Office atmosphere should be frenetic, fluid

New York magazine has a feature on the offices of prominent New Yorkers, from Martha Stewart to Michael Bloomberg. Martha’s was devoid of anything remotely resembling work, which perhaps indicates how much of it she gets done. (No word on where the insider trading occurred.)

But it was Bloomberg’s that really impressed me, because he doesn’t technically have an office. He eschewed Giuliani’s former digs and instead filled a large room with low-walled cubicles and called it “the Bullpen”.

The enormous, newsroom-style office houses 50 of his senior staff and aides. “I’ve never understood why anyone would want to seal himself off from the rest of the organization. In the Bullpen, there are no walls, no gatekeepers, and no communication barriers,” explains Bloomberg.

This is the ideal situation in my opinion, and it’s like that at a lot of accounting firms. We even call our version of that room the bullpen as well, so I hope Bloomberg doesn’t consider the name original. The problem with my firm’s office is the walls around everyone’s desks are too high. You have to stand up to see the desk beside you.

Having an office like this is good because you see everyone more and although noise may occasionally be a problem, that can easily be overcome by having some actual offices available for individuals or groups to set up in to have a more secluded session. For general use, the bullpen is best.

What are other accounting firms’ setups like? Do we all have bullpens? Is this the best way to organize an office to enhance communication between colleagues, or does it just hinder productivity? Tell me in the comments!

(Via kottke.)

6 replies on “Office atmosphere should be frenetic, fluid”

  1. Most firms have bullpens for the staff, and managers get ‘real’ offices.

    The nice thing about bullpens is that the lower walls mean that they’re not really actual cubicles, which are infinitely more soul-crushing.

    It’s fun to chit-chat with the people around you, especially if they’re friends or just friendly.

    My IT audit group is great in that sense, since we get along really well on the whole – visitors to our area come away wishing they could work with us. :)

  2. Oh, and of course playing mp3s and listening to them on your headphones is the way to get around noise issues. It’s a bit weird to talk on the phone in such an environment, but you get used to it over time.

  3. We have the cubicle soul crushing environment. I can only see the person next to me and anyone that walks behind me. A window would be nice…but then again, maybe I don’t want to know when it is dark outside and I am still at work.

    Needless to say, I spend 80% of the day with earbuds blaring the soundtrack of my life.

  4. We moved to a really nice new office in September 2005. I only worked for my firm for four months prior to the move, but the bullpen at the old office had low walls and everyone could see everyone else. I don’t really know why they decided to switch, but I wish we could go back to the lower walls. I don’t even have a cubicle for privacy at the new office, just two walls!

  5. I’m suddenly reminded of Season 9 from the Simpsons where Marge becomes a realtor, and there’s a gag over having a third wall for your cubicle – poor Gill has his third wall taken away as it is given to Marge as a prize for her success.

  6. “I brought this wall from home!”

    Hey… I should bring a wall or two from home and create more privacy for myself!

    I’m impressed you knew the Season number of the episode! Do you have the DVDs? Are they even up to Season 9 yet (in DVDs)?

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