one thing: Make sure that aeron chair is EASY adjustable. You can sit on all, but only a few are easy to handle.

nrei
nrei

Having enough workspace is essential. If your desktop isn't big enough, this is a problem. I need room for spreading out papers, manuals and a writing area. People sometimes forget than a paper and pencil can still be essential tools for develops. Also a book shelf and filing cabinet for storing what I don't need on my desk at the moment. PS. While you may like ergonomic keyboards, I don't. Be sure to give employees their choice.

metilley
metilley

Good Luck! Aeron Chair? Mini-Fridge? Hmm... Good Luck! Sounds like the boss-man is keeping you in the loop so you don't up and quit when he comes back with the cheapest "upgrade" he can find. Companies don't care about your comfort. They want productivity at the lowest price they can get away with! When my last employer told me we were getting new and improved offices, we got off-centered chairs that make you feel like you were sitting at an angle. Underneath them someone wiped about a year's worth of dried boogers. Ugh! Mini-Fridge? For Getta 'Bout it! We got new Steelcase Furniture and bookcases, though. They were really top-notch, but the computers were old circa 1990 junk, i.e. IBM PS/2's with maybe 10 mb hard drives. Good luck anyway.

kellewic
kellewic

It's a must have IMO. Somewhere to keep some nice cold drinks or snacks. Can get them for about $100.

Cweb
Cweb

this is always the biggest issue with me. I can always get some more gear, but its impossible to get the space I need. And nothing is harder to work around than not having enough space.

Tank252ca
Tank252ca

I have both development and accounting chores, so in addition to all that's mentioned, I have two tall book shelves that I could not do without, as well as two full size fire rated filing cabinets. Any important papers should be stored in fire rated cabinets, and you may want to think about fire rated media storage. Possibly a fire rated safe for locking away backups and original installation CDs, which we use in addition to offsite backups.

rclark
rclark

First the headset. Gotta be the Plantronics CS50 or equiv. I got mine as a bribe from the phone guy, 1st in the company. It is fantastic. They are all over the place now. And they just work, and work. This is the same tech that Neal A. used on Apollo 11. And they say Space hasn't given us anything. Second must have for tech spaces. IP or wireless ceiling mounted security camera (wide angle or pan with presets) with a storage server in a locked closet. Especially in communal cubical situation. You'll be able to reclaim or charge out the parts that leave after hours. Storage needs to be large enough to act as a network storage device and have 200 hours of video. Thats enough for a week of continuous monitoring. Third must have is a Wireless Projector. The last one I bought was an addlogix adapter and a Dell 3400MP I think. This combination is a little quirky, but it works. Might want to read the specs and get a video capable set up if you are going to be playing dvd's or doing a cable/TV Tuner hookup. Make sure you have a large white wall somewhere in the office and point it at it. Also need a long range (300 meter) presentation pointer. This really comes in handy for company meetings, webex demos, design meetings, and brainstorming sessions. You can use the IP security storage PC for the wireless controller. Make sure it has power point loaded. One place I worked had formica walls instead of cloth or sheetrock. The the whole conference room was a whiteboard. But if you are going to buy a whiteboard, get the one that interfaces to a pc/printer. While you are at it, replace your 5 port switch with a 24 port with fiber backbone. No sense in making holes in walls/floors when you don't have to. And make sure you have a good APC UPS(s) with enough outlets to let you manage your spagetti cables instead of having them hang everywhere like every office I've ever had. Last is must haves that are never thought of when they are handing out space. Half height fridge, ice maker (crunchy ice), bottled water cooler, and a BRUN or BUN coffie maker. Keep the troops happy and the revenue will take care of itself.

smithsc
smithsc

If you use the whiteboard a lot and then find yourself transcribing everything, you might consider an electronic whiteboard, like the Smartboard system (www.smarttech.com) Think about these for your conference room as well.

joseph_bossle
joseph_bossle

A few years back I read an article of an office build-out for a small, but innovative, software firm. A few of their ideas have always stuck with me: - Power is a necessity so each office/workarea had alot of it. All of the outlets provided filtered power and were mounted above the top of the desks (no more crawling under desks); network connections should also be above the top of any workarea too. - All of the desks/workareas had a trench that ran along the wall for cables (power, network, etc.) to be layed in; reduces the clutter. - Lighting is key and has become so important as I get older. Lights should configured with dimming switches and provide user selectable warm (i.e. 2700 kelvin) and bright white (i.e. 4100 kelvin); for me, I prefer the warm lighting, but there are times when I need bright lights. Hope these ideas help.

nvillanueva
nvillanueva

As a developer, I get lots of calls during design phase and testing phase. A wireless headset is a cheap way to save equipment because the phone cord can swing drinks around or pull the actual phone into someone's laptop (I've seen it happen).

mc
mc

When you mention a large equipement storage space to put keyboards and mice I can only think that like me you like to "pack rat" things. To work on many servers/pc at the same time you may want to get a small 4 ports KVM and only keep 1 keyboard and mouse. I am suggesting that simply because I have realized that a clean workspace helps me a lot in keeping track of the priorities. Less distractions is better :-) Get rid of everything you don't use and keeping things to a minimum as far as open system that need work on is good.

