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Brand new year, and the end of an error... er, "era".

I was thinking of something to write about that would be slightly interesting, and after some rumination, I thought of this: freedom. The Dilbert comic from the other day sums it up quite well.

Dilbert.com

Freedom from the daily office drudgery is a topic that crosses my mind quite frequently. Like many others, I wish there could be more job satisfaction, but sadly, that takes a back-seat to the more pressing concerns of paying a mortgage and keeping the family fed. Oddly enough, I actually feel envious of Dilbert. At least he's got a cubicle..

I work in a very average and mundane systems integrator in Japan. Your average Japanese office doesn't have cubicles, and instead features desks arranged so that everyone faces each other. Not having four walls surrounding me, I suppose that would make me free-range livestock?

This post is just a start. I've been thinking of freedom quite seriously lately, but I don't quite have the time right now to wax verbose. Back again, in a while...

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Comment by Cameron Souza on January 27, 2009 at 5:08pm
In the US, 4.6 million of us have freedom to do whatever we want all day, but no job.
Comment by Mika Leuck on January 27, 2009 at 5:04pm
There is always someone limiting your freedom. If you work for a company your manager tells you what to do. If you have your own company your customers are your boss, especially in Japan.
Comment by Brooke Fujita on January 26, 2009 at 3:30pm
@Viil
> I think the definition of "freedom" is very culturally dependent and highly related to your context
Yes, indeed. And as Dan further comments...

> You don't see this much in the US outside of small companies. Perhaps it's because we have been trained to view a large office as a status symbol.

The concept of freedom is certainly culturally dependent. And likewise, the importance of freedom will vary from person to person, and culture to culture as well.

Lifetime employment and job security have been dead in Japan for years now. But maybe your average employee here, if she or he should still have a job, probably is wishing desperately that it weren't.
Comment by Daniel Leuck on January 26, 2009 at 12:47pm
Your average Japanese office doesn't have cubicles, and instead features desks arranged so that everyone faces each other.
We had this arrangement at all three companies I worked for in Japan. It definitely takes some getting used to. On one hand, you have absolutely no privacy. On the other, its convenient when you are collaborating closely with others at your table. It definitely makes it more important to like the people on your team! :-) As a manager it makes it easier to monitor people, which is necessary with some groups (usually younger teams) and less so with others.

In London at Lastminute.com, the largest B2C web business in Europe, we had the same arrangement. Even the CxOs (CEO, COO, CIO, CTO) sat at open tables surrounded by others. I don't know if this is typical in the UK because I only worked at one company. You don't see this much in the US outside of small companies. Perhaps its because we have been trained to view a large office as a status symbol.
Comment by Viil on January 26, 2009 at 11:10am
Freedom is a great concept to discuss :) I think the definition of "freedom" is very culturally dependent and highly related to your context. What is considered freedom in one part of the world is not considered freedom in another.

To one extreme freedom can be interpreted to be similar to total anarchy, which as social systems goes is not very functional. I think there always will have to be a trade off between freedom and organization, and the main issue is where to draw the line and how to best implement this balance in order to ensure quality of life for the individual as well as a healthy society.
Comment by Lance Furuyama on January 26, 2009 at 9:55am
It sounds like we have similar workspaces.

It took some getting used to, especially with my trouble on focusing on my tasks, rather than chatting with my stable-mates.

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