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Inside Amazon's Mini Rainforest Work Space Spheres (cnbc.com) 85

Amazon's indoor rainforest-like office space opened today after being in development for seven years. CNBC reports of what can be found inside the Spheres: The Spheres' three glass domes house some 40,000 plants of 400 species. Amazon, famous for its demanding work culture, hopes the Spheres' lush environs will let employees reflect and have chance encounters, spawning new products or plans. The space is more like a greenhouse than a typical office. Instead of enclosed conference rooms or desks, there are walkways and unconventional meeting spaces with chairs. Amazon has invested $3.7 billion on buildings and infrastructure in Seattle from 2010 to summer 2017, a figure that has public officials competing for its "HQ2" salivating. Amazon has said it expects to invest more than $5 billion in construction of HQ2 and to create as many as 50,000 jobs. The Spheres, designed by architecture firm NBBJ, will become part of Amazon's guided campus tours. Members of the public can also visit an exhibit at the Spheres by appointment starting Tuesday.
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Inside Amazon's Mini Rainforest Work Space Spheres

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    it's literal now.
  • Huh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Just imagine how much more productive and happy their workers would be if they'd invested $3.7 billion in the salaries of workers in Seattle.

    • Re:Huh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @06:32PM (#56029741)

      Just imagine how much more productive and happy their workers would be if they'd invested $3.7 billion in the salaries of workers in Seattle.

      Or, just dumped Seattle and went to the Midwest with that $3.7 Billion where labor is cheaper and the standard of living easier to maintain.

      So I've got to ask, when you say "invest" in salaries of workers you mean give them raises right? The problem with handing out $3.7 Billion all in one year is that you have just increased your baseline costs unless you just hand out a one time bonus. One time bonuses are only have a short term benefit on employee's good feelings towards the company. Give them a few months and the benefit is all gone.

      So Amazon spent $3.7 Billion on a hopefully better facility to improve the working environment. It might be that this has a longer term effect on how the employees feel about work and it might be just as effective as handing out cash.

      • Re:Huh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @06:55PM (#56029879) Journal
        You can get cheap unskilled labor in the Midwest. The educated, experienced labor force you need to run a multi-national is hard to find there. The lower taxes and cheaper living in those states come with the trade-off of lower spending on education, infrastructure and cultural institutions all of which are very important to the highly sought out employees companies like Amazon need. Most companies that look into moving into cheaper states end up scraping their plans once they figure out that most of their core employees are unwilling to move to the proposed locations even with generous incentives
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bobbied ( 2522392 )

          The Midwest is just fly over country to you I guess... Have you even been here? Of course not.

          What breathtaking ignorance you have...This is why we make jokes about the idiot liberals on the coasts who think they are better than everybody else, only we do so in private and with obvious sarcasm and just don't blurt out such nonsense as facts. I was raised in the mid west and have spent time on both coasts. There are smart and stupid people every place I've ever lived, in roughly the same mix. I do find ar

          • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

            by Dorianny ( 1847922 )
            Way to call me out on my "ignorance" while offering nothing more to support your position then insults and self-professed expertise. The Midwest has been professing the ruin of the high tax coasts states for decades now, yet still here we are waiting for the great Corporate exodus to the Midwest, while San Francisco's and New York's real-estate markets keeps skyrocketing
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by sexconker ( 1179573 )

              Surely, THIS will be the bubble that lasts!

              -Dorianny, Expert Slashdotter

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by bobbied ( 2522392 )

              LOL... https://www.thehtgroup.com/ht-... [thehtgroup.com]

              Read it and weep my coastal friend.. BTW this article is not discussing everything. Amazon is looking at the Dallas area for it's second regional headquarters and there are a pile of companies who may not be moving their head quarters to north texas, but are sure expanding their operations here. I got to ask, why do you think all this is going on here? Yea, we are all just poor stupid folks with southern drawls and cowboy boots...

              Feel free to stay where you are th

              • I'm pretty sure a feel good piece by a recruiting agency is not exactly going to be the deciding factor in Amazon's decision.
                • Of course not.. But Amazon apparently has considered a number of locations and Dallas is the obvious choice according to the Wall Street Journal:

                  https://www.dmagazine.com/frontburner/2017/11/wall-street-journal-says-amazon-is-totally-coming-to-dallas/

                  Would you like some mustard on that crow you are eating? :)

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Have you even been here? Of course not.

