One thing I've learned about myself is that I'm incompatible with the new trend towards "open floorplan" workspaces in tech companies. It makes me miserable and unproductive.

(Don't take this to mean that I'm anti-social. I eat lunch with my team every day, and go to all the company parties and get-togethers, and I often do fun things with my coworkers on the weekends. I just can't deal with a bunch of noise and distraction when I'm trying to concentrate on work.)

One of the sister StackExchange sites lets companies list Joel Test scores which include a check-box for "quiet working conditions", but there's no way to search for companies by this attribute, and (even when I try searching with Google's "site:" feature) none I can find within 1000 miles of me.

I don't want this to turn into a debate over what office layout is best, or how to deal with noisy offices -- those have been done to death already. Given that I want a quiet private office within commuting distance of my house (in a medium-large city known for its tech companies), and am willing to compromise on almost everything else (including job title), how might I go about finding employers who offer this?

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    This isn't really an answer, but due to the sheer nature of the job, most office jobs that require a security clearance will typically be in a private office.
    – panoptical
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 20:46
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    The Joel test uses open floor plans as an example under that point, but I'm not sure you actually need a closed floor plan (or whatever the opposite is) to get a 'check mark' on that one. I know that's not your really your point, but just saying. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 22:17
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    @panoptical Really? Because I've definitely seen open plan offices on secure sites. My previous work had a "secure room", which was also open plan.
    – Nathan
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 16:22
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    @Dukeling I totally agree with you. No open floor plan office will say that it has a noisy work environment. The ONLY reason for an open floor plan is to save them money. They do say that this way people can get into a healthy and productive conversations. But is your performance measured by the number of conversations you engaged in or the number of tasks you completed?
    – Farhan
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 16:06
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    @panoptical i have worked in several high security facilities, and have never had a private office. As a matter of fact, in the most secure facility I worked, I shared a cube and it was a very noisy environment. Commented May 28, 2014 at 17:13

4 Answers 4


Given that I want a quiet private office within commuting distance of my house (in a medium-large city known for its tech companies), and am willing to compromise on almost everything else (including job title), how might I go about finding employers who offer this?

Since it is so rare that companies offer private offices these days, any company that does so almost always proudly proclaims it on their "careers" or "company culture" or "about us" page. For example, Fog Creek Software

Find the companies within commuting distance to you. Look at their web pages. If they have private offices for everyone - they will probably tell you!

Alternatively, if you work with a headhunter, make it clear that this is an important requirement of yours. The good ones know their clients well enough to know if they have private offices, or they can call around to find out if the company offers private offices to some or all employees.

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    I was going to mention the recruiter/headhunter option also: any good recruiter will be familiar with the environment at their clients' offices, and will be able to help with only putting you forward for roles that fit what you're looking for. Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 2:01
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    IMHO this answer is much better than the most upvoted one: it actually gives two valuable advices, while the other one basically says "well, nothing you can do" which clearly isn't true, as demonstrated here.
    – o0'.
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 13:55
  • @o0'. This is the most upvoted one. Or at least it is at the time of posting this comment. I'm presuming it wasn't at the time you posted yours. However the vote count doesn't affect my comment as I'm just commenting to remind you that over time these things change; your comment on the other hand is fairly dependant on this one and the other one remaining pretty close together (and if it is as bad as you make out this likely won't be the case for long!). If you hit share on an answer it'll give you a link you can use that always points to it regardless of score. bit.ly/1UDyu9L Awesome. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 15:37
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    Be aware that, like any company policy or practice, this can change at any time. There are no guarantees unless they are written into your contract, and even then they might let you go rather than make an exception. Also, speaking as someone who is more comfortable in an isolated office (even if it's shoebox-sized), I have to admit that I'm adjusting to an open/modular space better than I expected to... So you may want to consider a more nuanced position.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 15:04

I doubt there's a big database somewhere where you can find a list of such employers. Even if you could search based on some criteria a company filled out in a form, there's no guarantee that what they consider 'quiet' matches what you consider it to be.

Apply for jobs and during the initial interviews make it clear up front you are only interested in positions if they provide a suitable workspace for you - but that you are very flexible otherwise. A lot of companies that aren't capable of such flexibility will cut you from any consideration - but that's what you are going for, so that shouldn't be an issue.

