Why Your Dev Wants To Live In a Cave | Facet Digital
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Why Your Dev Wants To Live In a Cave

Why Your Dev Wants To Live In a Cave

Software Developer Productivity Killer #2: Open Plan Offices

Ah, the modern open-plan office: a utopia of collaboration, communication, and… countless distractions? If you found yourself nodding (or even chuckling) at our series’ opener on the ever-ubiquitous ‘useless meetings’, strap in! We’re about to tackle another biggie on the list. Say hello to productivity killer #2: Open Plan Offices.

But before we set off on this whimsical journey, if you missed the maiden voyage into the land of ‘why-so-many-meetings’, you can catch up right here. But for now, back to Bob and his dream of becoming a modern-day caveman.

👹 Why Open-Plan is the Freddy Krueger of Productivity Dreams

  1. The Illusion of Togetherness: Open plans were designed to foster collaboration. Yet, they often become a cacophony of ringtones, chatter, chewing sounds, and the unmistakable sound of Bob’s bad ass mechanical keyboard fury. Yes, you’re together, but is any real work happening?
  2. Focus? What Focus? Bob was in The Zone. Remember that? But wait, Jane just remembered a hilarious cat video she simply MUST share with everyone. And there it goes – Bob’s concentration, like a fragile soap bubble, bursts.
  3. The Inadvertent Eavesdropper: Developers, often in their quest for a bug, mutter incantations. In an open plan, Bob isn’t just coding. He’s also inadvertently tuned into three different project updates, a recipe exchange, and someone’s weekend plans.
  4. The Quick Question Conundrum: It’s tempting, oh-so-tempting, to swivel your chair and ask Bob a quick question. Yes, you might get your answer in 30 seconds, saving you a 15-minute search. But here’s the rub: you’ve just dragged Bob out of his flow state. While you saved 15 minutes, it’s costing him 15-30 minutes to get back into the groove. Do the math, and the net productivity just took a nosedive.

🤫 Defeating The Open-Plan Demon

  1. Introduce Quiet Zones: Dedicate spaces where silence is golden. Think of it as a library: a sanctuary where devs like Bob can code in peace, without fearing the next viral video ambush. This should be the developers’ main working area, not some prison cell down the hall without all of their monitors and such.
  2. Partition Magic: No, not a throwback to 90s software – actual physical partitions. Use bookshelves, plants, or even trendy modular walls. Anything that gives Bob his own mini-cave.
  3. Headphones: The Universal ‘Do Not Disturb’ Sign: Encourage a culture where wearing headphones signifies, “I’m deep diving, disturb at your own peril.” And respect it.
  4. Flexible Working Arrangements: Some people thrive in open plans; some, like Bob, contemplate desert islands. Allow for remote working days or flexible hours to cater to all productivity rhythms. Let’s be honest: after the pandemic, this is likely the new norm anyway. (And for exactly these reasons.)
  5. Private Offices and Real Cubicles: The Shields of Solitude: Let’s face it, those half-height cubicles aren’t fooling anyone. They’re like wearing a hat and thinking you’re invisible. Real, full-height cubicles or private offices offer more than just “don’t look at me” privacy. They safeguard devs from the myriad of visual distractions – be it the tantalizing glint of a passing donut or colleagues unleashing their inner mime artists. Visual serenity can be just as crucial as silence for deep focus.

🎁 Wrapping It Up

Open-plan offices aren’t inherently evil. Like a mischievous pixie, they can be tamed with a bit of thoughtful strategy. Respect individual work rhythms, and always be on the lookout for signs of a distressed Bob.

✋ Missed the first productivity killer? The siren song of ‘useless meetings’ awaits you here. And stay tuned because productivity killer #3 is lurking just around the corner.

Scott W. Bradley


Scott has 25+ years of experience in software engineering, architecture, and leadership. Scott is a consummate computer scientist and serial entrepreneur that brings a unique breadth and depth of skill to any software architecture and development project. Contact Scott.