Geeks need their space

Today’s post inspiration comes courtesy of Matthew Solle (@solle) who tweeted this video of Campaign Monitor’s new offices

This video reminded me of my afternoon at my client. After a week of wireframing, data architecting and meetings, I finally got to sit down and code what I’d had in my head for nearly a month. Fellow geeks, you know how good a feeling it is to be in the zone and just do simply excellent work at what feels like breakneck speed, it’s great.

Except, I work in an open-plan office. There’s meeting rooms all around me and I’m right by the door, so people come and go all the time. I’ve also got two laptops and an iPad on my desk, along with a main monitor. Add to that an iPhone and my actual phone and things are pretty busy and I can easily get distracted without all the people around me.

This video showed me the absolute joys of having space to sit and think. People can still ask you stuff, messenger is always on, and they can pop round whenever it takes their fancy, but you have a room all to yourself with white boards and space to put all your thoughts on the walls. These developers, these lucky, lucky developers, will have the space to concentrate on what they do best, in an environment that they can tailor to their liking. It’s the joy of freelancing and having a home office, mixed with working with the best people around. Throw in guitar hero and I can’t imagine a better office.

So, why aren’t there more of these?

Simply, it’s money. In London, it wouldn’t make financial sense to have a kick-ass view of the river and all that space for only 20 people. It simply doesn’t happen. Open plan offices allow for people to be much closer together and still have some sense of space for themselves (just say no to cubicles).

I’d argue that the best people need this space, and if they can’t always have an office, then a project room for a small team. Failing that, just some space on the walls.¬†As a developer, I value my space to think. As a designer, I value my space to create, and as a leader, I value my team.

Employers, give your people more space. A smaller office does not mean you save money if your workforce is unhappy. A smaller office does not equal more team spirit because you’re packed in together. A smaller office does not guarantee people talking to each other more just because they’re so tight up next to each other. Think about your office, think about your people, and create a space to work.

I’ve found a great post on cool workplaces. Get inspiration from these and make your office a better place to work: 10 Seriously cool workplaces on Chief Happiness Officer

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Steve Workman

Steve is an engineering manager at Maersk, and organises BerkshireJS. He has also worked at Yell and PA Consulting and is a former organiser of London Web Standards

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One comment

  1. Jason Grant said:

    There is no correlation between size of the office and productivity I reckon.

    I have worked in some of the most cramped up places and been really productive and managed to remain ‘in the zone’.

    The open plan office is the result of changing the quiet, separated offices from the past, as people found themselves being collocated without actually collaborating, which was the worst of all worlds.

    The thing of being ‘in the zone’ all the time is mostly to do with clarity of the project being worked on and the requirements which need to be implemented.

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