Open office environments have been popular for a while now and seem not to be replaced by single room offices anywhere soon. At the truck manufacturer where I work, as in-house developer, the trend is more open office space. Or ABO – activity based office as it’s called. Not only that, the trend is also to squeeze more people into the same office space.
There are so many things that are wrong with this way of performing work. The desks are smaller than before, only enough for two screens, keyboard and a mouse. Less personal stuff is allowed, in reality no personal stuff. Only a small locker for your things, that is, only the company gear that must be stowed away every night. No guarantee that you get the same desk from day to day, although people try to have some peace of mind. No variation in coloring. No paintings or pictures on the wall If there is then it’s images of our products (really inspiring that is). Disturbances from groups of people talking. Phone calls, hammering from keyboards, nervous feet’s and finger taps. People passing by, disrupting your thoughts for a moment and you must force yourself to get back on track.
When the working day is over you are exhausted by the constant switching between disturbances and actual work. Needless to say, efficiency declines accordingly.
Funny thing is: management tries to convince us that this makes us more efficient and willing to work in teams. For me it so much the opposite and since I am a human being and I suspect that many others feel the same way. I only feel disturbed. When trying to point out the bad things you are considered not a team player. It seems that team work now means the right, no the obligation, to disturb. Manager are often the worst. They have their corridor chats, Skype meetings and cheerful talk. Their job is to talk – mine is to think.
The real reason is of course money savings. The more people you put into the same place the less the cost of rent per person. I wonder what all this does to people’s health, motivation and creativity when they’re constantly not being allowed to focus and think things through. How will it hurt the company in the long run? The work itself is broken down into smaller and smaller pieces further hindering any bigger thought and helicopter view. In theory any developer/coworker should be able to handle any issue.
As for me, I like to think, test new ideas, invent and create. I like to be an artist in software development as well. Maybe not the best artist but the best I can be to my abilities and time available. Real creativity and innovation, I think, comes from long hard ours of work and though. The idea that you can bring people together and work in teams to get that is simply false. In fact, it has turned an inspiring and fun job into days of uphill. My thoughts and actions go more and more to be my own boss, lets see where that ends.