Quincy Larson of FreeCodeCamp recently posted an article about work productivity:
Last year I turned off all my notifications. I stopped booking meetings. I started living asynchronously.
Now instead of being interrupted throughout the day — or rushing from one meeting to the next — I sit down and get work done.
Using one of the most awesome webcomics on the subject of interrupting a programmer as a starting point, he does the usual attempts at convincing people that open floor plans are bad, and that meetings are better replaced by asynchronous communication.
I’ve never had even the slightest opportunity to get my own office1 so I frankly have no idea whether a private office would be an improvement – I just don’t know any better.
We do a fair bit of asynchronous communication, however. This is pretty much unavoidable, since, over here on the Frostbite Engine team, we have to deal with customers and co-workers that are spread across a dozen various places on Earth with up to 9 hours of time difference.
In some ways, however, it’s funny that Larson recommends replacing meetings with emails since a lot of my coworkers mainly complain about having to deal with too much email already. Also, the way he describes how a “quick” email conversation can replace a lengthy meeting is misleading since – having turned off all notifications and checking email only a couple times a day to improve productivity – this “quick” 4-message back and forth would actually take 2 days to complete.
The part that caught my eye the most is the part about reaching a “flow state” – something that most people call being “in the zone”.
I have almost no problem reaching that state – even in an open floor plan.
Arguably, I’m not important enough to receive enough emails or meeting invites to experience the problems a lot of other people (most of them more senior than me, I assume) complain about, so that must help… but I basically get “in the zone” often enough that, on a regular basis, I finish a task, take off my headphones, and realize that it’s 2pm and that everybody had lunch already.
While most people use the Pomodoro technique to help protect themselves from distractions, I was, for some time, using that technique to help me take a break every now and then… because being “in the zone” for too long would frequently give me painful migraines (at least once a week). Even when I used Pomodoro timers on my phone, I would frequently not notice them going off!
Then again, I’m one of those people that most of you probably hate: the ones who can fall asleep in less than 5 minutes. So I suppose my brain and I really get along well when it’s time to shut off distractions. Yay brain.
Video game companies are almost all using open floor plans, and nothing will change that any time soon. ↩