Interesting discussion is taking place at this Slashdot article, Companies Move Away From Cubicle Culture. I have some unique insight to this ‘solution’ as I work in a nice size cubicle at the client’s site but in a shared/open floor plan area when I traveled to the company’s office.
I don’t think either one is the solution. It all depends on the type of work being perform, and this relates to what type of people performing the work. When I am in the client’s site, I mainly interact with other team leads from the client’s company, either on the phone or face-to-face. This requires a level of privacy that a cubicle is ideal. Doing this in a shared area will not be productive or tactful (sometimes).
However, when I am at the company’s office I mainly work with the development team helping them solve technical problems. Interaction between group of software engineers are always the best way to solve technical problems. And my company provides many kiosks and conference rooms exactly for this purpose. Oftentimes we started off as a discussion between one or two engineers at their desk in the ‘bullpen’. Then as the discussion grows to include more relevant engineers, we tend to move to a conference room where there are larger white board and projector.
So now you can see how both solutions work equally well. And really a company should not force its employees into a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
As for Sun having a large portion of its employees lacking permanent offices, this is not new. When I first left college and was looking for jobs more than 6 years ago, one of the interview I got is with Cisco System in their U.K. office. They had just moved into a new office building and one of the main feature was ‘hot desking’. This is where some employees (mainly sales staff or support staff who did not spend most of their time in the office) could just pick an empty desk/cubicle for use.
When I was shown around, there were many such desks/cubicles devoted for this purposes. Each desk/cubicle had an Ethernet connection (Wi-Fi has not been invented then) and land line phone. When an employee arrived s/he just had to setup the phone system to divert all calls to ‘hers’/’his’ contact number to that land line, hooked up the laptop to the Ethernet, and updated the temporary location on the company directory/address book.
Very advance in those heady days of the tech boom…