Controversy at Rackspace: light vs. dark offices

When I visited Rackspace’s headquarters on Thursday I ran into a little division in the offices there. Quite a unique division. See, I’ve been in corporate headquarters around the world. L’Oreal. Target. Microsoft. Apple. Google. etc. But I’ve never seen this kind of office division. What is it?

Light vs. dark.

Now, at Microsoft, I’ve known people who keep their offices dark and some who like a lot of light. So, this division exists elsewhere, but I’ve never seen it taken to this level where there’s entire sections of office space divided this way.

Here Rackspace’s co-founder, Dirk Elmendorf and Chief Marketing Officer, Lew Moorman, show my cell phone the division and explain why they do that.

So, which are you? Light or dark?

I’m definitely a dark!

Advertisements

47 thoughts on “Controversy at Rackspace: light vs. dark offices

  1. Not sure about “pitch black” :p but definitely dark…

    My eyes are quite sensitive to light (one of the reasons I opted for a matte screen too) and so I tend to be able to focus a lot better at night and in dark(er) rooms! πŸ™‚

    Like

  2. Not sure about “pitch black” :p but definitely dark…

    My eyes are quite sensitive to light (one of the reasons I opted for a matte screen too) and so I tend to be able to focus a lot better at night and in dark(er) rooms! πŸ™‚

    Like

  3. I’m dark, totally! When my partner came back home to work she struggled with my need to have the office dark but now she’s seen the light… err the dark… whatever, it’s dark in home our office as it should be.

    And this type of division is exactly why I would hate to have to work in an office.

    Like

  4. I’m dark, totally! When my partner came back home to work she struggled with my need to have the office dark but now she’s seen the light… err the dark… whatever, it’s dark in home our office as it should be.

    And this type of division is exactly why I would hate to have to work in an office.

    Like

  5. Interestingly enough – I recently researched this from a business perspective. From the book “Using Office Design to Increase Productivity” (Brill) there are two points worth making.

    “Approximately 85% of the information needed to perform these tasks (office related work) is received through the eyes (Hughes, 1976). Therefore a luminous environment is not only desirable, but a necessity.” (pg 175)

    and

    “Within a reasonable range of lighting levels, increasing the amount of light in a setting may lead to improvements in worker performance.” (pg 176)

    Bottom line – most of us personally prefer dark, quiet, secluded offices with windows. But proper high quality lighting (read “not harsh white florescent”) is better for the team as a whole. At least according to the studies.

    This is counterintuitive similar to the fact that increased privacy in an office setting *increases* communications according to studies. And open office formats reduce communication despite being more aesthetic. (Brill, pg 199)

    Who knows, geeks may be different.

    Like

  6. Interestingly enough – I recently researched this from a business perspective. From the book “Using Office Design to Increase Productivity” (Brill) there are two points worth making.

    “Approximately 85% of the information needed to perform these tasks (office related work) is received through the eyes (Hughes, 1976). Therefore a luminous environment is not only desirable, but a necessity.” (pg 175)

    and

    “Within a reasonable range of lighting levels, increasing the amount of light in a setting may lead to improvements in worker performance.” (pg 176)

    Bottom line – most of us personally prefer dark, quiet, secluded offices with windows. But proper high quality lighting (read “not harsh white florescent”) is better for the team as a whole. At least according to the studies.

    This is counterintuitive similar to the fact that increased privacy in an office setting *increases* communications according to studies. And open office formats reduce communication despite being more aesthetic. (Brill, pg 199)

    Who knows, geeks may be different.

    Like

  7. I like it dark but not pitch black. Especially with my glossy MacBook screen. My HDTV is enough extra light in the room.

    Like

  8. The office I was working at was setting up a new floor plan with folks that want to sit in the dark vrs. those that want to sit in with those nasty floresent lights on. I was one who wanted the dark. πŸ™‚

    Dark is just easier to read a screen with.

    Like

  9. The office I was working at was setting up a new floor plan with folks that want to sit in the dark vrs. those that want to sit in with those nasty floresent lights on. I was one who wanted the dark. πŸ™‚

    Dark is just easier to read a screen with.

    Like

  10. Hi Robert,
    We have a section in our office like that since 2002. Initially in the old office and when we moved to our own new facilities in 2005. We got the same people in a completely separate hall where the only light comes from the monitors. Not that the room does not have the lights installed. I will blog about it on our blog and I will show you some pictures too. I have seen and heard about many places like that and I am surprised that you are surprised. I also have a bunch of reasons given to my by the boys about that “dark side”.

    Like

  11. Hi Robert,
    We have a section in our office like that since 2002. Initially in the old office and when we moved to our own new facilities in 2005. We got the same people in a completely separate hall where the only light comes from the monitors. Not that the room does not have the lights installed. I will blog about it on our blog and I will show you some pictures too. I have seen and heard about many places like that and I am surprised that you are surprised. I also have a bunch of reasons given to my by the boys about that “dark side”.

    Like

  12. At home, I prefer the dark so I can enjoy the backlit keyboard of my MacBook Pro.

    At work, I prefer lots of light. But why is it that the people who sit next to the windows always close the blinds?

    Like

  13. At home, I prefer the dark so I can enjoy the backlit keyboard of my MacBook Pro.

    At work, I prefer lots of light. But why is it that the people who sit next to the windows always close the blinds?

    Like

  14. Same debate in our offices. Personally I like it light, but not too much. Diffused daylight is OK but no florescent bulbs…

    Like

  15. Same debate in our offices. Personally I like it light, but not too much. Diffused daylight is OK but no florescent bulbs…

    Like

  16. I find fault with the authors in Schipul’s post, though he did make some interesting points, especially on privacy.

    There was a study done where they increased the lighting in a factory and productivity increased. They lowered the lighting and the productivity increased. The study’s authors concluded that any change will increase productivity. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d look it up. Anyone heard this?

    Like

  17. I find fault with the authors in Schipul’s post, though he did make some interesting points, especially on privacy.

    There was a study done where they increased the lighting in a factory and productivity increased. They lowered the lighting and the productivity increased. The study’s authors concluded that any change will increase productivity. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d look it up. Anyone heard this?

    Like

  18. @boo – they call that the Hawthorne Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect
    “a short-term improvement caused by observing worker performance.”

    and yes, you definitely have to control for it. If Brill did that rigorously in his studies I am not sure. But he mentions it as something to control for, so my guess is yes.

    In practice we have a programmers office that is close to pitch black. So we consider lighting preference in seating assignments. But if in a shared environment we default to light as the most productive common denominator (again – not for all people, just for most). My two cents…

    Like

  19. @boo – they call that the Hawthorne Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect
    “a short-term improvement caused by observing worker performance.”

    and yes, you definitely have to control for it. If Brill did that rigorously in his studies I am not sure. But he mentions it as something to control for, so my guess is yes.

    In practice we have a programmers office that is close to pitch black. So we consider lighting preference in seating assignments. But if in a shared environment we default to light as the most productive common denominator (again – not for all people, just for most). My two cents…

    Like

  20. I prefer light but my colleague, a developer, prefers dark.

    @boo I’ve found that changing where I sit or my desk position improves my productivity too. As does a break in routine.

    @Ed Schipul That’s without anyone watching me either!

    Like

  21. I prefer light but my colleague, a developer, prefers dark.

    @boo I’ve found that changing where I sit or my desk position improves my productivity too. As does a break in routine.

    @Ed Schipul That’s without anyone watching me either!

    Like

Comments are closed.