Monday, 6 February 2017

People : Office Space

I do not buy into the open plan style... There, I said it.... I think that a few people in a team can work well in a room together, and I think that a communal space for meeting, chatting or relaxing is very important, but that space, that place for conversation & distraction should be somewhere other than around the teams desk.

I also think that if whatever development methodology you're running, the progress should not be held up in public, no-one wants to have their co-workers see they've been behind on some ticket or story, they just want to get their heads down and get on with the task at hand...

So, when your staff members start to build artificial walls for themselves, made of machines, plants, books or empty coke cans... Then maybe they're telling you something... Perhaps this open plan this has over stepped it's purpose.  Perhaps they feel they are being shown up in review that they're not performing.

And it can only be an instant face palm for the likes of the Scrum Master or Product Owner to shove this down a developers throat, to make them worry, and take them off of track, rather than leaving them to work.

That said, what would be my perfect working space?

Well, I like the idea of my own desk, not hot desking, I also like the idea of being able to carry my work away from my desk, to a whiteboard, or a soft chair with a laptop to think about a problem.  Giving a personal level of separation from the work and a space to spread the mind.  Here in the UK the weather and the space generally precludes walking a problem through your mind as you literally walk, but walking desks might be an option, certainly I think height adjustable desks are a huge bonus.

A communal area, like a large meeting room, with both a large central desk, white boards and smaller tables for conversation is a key asset, not having this lends itself to staff being almost confined to their desk, this doesn't mean the desk isn't a place for conversation, but it at least leaves the desk as a focus of engineering a solution, rather then the talk of it, the thought of it, I find you need to clearly define the place of action from the place of inaction.

This includes consideration of a place for luncheon or formal meetings, the former should not be the desk and the latter should not be that communal area I've already discussed.

Everything else in an office space has to follow on from this, and there's a lot to consider, where are the power and network outlets, where is the light going to come from, is it natural or artificial light, is there a view, are there any ambient noises such as traffic.  Everything has so be considered when positioning a creative team.

I believe taking this all into consideration before a project begins, before a team of an office layout is cast in stone is important, and proves itself vital as people feel able to work without being considered to be snubbing others, but then able to get away from the pressure of the engineering chair, to let off some team or co-create with a team member over a problem they have.

All the environment relies upon the right work ethic in the team members, however, when it's right, it is right.  You soon notice when things go wrong.

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