            I have lived there for many years, in southern Wisconsin. I had several friends and colleagues transition from public research to private spinoff companies. Out of five I can think of that grew to more than half a dozen people, four moved to the west coast, and the fifth opened a second office on the east coast. That last example's choice to have two offices was not for business reasons, but because the founder's family was slightly more attached to their location, enough to accept growth limitations and

          • You know, as one of the "coastal liberals" you hate so much; I can't recall the last time I've heard anyone derisively refer to the midwest as "fly over country". Probably 90% of the time I hear or read the phrase are cases exactly like this one: Midwestern republicans complaining about coastal liberals derisively referring to the midwest as flyover country. Most of that last 10% is liberals. But they're not derisively referring to the midwest as flyover country. They're mocking you midwestern republic

            • Well, look at it from my perspective having been raised in the mid-west, read the previous posts and I think you will see that I'm not dissing you specifically, unless you think the shoe fits. I'm dissing the guy who basically said all us folk in the Midwest are uneducated and stupid.

              I think ignorance abounds on both coasts and the middle and the ignorance is about exactly who we are as individuals and the inherent value each person has. If you wish to lecture me about my views of liberals, I suggest you

              • No harm no foul. And I guess I should have specified that I was using the plural "you" and not trying to attack you singularly. So, my bad there.

                But the "flyover country" thing really does tickle me. First, because I was telling the truth when I said I hardly ever hear people here on the coast use it derisively against the midwest as a whole. But two, the dichotomy between one day being offended at the notion that we only fly over, and the next making it very clear that we would not be welcome there. A

          • I've lived on the West coast nearly my whole life. I suppose I'm what you might call a "idiot liberal." The vast, vast majority of people I have met from the Midwest have been really nice to me--at least, to my face, since I have no way of knowing what might possibly be said about me behind my back, not that I go around feeling paranoid about such things that are not under my control.

            And the way you characterize or stereotype me by way of geographic origin or cultural identity is incredibly hurtful--or at

            • Apologies to you.. I was talking to the previous poster who dissed the Midwest as full of stupid people.

              I don't talk about it much, but most of my family is in California and although I grew up in the mid-west I was born on the left coast myself. In my experience, liberal/Conservative, left/right, Democrat/Republican or from a red or blue state doesn't really matter. We are generally all the same. Though I must admit, I do find the liberal mindset to be a bit more "we are better than you" in general and

        • The lower taxes and cheaper living in those states come with the trade-off of lower spending on education, infrastructure and cultural institutions all of which are very important to the highly sought out employees companies like Amazon need.

          There are cities in the Midwest. Most of the land-grant universities [wikipedia.org] are there. It's not all cornfields.

  • One Upmanship (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @06:30PM (#56029731) Journal
    This kind of crap is going on everywhere. Here in the Midwest, companies are changing their offices because, "It's the trend on the west coast."

    My company bought new office furniture five years ago because "the trend" was to move to smaller desks. Some of the furniture in the collaborative work spaces now has a thick layer of dust because it's gone unused.

    Now we're getting a new office layout this year. No more assigned desk! Sit where ever you want. How is that supposed to work?

    No desks available? Sit down on the loveseat. (Seriously, this is an office. Not a dorm!) If you don't like the loveseat, there will be an area with different levels, like bleachers, or that episode from Seinfeld. [youtube.com]

    I just want a comfortable chair to sit on, a place to put my stuff, HVAC, a fridge, a microwave, and a restroom. Half the time that stuff doesn't work.
    • This kind of crap is going on everywhere. Here in the Midwest, companies are changing their offices

      If you put this kind of office in Denver no one would work in it; the heat and humidity would drive everyone out the door in a few minutes.

    • Now we're getting a new office layout this year. No more assigned desk! Sit where ever you want. How is that supposed to work?

      It absolutely sucks. I'm only convinced management does it because they know it pisses everyone off and they want to downsize without firing anyone so they pull passive aggressive shit like this.

      If you want shit to get done by your development staff get them all their own offices and let them arrange it to their own tastes. I'd even suggest having only a single meeting room, which makes it difficult for managers to schedule long meetings that just piss everyone's time away.

      • It absolutely sucks. I'm only convinced management does it because they know it pisses everyone off and they want to downsize without firing anyone so they pull passive aggressive shit like this

        The jokes on them when they have to foot the bill for the repetitive strain injury claims. [wikipedia.org]

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Sit where ever you want. How is that supposed to work?

      There's a big mahogany desk in that corner office. Dibs!

    • In my experience, a lot of companies mistake "motion" for "progress". Apparently they have a perverse incentive to keep changing things despite a lack of evidence indicating that the change is worth the cost. In general, any "improvement" makes operation less efficient in the short term. If you constantly keep after people enough to use the new system, in theory the productivity climbs back above the point it was at before you changed things. But human nature being what it is, humans are inherently resistan
      • But human nature being what it is, humans are inherently resistant to change and there are enumerable ways for people to sabotage new systems and make sure they don't work.

