In a recent interview, Jason Fried from 37 Signals tells us why working closely together destroys productivity.
Proximity is an invitation to interrupt somebody. And interruption is the biggest enemy of productivity that there is. When everyone is sitting together, everyone’s at the same desk or nearby. It’s really easy to shout something over to somebody or tap someone on the shoulder or whatever. That can be useful at times, no doubt. But for the most part, it’s interruption.
Interruption destroys your zone. If you’re working on something and someone taps you on the shoulder, you gotta stop working on that thing and answer their question and whatever you need to do. And that just takes you out of your zone. It takes you out of that mind set of getting stuff done. And you don’t fall right back into, it takes awhile to get back it it. So we’ve just found interruption is something that gets in the way most of the time. So that’s why we try to stay from one another. If we need together, we get together. But it should be at the last resort, and the exception, not the rule.
After hearing Jason’s argument, I’m officially over my fetish for open-plan offices. I know they look deliciously beautiful in designer furniture catalogs–everyone’s smiling and sitting facing each together on one long giant table. But real life doesn’t imitate staged catalogs.
From what some LifeClever readers say, open-plan offices don’t work.
Previously, I worked in an office with an open floor plan. The design of the space was really cool, but I have too much ADD to be around that many conversations. :) When I have work to do that requires focus, nothing does the trick for me like a closed door and some good ol’ fashioned silence.
At my day job, we sit at separate desks facing away from each other. When I started in January, I was doubtful of this seemingly anti-social arrangement. Why can’t we sit across from each other and “collaborate” freely? But after six months, the arrangement works. I have fewer distractions, fewer shoulder-taps, and fewer random conversations. When working, silence is a good thing.
Check out the rest of Crain’s Chicago Business interview with Jason here.
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