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Window office

Started: 2011-06-26 11:56:24

Submitted: 2011-06-26 12:35:23

Visibility: World-readable

My employer has a long and complicated set of rules dictating who can get what office, taking into account at least title and probably years of service and controlling a number of key office status features like the presence of a window and the square footage. (The upside of working for a large company is that it actually has the money to pay for things like individual offices for engineers. The downside is that it comes with one-size-fits-all bureaucratic rules[1] that need to be implemented in silly ways by the people actually on the ground.) Having recently been promoted to Staff Engineer (from Senior Engineer), these rules now allow me to move into a window office, subject to the actual availability of a window office and the willingness of the facilities staff to move me. (The Boulder office allegedly has office shuffles every once and a while, which may resemble nothing so much as a giant game of musical chairs. This hasn't happened in at least three years; there hasn't been enough space to actually perform a meaningful shuffle. We're now reclaiming a building across the parking lot and will have a great deal of space sometime later this summer.)

A few weeks ago one of the facilities guys asked if I'd be interested in moving to a new window office (ahead of the allegedly-forthcoming move of my entire team across the parking lot) to make my current third-floor interior office available for a lower-status new hire. He gave me a list of four empty offices on the first floor, all with great views of the parking lot and little else. I picked a west-facing first-floor office that overlooked a quieter section of parking lot and a pair of adjoining buildings.

The actual move was scheduled for the first Friday in June, in which I happened to be in San Diego for two days bringing up my code on a shiny new chip. I took down my posters and maps, packed everything in boxes, and went to San Diego. When I returned on Monday morning my boxes and my computer had been moved to my new office.

New window
office

I slowly unpacked my boxes and found a bunch of training manuals from a pair of week-long classes I took two years ago and never actually needed. (I finally dumped them in the proprietary shred bin while cleaning up my office two days ago.) One downside of the window office was that I no longer had a giant blank wall on which to hang maps, though it turned out I had a tiny view of Arapaho Glacier from above the adjacent building (unless weather conditions (including haze from a wildfire in Arizona) or poorly-parked vehicles obscure the peak), and an actual view of Arapaho Glacier beats the map I had in my old office. One wall (visible in the picture) is dominated by bookshelves, and the opposite wall is dominated by a giant whiteboard. I didn't really need all the bookshelf space I was given, so I moved one of the shelves to the top of the wall to give me more space for my map of India. I also posted a new map of China on the wall opposite the window.

Now that I have a window I tend to leave my office lights off and rely on natural light. The biggest hazard of natural light is direct glare on my monitor; in the afternoon I have to feather my blinds to attenuate the light coming into my west-facing window. (I now wonder how much time I spend every day adjusting my blinds to the changing lighting conditions, but it's probably less time than I spend getting water or walking to the lab.)

(One other side effect I didn't anticipate of the window office is the audio leakage from the adjacent offices. The windows on my floor are built in one continuous length along the wall, with no correlation between the interior walls and the edge of the windows. (There's a load-bearing column in the middle of my window, just to the right of the picture above.) The interior walls go as close as possible to the windows but since one pane of glass will span two offices some audio leakage is inevitable. I can now hear my neighbor's conference calls much more clearly than I'd really care to.)

Overall I'm happy with my new office and the sliver of the mountain view.

[1] "Bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy." - Oscar Wilde
Modern mobile phones make my head hurt, and I speak as the owner of a
sheepskin that proclaims me to hold a degree in computer science.
- Charles Stross, What I want for Christmas