        That tends to make it very difficult for managers to tell if the changes that were made were good or bad.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I think some of this is driven by trends. Business leaders see "other companies" in glossy magazines, in the news or wherever doing something "fun" and they want in on it too for fear of being left out.

      But I think some of the "sit on the loveseat" is driven by management's own disconnection with how actual workers get actual work done. They "work" in jobs that mostly consist of going to meetings and writing reports about meetings and arranging for informal meetings with other managers. To them, "work" is

      • But I think some of the "sit on the loveseat" is driven by management's own disconnection with how actual workers get actual work done. They "work" in jobs that mostly consist of going to meetings and writing reports about meetings and arranging for informal meetings with other managers. To them, "work" is kind of an extended cocktail party, except with frappacinos, kambucha or giant water bottles, so sitting around on couches or in non-office type spaces makes complete sense.

        Yes. I had this discussion with a technician once.

        He said to me, "As you move up the chain of command, you do less and less real work."

        I told him, "Your work changes as you move up. You do less value added work, like building things, and more communication."

        "So the CEO does nothing but goes to meetings all day?"

        "Yup"

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @06:57PM (#56029895)

    When companies start showing off fancy real estate, or initiating a Hunger Games style race to the bottom for cities to be their next headquarters, it's a good sign the next bubble is coming to an end. Sun moved to a fancy new campus and were shortly bought by Oracle. There was an article a few momths ago about how Microsoft is building tree houses for their employees to work in. This is the second tech bubble I've lived through and the end always seems to be a new trend in office design.

    I guess I'm old school. but I really don't like collaborative brightly colored preschool workspaces. I want a comfortable private workspace with decent temperature control and access to decent coffee/snacks. Even when I was younger I couldn't understand why people would voluntarily work crazy hours if an employer gave them a "fun" office environment.

    The problem with the current office trend is that it's not easily undo-able. You can't easily go back from people crammed around cafeteria tables to even semi-private spaces without showing that it has a direct effect on productivity.

    • No. Amazon, Google, and Facebook have so much cash on hand, they can afford the throw hundreds of projects at the wall and see what sticks. As long as they have an effective mechanism for deciding when to STOP funding these experiments, they will be making money. On paper, Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world, worth at least 50 times what Trump is worth -- why do you think Trump hates Bezos so much? (Not sure whether or not to add Microsoft and Apple to the above list. They have lots of cash, but
      • On paper, Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world, worth at least 50 times what Trump is worth -- why do you think Trump hates Bezos so much?

        Until Trump releases a tax return, I am going to stand by my opinion that Trump isn't worth jack-shit. He's got some expensive properties and is probably so cash poor that he can barely afford to run them. The only thing we have to value Trump are his own statements about his worth and he thinks his name alone is worth billions. My guess is that he has squandered most of the fortune that his grandfather and father have left him.

    • Sun didn't have a viable business model. Amazon has dozens of business models, and only a few of them need to work to keep the company viable. Apple just opened their starship -- your criticism might be appropriate for them, the seem to be falling farther and farther behind Samsung, which ironically provides 35% of the parts for the iPhone anyway. "Our top supplier is copying us!", Apple keeps whining...
      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
        Sun had a viable business model, their execution and costing structures didn't support what was coming down the pike - ie, they failed to anticipate their competition, much like IBM failed to anticipate the PC.
    • So, you're saying "... and the end always seems to be ... " when you've got a previous experience of one instance and a claim that this is the second?
    • I want a comfortable private workspace with decent temperature control and access to decent coffee/snacks.

      A few years ago my company bought a bunch of trendy new office furniture, and then turned down the heat to 65 deg F, and took away the coffee machines.

      There was a revolt...

  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @07:07PM (#56029943) Journal

    To be a slave.

  • Is Amazon finally paying that? Then we can discuss plants and trees.
  • Sad thing is, they don't let the unicorn out during the day.

    And since fish are in the spheres, there is, of course, pee

  • https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless-in-seattle-as-wealth-in-king-county-has-boomed-so-has-the-population-on-the-streets/
    Somethings wrong with this country.
  • This reminded me of the movie Silent Running [wikipedia.org] (IMDB [imdb.com]) with Bruce Dern, crusing around on a spaceship with bio-domes and 3 drones named Huey, Dewey and Louie.
  • Why the heck would anyone want to meet in a rain forest? It is hot, humid, and full of foot long poisonous millipedes. Not to mention the bird-eating spiders. And any minute a bunch of bulldozers might attack.

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