ArsDigita Facilities Standards

by Philip Greenspun
We are rapidly building out facilities all over the world. This document should be a guide to planning and operating.


Prospective employees should walk into an ArsDigita facility and say "this is where I want to work". Customers and investors should walk in and say "these guys are excellent at execution" (remember that execution risk is the biggest worry on any investor's mind; nobody is going to give us $70 million so that we can rent nice office space worldwide and trash it).

the pre-basics

Heat and A/C 24x7. An ArsDigita facility should always be a comfortable place to sit and work.

the basics

No employee, visiting customer, potential recruit, or investor should ever see a burnt-out light bulb, a dirty kitchen or one without paper towels, an empty box littering the work area, an improperly equipped work space, a conference room without a conference table, adequate chairs, a Web browser, and a screen large enough for everyone to see.


We should become known as the place where the smartest people in the world work and bring their dogs. This is an overwhelming recruiting advantage for some people. Admittedly this is a small percentage of the population but we only need to hire a few hundred people over the next year or two! So when leasing office space we should try hard to get dog-friendly leases.

(What about cats? Sorry but Eve is allergic and it isn't clear that a cat would survive a tug-of-war between Heidi and Alex. What about, uh, accidents? On the third strike the owner of the dog pays for carpet shampooing the entire floor and a replacement rug section if necessary.)

fish and plants

Let's be known for fish and plants. These are items that can be maintained via contract in an office and that are difficult to keep in a home (particular if one is working hard and traveling).

other attractive items

ArsDigita's physical facilities should contain things that will attract recruits. For example, the Cambridge office should have a grand piano, plants everywhere, aquariums, toys, fancy exercise machines, etc. We do not expect every person to value all of those items but we have enough different things that a recruit would be likely to say "Hey, I'd love to work there because they have X".

no distinctions by rank

Different people may have different work areas for practical reasons but not in virtue of having different job titles or positions.

open plan

We believe that an open plan is more efficient for project teams to work together and more inspiring (one gets to see a lot of space and a lot of people working at once). Vaguely similar companies seem to have settled on similar layouts.

no absurd luxury

Instead of fancy materials, let's put our money into utilitarian things such as the best chairs and into amazing and amusing things.


We need to have someone at the front door at 9:00 am to greet visitors who aren't on "programmer time". Because of boot camp and nocturnal work habits in general, we should also have receptionist coverage through 8:00 pm (maybe a high-school student).

An ArsDigita reception area should be informal, without a receptionist sitting behind a high desk. The CyberCafe idea that Jeff Baron had for 80 Prospect Street isn't a bad one. Certainly visitors ought to be able to immediately sit down and start using a Web browser and telephone.

What to give the receptionist for facilities? A Web browser. A telephone, perhaps a fancy one. An area to hold outgoing and incoming packages. The receptionist can't do outbound telephone calls (since he or she must always be ready to answer an incoming call) but perhaps can do some work or research via the Web.


Each facility should be cleaned early in the morning, e.g., around 7:00 am. This would include the usual vacuuming and emptying of trash cans. In addition, we need cleaners to come in at 6:00 pm to clean and replenish restrooms and kitchens and empty the trash cans in those areas.


Open plan means that your mess become everyone's mess. We'll have a community clean-up party at 5:00 pm every Tuesday or something. Anyone who misses the party two weeks in a row (and whose area is cluttered) gets to donate $100 to the ArsDigita Foundation. Every office will have a Chief Clutter Officer (CCO) whose judgements in these areas are final. The neatest person in the office should be selected to be CCO.

Dead Computer Storage

Computers and monitors die but are too expensive to throw out. A dead machine should not be in the work area. It must immediately be taken to a dead computer area (storage room) where it will sit until someone gets organized enough to mail it out or bring in a repair person.


Every day at 3:00 pm, the Facilities Auditor should walk through the building, dropping cluttering flags on the keyboards of the worst offenders, noting burnt-out light bulbs, empty paper towel or soap dispensers in bathrooms and kitchens, dead computers in the corridors, near-empty boxes.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

Kitchens and bathrooms have the property that they contain supplies that can run out. There should be labels and instructions in each room explaining where additional supplies may be obtained (so that users can help themselves).

Reader's Comments

Low watt light bulbs and LCD displays and recycling?

-- JR Ebel, January 6, 2002
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