You also might consider telecommute positions, if you feel you have the discipline to work effectively from home. Then you'd have total control over your workspace.

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    I've done telecommuting before, but it's not ideal. I miss out on all the team lunches, and often there's no substitute for face-to-face communication. I want to see my coworkers every day -- just not every minute. :-)
    – Ken
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 19:31
  • @Ken You need to put your statement (I want to see my coworkers every day -- just not every minute.) in your question so that people can understand that you are ruling out working from home options.
    – Farhan
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 19:05

I think you're best bet is networking. As you say, you're a social enough person - go to industry gatherings in your locale - so that you are narrowing down your search to the local area at the outset. Then gently nose around for working environments that work for you - see who you meet that has an office themselves or knows of companies that offer this, and target your search in that direction. The bonus is, you also develop a personal network that helps get you in through recommendations as opposed to posting to open positions with the masses.

The other thing I can think of is to try to diagnose what strategies lead to companies finding it a worth while expense to give people offices. Offices are more expensive than cubicles - most places pay per square foot, and offices simply take more space, plus the work to build more walls and plan out air flow - a one time cost, but it has to amortize over a certain number of years.

One would like to think that every company puts a priority on people having the ability to focus, but clearly there are other tradeoffs that favor open floor plans and I don't think anyone's really made a definitive case for every circumstance. One thing I see is that - with a wide sweeping brush:

  • Offices connote status - companies that want to show that a given role has a high status will get that role an office. This is a factor not only of the need for showing status, but also the need to show status to people who are visiting in person.

  • Roles with confidential information sharing where the whole team does not have a need to know. You'll see it with some info sec, and lots of manager roles.

  • Roles that involve work that is annoying to others - for example, the one guy who takes phone meetings all day may get locked up away from everyone else, because it's easier to wall him off than to give everyone else offices. Similarly, I've seen guys with really loud machinery (white noise but still loud) get private spaces, more like labs than offices, because of the noise of their tools. If what bothers you is human voices vs. white noise, working in a private lab may be an option.

All of these are cases where your need for an office is less likely to change. One trick is that moving into a team that offers offices for no obvious reason other than "we've had lots of offices in this building so it just worked out" - means that your office is as likely to remain only as long as the lease remains. If there's a driving reason for you to have that office, it's more predictable that it will stay around.

  • I would just like to note that the idea that offices are an extra expense, which needs to be justified in some other way, is fallacious, as has been pointed out in cost-per-square-foot and productivity studies going back at least as far as Peopleware, and probably further. In my most recent company, for example, the Boston office was newly created to have no offices and a decidedly "start-up" feel, which according to management was "what engineers wanted."
    – user12818
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 22:02
  • Afterwards, but before that project could be deemed successful or not, the Columbus, OH office, which had private offices for nearly all employees, including all software developers -- an office where some people had been working in their private offices for over a decade as they had been promoted in the organization -- also an office that had never struggled to attract or hire necessary talent -- was completely remodeled, at great expense to the company, to tear down all private offices and convert to an open-plan arrangement. So they actively spent money in order to reduce productivity.
    – user12818
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 22:05
  • Especially within the software development industry, even very tiny productivity increases, like 2-5%, from sitting in private conditions, will easily more than cover any up-front extra real estate costs. It's only in a very disingenuous sense, essentially only factoring in present costs and no productivity effects at all, that anyone can argue that the open plan seating is cheaper. And some have even questioned that because of increases in communicable diseases and illness, extra losses in productivity to more superficial conversations, and other subtle effects of being in a low-privacy area.
    – user12818
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 22:08

During the interview, you can say that you work better in a quiet space than an open-plan or shared-lab environment and count on the folks who consider flexibility important rejecting you... but that may mean giving up job opportunities that you'd be interested in.

And even after that screening, you have no guarantee. The job which has a private office now may not next month when the company decides to consolidate several locations into a single building, or otherwise changes layout/policy/whatever.

I know that isn't the answer you wanted. But I don't think the answer you want exists unless you are enough of a superstar that the company is willing to write this into your contract despite the costs/inconvenience it may impose on them.


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