ra_fiki
ra_fiki

The company I work for is experiencing major growing pains. Space is at a premium as we've hired so many new people, plus there are renovations going on. One of the ways the facilities people have tried to "help" is by making large cubicle pods that seat a person in each corner, 3 more along each wall, then adding a table in the middle for more people to sit and work -- for a grand total of 11 people. While this can foster collaboration, it also creates major distraction, not to mention some logistical problems with power, connectivity, etc. Our management, however, sees this "collaboration" and thinks that if they put the whole team (25 developers) in a larger cube space designed by a certain Swedish furniture company, then we will be able to INNOVATE! When asked about privacy/distraction problems, they dismissed the notion suggesting that they would incorporate little work carrels, like in the library, into the design. I never thought I'd say this, but I want my little beige cube back!!

Justin James
Justin James

The Aeron chair has always been very adjustable for me; indeed, they give you a height/weight chart to choose the right chair size. How many chairs come in different sizes? :) It is one of the most well engineered items that I have ever encountered. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

I probably spend nearl as much time with paper as I do on the computer, it is crucial to my job. I do want more mnauals though, I like flipping through them to get answers much better than PDFs or other electronic means. On the keyboard issue, that is for me personally; I am not a big fan of them either, but I am at the point where my wants don't factor into it anymore, my arms, wrists, and elbows are shot. :( J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

We already have the mini fridge, boss suggested it before we asked for it. He did *not* get a coffee maker, but then he bought one for his office, which particularly bothered me, because he drinks 1 cup of coffee a month, and everyone else here drinks a few cups a day... I am trying to see how I can put the Aeron chair into an ROI perspective... maybe start racking up some insurance bills and calling out because of my aching back? J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

That is one thing that my boss is very good about; we have never been cramped on square footage, wheter it is storage or personal space. Ironically, while we have the square feet, I do not get storage units, desks, furniture, etc. to my needs or liking. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

I really do not have any CDs or media, or even paper which is not stored electronically as well, and all electronic data is indeed backed up to a drive stored in a fire proof cabinet and offsite. But you aqre aboslutely right about these things, many people do have papers and CDs or other media which definitely need to be safely stored! J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Unfortunately, we are not big enough to have a conference room or bother with smart boards. :( J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

I knew to get plenty of power and network ports, but did not think of how important the actual location of them is, thanks! You are so right about lighting. The only office that I worked in where my eyes were not bugging out by 10 AM had these extremely bright halogen lights; they were mounted on the walls at about head level, but pointed *towards* the wall, and the wall was painted an incredibly bright, flat white. As a result, the room was extremely bright and well lit, but with no direct source of light (the room seemed to glow), especially with none of the awful overhead flourescents, you could work all day with no problems. I loved it. I am sure the power bill was huge. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

I completely missed this one, which is even more embarassing for all of the time I spent doing phone support... and even worse, because everytime I am on one of those 2 hour calls now, I wish I had a headset. Thanks! J.Ja

karsten.breivik
karsten.breivik

There are always systems of some sort you would like to have displayed all the time. Could be systems monitoring like Unicenter, OpenView, Nagios, Bigbrother, etc. Or customer response times, telephone queues, stock trackers, or whatever is you poison. I am setting up clusters of four monitors several places in the office. I hang the monitors from the roof using some parts which I order from Ergotron and have a local welding shop put together the roof mount details. Then I place a computers with 4-way Matrox cards on top of the drop ceiling and control the screens via wireless keyboard and mouse. This takes a lot of clutter away from the floor and walls.

Justin James
Justin James

I actually do have a ton of stuff on KVMs (I have a KVM at my desk, and one in my server room, and one in my boss's office); that is actually why I have some of that extra equipment, when I moved stuff off onto the KVM, I had extra stuff sitting around. It is more than that, it is stuff like laptops from customers that we test with. Some of them may only get used a few times a year, but we cannot get rid of them either because they are not our property. I agree, I would definitely love to throw some things out. I will see what I can do on that end of things. :) J.Ja

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Well each to their own matey it would drive me buggers. The biggest argument against them as an employee is they foster the idea of employee as a unit, ie the content of the cublicle is of no momemt only the quantity of them. Anybody tried to put me in one, I'd be on my way out of the door before the could slot the trimming on the partition.

rkendsley
rkendsley

Book Shelves... and Notebook Shelves especially within easy reach to pick the 'project of the moment' (My shelves are right over my monitor and phones (2).

JamesRL
JamesRL

Few years back I did some contracting for a big bank in their downtown office. They hired 5 MBA/MBA students to do a project and then figured out where to put us. We were stuck on a long table in the coffee alcove. Each of us was given a laptop, and one overhead bin. So we each had about 3 feet of the long table/bench. We didn't have enough phones for everyone, but we really didn't use the phones that much. I ended up buy a portable CD player and playing music while I was thinking/writing. I really bonded with that gang it was great, one of my best working experiences. James

riffraff
riffraff

One piece of furniture that I really miss was a "wheelie table". Basically a small table that had wheels on the base. You could use these to transport heavier items. When you need a little bit more space. When not needed, you could slide it under your worksurface.

rclark
rclark

iJoy-320 Massage Chair by Interactive Health Beam me up Scotty!

