There is a tendency to move to open plan. The trouble with this is that if I am interrupted in the flow: of writing, interacting, or developing I lose the “stack” of aspects of the problem I need to consider. Getting into that head space takes time and effort. It only takes one person asking me to do “this one small thing” and I have to start again. Doors rock. For a researcher, programmer, or writer, closed doors are essential. Management, of course, does not know this.
But open plan offices are worse. Much worse. Why? Because they decrease rather than increase employee collaboration. As my colleague Jessica Stillman pointed out last week, a new study from Harvard showed that when employees move from a traditional office to an open plan office, it doesn’t cause them to interact more socially or more frequently. Instead, the opposite happens. They start using email and messaging with much greater frequency than before. In other words, even if collaboration were a great idea (it’s a questionable notion), open plan offices are the worst possible way to make it happen. Previous studies of open plan offices have shown that they make people less productive, but most of those studies gave lip service to the notion that open plan offices would increase collaboration, thereby offsetting the damage. The Harvard study, by contrast, undercuts the entire premise that justifies the fad. And that leaves companies with only one justification for moving to an open plan office: less floor space, and therefore a lower rent.Jeffery James, Inc.com
The cure for an open office is simple: don’t be there. Work at home, in cafes (headphones on), the library, anywhere that you cannot be interrupted. Hide from your secretaries and Human Resources. If possible, avoid meetings. If you also shut off social medial and mute your phone, you will be more productive.
Which brings me to the other distraction of our time social media. Yes, I use it. But when I can’t think that well.
I absolutely detest modern “social media”—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. It’s a disease. It seems to encourage bad behavior.Linus Torvalds, Linux Journal.
I think part of it is something that email shares too, and that I’ve said before: “On the internet, nobody can hear you being subtle”. When you’re not talking to somebody face to face, and you miss all the normal social cues, it’s easy to miss humor and sarcasm, but it’s also very easy to overlook the reaction of the recipient, so you get things like flame wars, etc., that might not happen as easily with face-to-face interaction.
But email still works. You still have to put in the effort to write it, and there’s generally some actual content (technical or otherwise). The whole “liking” and “sharing” model is just garbage. There is no effort and no quality control. In fact, it’s all geared to the reverse of quality control, with lowest common denominator targets, and click-bait, and things designed to generate an emotional response, often one of moral outrage.
Add in anonymity, and it’s just disgusting. When you don’t even put your real name on your garbage (or the garbage you share or like), it really doesn’t help.
I’m actually one of those people who thinks that anonymity is overrated. Some people confuse privacy and anonymity and think they go hand in hand, and that protecting privacy means that you need to protect anonymity. I think that’s wrong. Anonymity is important if you’re a whistle-blower, but if you cannot prove your identity, your crazy rant on some social-media platform shouldn’t be visible, and you shouldn’t be able to share it or like it.
Oh well. Rant over. I’m not on any social media
Social Media are akin to open plan. When you really need to concentrate, switch them off.