Thursday, January 23, 2014

I need a quiet office

I really struggle to concentrate / focus (i.e. to "get into the zone") when trying to develop or read something technical while people are talking around me in the office. Perhaps the open plan layout works for some people, but I find it very distracting. (And I'm very guilty myself of causing distraction for others as well!)

I think ideally some of the office space should be divided into a few smaller work areas to be used by small teams that prefer to have privacy.  For example, I'm currently working with a small team (3-5 developers) and we occasionally need to communicate with a remote office via Skype and a webcam. Ideally we shouldn't have to go to a meeting room every time we want to have a chat with the remote team members.

At a very least, I wish we had several small 1-person private guest offices for us to use when we need privacy. That way I can keep my desk in the open office, but get away for 3-4 hours a day for productive work.

The only way I can fight the distraction, is to listen to music while I work. But this only works for certain type of tasks (like unit testing). When I really need to focus (like learning/reading or designing/writing code), I want no distractions. A single sentence on the other side of the office can bring me out of the "zone".

If you Google search for "open plan office productivity" you'll immediately see lots of evidence that Open Plan doesn't work for everyone. (It seems like younger people like open offices more, presumably because it feels more social).

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_plan:
A systematic survey of research upon the effects of open plan offices found frequent negative effects in some traditional workplaces: high levels of noise, stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover.[7] The noise level greatly reduces the productivity, which drops to one third relative to what it would be in quiet rooms ... A balance between the office types may be found by employees having an open setting with part-time access to a quiet workspace.
Or from http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2014/01/the-open-office-trap.html
a growing body of evidence suggests that the open office undermines the very things that it was designed to achieve. ...  In laboratory settings, noise has been repeatedly tied to reduced cognitive performance.
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