Tig2
Tig2

Years ago when I spent my days in front of monochrome monitors, my eye doctor suggested that I try a rose tinted lens in my eyeglasses. This worked so well that I have had the same rose tint ever since. As my eyes are getting worse, bifocals are a reality. The rose tint works as well now as it ever did. The best is that the tint doesn't have to be too heavy to be effective. Many people do not know I wear tinted glasses. The eyestrain reduction alone has been worth doing this. It also helps to reduce eyestrain caused by fluorescent lighting.

Justin James
Justin James

We had a few network monitoring tools, and the Weather Channel up (sometimes ana rea wide outtage would coincide with a big storm). As a result, I learned the personalities of all of the Weather Channel reporters without actually knowing what they sound like. Our operation is not nearly big enough to justify any of these things, sadly. We are a very small consultancy, and there isn't enough "real time" stuff happening. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Some cobicles are tolerable. Most are not. A lot of it depends on the corporate culture. A while back, I read about the original cubicle concept from Herman Miller (the study of industrial design, with an emphasize on the Miller/Eames partnership and "Atomic Age" style is a side hobby of mine). It was not a cubicle as we know it, it was "the action office" and was actually quite expensive, I beleive even more expensive than a traditional office. It was designed with the lessons learned from decades of workflow studies in mind, to keep the worker and their tools situated so that everything was within easy reach, customizable, and minimized physical and mental stress. It was a total flop in the marketplace. What they found was that customers liked the modularity aspect of it, and liked being able to less expensively partition open floor space, they just hated spending all of the money and space (it was originally quite large) on low level workers. So "the Action Office" was transformed into the cubicle. And Dilbert was born. J.Ja

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

more interaction in my working space. Better than my corner office & overlooking the car park.

Justin James
Justin James

I have a shelf now, but it is mostly install CDs and a few manuals/books. The only reference books I have are an Oracle book, the MySQL manual, a dinky little JavaScript reference, and an HTML4/XHTML1.0 book, and a phone book. I tend to use the top of my PC for "right now" items, and I use a legal pad for notes (my boss kept buying stacks of pads, forgetting that he had already bought them, so we have dozens of the things). J.Ja

FoothillsCG.com
FoothillsCG.com

It's the chair arms that keep you from putting your body under the desk. And probably banging Also: Take out the pencil drawer above your legs so that you can put the chair up high enough that your keyboard posture isn't up so high. Once your chair is high enough for your wrists, sometimes your feet won't hit the floor, which is very common. That's where the footrests come in handy. A cheap work around is a couple of old phone books duct taped together. If you have a plain old incandescent lamp near your workspace, that can help a whole lot with flourescent lighting headaches. (Did you know that they buzz in B flat?) Skylights are wonderful because they let in light without people being able to look in. They cut down on lighting bills and natural light keeps us cave dwellers from getting depressed. This has lots of ROI in terms of lighting and mental health bills. Solar Tubes are good cause they don't leak as much heat or AC. Get plants in nice pots. They make the company look classy and raise people's spirits. Besides Apothos and lucky bamboo, my favorite is sometimes called 'the money tree.' For your deep storage unit, if you can't get your own closet with shelves, get pull out shelves for the cupboard(s).Saves your back, and you can get to all the stuff in the back, too. Congrats on the new digs!

Justin James
Justin James

Sadly, I have had enough all-nighters already in my IT career. :( One this I *will* say for my current boss, he would rather see a project be a bit late than for me to get totally burnt out. Then again, the last time I worked for 36+ hours straight (build an entire server, imported 35+ GB worth of data, wrote queries, and supervised the queries), he wasn't exactly hustling me out the door, either... J.Ja

rclark
rclark

10:30 at night, long day, eye strain, and then you lean back and.....It's time to go to work again, the birds are starting to wake up,.....

Justin James
Justin James

While it looks pretty relaxing, I am not sure how I would scoot that bad boy up to my desk and crank out code! J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

I have those now and were measured for computer use. Indeed, I can't even wear them while reading a book, the distance is wrong! They help quite a bit, but the overhead lights are still a killer. 8 hours at home in incandescents in fine, 1 hour at work is excruiating. J.Ja

FoothillsCG.com
FoothillsCG.com

Have someone help you measure the distance between the screen and your eyes. Give that measurement to your eye doctor for a pair of glasses to use just at the key board. Make sure to get the anti-glare coating (worth it's weight in gold). A friend of mine has an eyeglass case attached to her screen where she keeps them whenever they aren't on her head. Now she has a set at home, too.

Justin James
Justin James

Thanks! I am due for an eye exam soon anyways, it has been enarly 2 years, and I feel like my current prescription might not be doing the job, so I will definitely ask about that when I go get my eyes checked out. J.Ja

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