Microsoft and Office Space

A couple articles recently on Microsoft and office space. I am liking the look of the new research building, and also noticing that while people do manual labor, a bunch of other people stand around and talk. I love the idea of offices with sliding doors so that multiple work spaces can be combined.

At the same time, I think that while these new buildings go up, and while we have done a lot to provide flexibility in work arrangements (more than most other companies), I still think that there's more to do and I admit that I have a little guilt around owning an office. A little more programmatic flexibility could assuage that guilt (and provide for more efficiency and cost-savings). I think that people use offices for 3 basic things: storage, working and meetings. I definitely use mine for storage, almost never use it for working and only occasionally use it for meetings (many of mine happen on the phone since my team is geographically dispersed).The problem I am seeing is that really what I need is storage space and access to a meeting space that I can schedule when needed. Instead I have an office. An office that people walk by, notice that nobody is in there and then question me on why I have it (yes, this has happened and depending on how the questions are asked it can be a bit uncomfortable). Yes, I have an office. And yes, I need someplace to store stuff and meet people. And no, I haven't been offered any alternative to an office. So until someone comes up with a place for me to store stuff (sorry, it's not going to be my garage...have you seen my garage? I guess you haven't).

I think we can get more creative here. We are smart people. Change a couple offices into "meeting offices" that people can schedule online (here....take my office. Really! You can have it! Just give me some storage space). Make these interior offices so that the people that are in every day have a higher likelihood of getting an office with a window (like mine). Turn a couple offices into storage space to maximize square footage. Create labeled shelves so the space can be used by multiple groups. Put a lock on the door. You do that I will quite happily give up my rather large-ish office.

If we can eliminate some of the offices, and the cost associated with them, I think we can do more to support people working from home. I know that some groups at Microsoft have programs for work-from-home and they sound fantastic; outlining how the person splits their time between work and office and how that split determines whether they have an office or share an office and what home office related costs are covered. Right now at Microsoft, I think that working from home is viewed as a choice. Like for me, I know that I *could* go into the office. But why would I waste an extra 1.5 hours (hair/make-up+drive time) when I would rather spend that time working? I actually get more done if I am working from home. For the right people, I hope that we change our perspective to be more encouraging of working from home.

Like I said, I think we are pretty far ahead of where most companies are (people are usually surprised to hear about my set-up and the word "lucky" is frequently mentioned...and you know what I think about that). But I have so far seen this process as kind of ad hoc in most groups. I am really encouraged to see us thinking about our office space differently. I hope to see us move into a more programmatic perspective on work-from-home and office space options.

Anyone have any scoop on what other companies have done to creatively address space issues?

Comments (3)

  1. Ben says:

    The answer is flex-space.  Two of our newer offices were just recognized in Financial Week ( for their flex-space arrangements.  These arrangements not only allow for more telecommuting opportunities, but also have a direct effect on the bottom line.

    I’m fortunate to work out of the Gaithersburg, MD office, where I have a locker to store my stuff, and can reserve an office, cubicle or conference room via Outlook whenever I need it.

    In my role, I’ve had flexible work options ever since I joined the firm.  I can work from home, I travel a bit (alot recently actually), I can work from the local Panera, and I have this option now as well.  More details to come on my blog (I’ve been very delinquent lately on posting there…)

  2. tod hilton says:

    Unfortunately, flex time (e.g.: working from home a few days/week) is completely up to the manager and/or organization.  For example, as a general rule, Office does not allow people to work from home on a regular basis (like every Tuesday).  Meanwhile, my brother’s team (in Windows Live Ops) gives everyone carte blance every Tuesday and Thursday to work from home if they like.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, I am sure it depends quite a bit on the role as well. If all my people were in Redmond, I don’t think I’d work from home nearly as much.

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