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Office Space & Pleistocene Brains

Below is our new office building across from Main State (Harry Truman Building).   It should be ready for us to move into by June.  Construction is ahead of schedule, which is uncommon.

Pharma building in Washington

We are moving to a new building where space is at a premium & we had to assign offices.  I really cannot picture the layout by looking at the map of the offices.  Fortunately, my colleague Joel did the thinking for both of us.  He evidently understands blueprints and knows a lot of those arcane rules e.g. how much space a GS-12, 13,14s etc are suppose to get. Office space allocation is one of the thorniest issues you can think of.   It is not so much about comfort - more about status.  

The problem is that there are natural work flows and work groups that do not follow rank.   For example, by the nature of the job a low ranking receptionist will almost always command more space, albeit not very private, than a higher ranking analyst.   It might also be useful to group people by their tasks, but that almost always means that you might crowd the higher ranking group members and give more space to the lower one.   I think the whole rank thing is a little silly.   Of course we all want a nice big place with a window, but you have to consider the job to be done.  I figure that I need a big space to accommodate my big ideas, but not everyone agrees.  Some tasks require space, others not so much.

There is also the bugaboo of privacy.  It makes logical sense that a private workspace would be smaller because there is no need to have group interactivity.   In fact, it usually works the other way around, with people demanding large private spaces and the loudest or highest ranking people getting them. 

My favorite office arrangement remains one I saw in Norway at one of the environmental organizations.   Everybody from the director to the newest hire had the same small sized office, but there were common spaces in the middle where people could meet.  There was not much privacy, but I think that is a good thing if you are trying to create teams and synergy.   It is better if people see what is going on.   You want to avoid providing covered places to hide  Unfortunately in our organizations somebody always wants to knock down walls and expand his/her office, then close it off from everybody else.  I suppose the desire for mark off defensible territory goes back to our Pleistocene ancestors, but you would think after all this time we would have gotten over it.

Below - rainy day at the shuttle bus stop.

rainy day at the shuttle stop

There is another point of view on all this.  I understand that my insouciance on this matter leads to my getting rolled on space issues.  The Pleistocene warriors get to take over my hunting grounds and eat my lunch because they are so much more passionate.  Sometimes I suppose I should toss a few rocks and feign a scream.   But I am speculating way too much on way too small an issue in this situation. 

I don’t want to leave the false impression that I am having problems already.  The office space thing was just intereresting, not a problem.  My new colleagues are great and I got no worries.  I am pleased to report that everyone seems reasonable.  Perhaps that is because they are mostly new in their jobs and in relatively new offices.  Nobody has developed an abiding attachment to their space.  I don’t suppose everyone will be as lucky as I am.   Some offices look like they have been occupied since Neolithic times and moving those offices may require an environmental impact statement to ensure that the ecological communities that have grown in and around them are not disturbed.  I pity the guys who have to make those choices.


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