Open Offices are Evil

I’m afraid I have to agree with the Washington Post. Not because I have anything against them, nor Google, but having worked in both open, semi-private, and private offices I have to agree: open floor plan offices are counter-productive. What you gain in reduced operations costs and floor space efficiency, you lose in individual productivity.

This is not new. It goes back to a book I read in university, a very long time ago now: The Mythical Man Month. One of the insights I took away was the demonstrable pattern of the best programmers at the best companies are 100x more productive than the worst programmer at the worst companies. The difference between companies: can you close your door and silence your phone?

That simple. A 10-second interruption costs you 20 minutes (give or take) of think time. In cognitively challenging work (programming, engineering, creative endeavours, writing, and other brain jobs) every interruption means starting over again.

So if you ever wonder why you can spend the entire day at work, and come home feeling tired and wondering what you actually got done, maybe you should work from somewhere else once in a while. I used to book a small meeting room on the other side of the building so nobody would want to come find me unless they absolutely had to. Not to hide, but to get work done. Try it some time. Let me know how it works for you.

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