Office space...
Published Jan 16 2008 05:06 PM 1,352 Views

This post is about how office space is allocated at Microsoft, and it has nothing to do with the movie of the same name.  You will also be hard pressed to find something really useful Exchange-related in it!

In most of the company, we have offices with actual doors rather than cubicles.  Of late, we've been running into a space crunch due to a general underestimation of how many hires we could make (typically, it's assumed that only a certain percentage of allocated head count will be filled at any time due to attrition and the time it takes to find and bring in new people).  I don't know the exact percentages, but we hired more than we expected we'd be able to, so we've been getting a bit squeezed for offices until more can be built.

Offices are allocated to teams based on their head counts, and offices are allocated to people based mostly on seniority.  There are four types of office arrangements, ordered by prestige: corner offices, window offices, interior offices, and multi-person offices.  Corner offices, which are larger than regular ones, are the most coveted and are usually allocated to very senior managers (like VP's, General Managers, Product Unit Managers, etc).  Although with the space crunch, a few of our senior managers took one for the team and moved into interior offices and let their corner office be occupied by several others (they can typically fit four people without too much crowding). 

The next most desirable offices are window offices.  These are allocated strictly by seniority at Microsoft, although depending on how space has been divided up between teams and how senior certain teams are, we could and do end up with less senior people trumping more senior ones on occasion.   There's always a good bit of grumbling when that happens.  How senior you have to be to get a window office depends on many factors, most particularly how senior you are relative to your team.  I got my first window office after being at MS for less than two years, but that was in less crowded times and occurred after we moved into a brand new building.  In Exchange today, there are people that have been at MS for 5 years or more and still are in interior offices.

The least desirable situation is to be in an office with one or two other people.  I've shared an office before, and also worked in cubicle land for a number of years, but that was 10 years ago (before I joined MS), and there is no way I could go back that.  Aside: about 15 years ago I was fooling around in my cubicle one day with a pen and a rubberband, spinning it around and around (why, I couldn't say).  What I didn't realize was that the pen was leaking and I was spraying little ink droplets on people in all the surrounding cubicles.  I was not the most popular person in the office that day (or that week, for that matter).  It's best to keep me enclosed in a roof and walls.

- Jon Avner

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