Openly Challenging the "Open" "Office"

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Citing "research [that was] in" "37 years ago", an expanding software firm is doing "the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing" by rejecting the "open office" floor plan that is so common today. Interesting to me are the reasons for this choice, which boil down to two aspects of software development: work mode and work flow. Regarding each, Chris Nagele cites the research, as expounded in the book, Peopleware. Here are the respective quotes:

... 30% of the time, people are noise sensitive, and the rest of the time, they are noise generators. Though those working alone are a minority at any given time, it's a mistake to ignore them because they actually do the work during the solitary periods.
For anyone involved in engineering, design, development, writing or similar tasks, flow is a must. These are high-momentum tasks that only go well when you're in flow. Unfortunately, it can't be turned on like a switch, it takes a slow descent into the subject, 15 minutes of more of concentration before the state is locked in. Each time you're interrupted, you require an additional immersion period to get back into flow. During this immersion, you're not really doing work.
I am glad to see someone out there asking questions that are often left unasked regarding work environments. Even if, as one could infer from the post (incorrectly, I think) that the questions were forced by attempting to use an open office, this is is encouraging to see. How many others endure such conditions without considering an alternative, or without at least trying to go against cultural momentum?

-- CAV

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