Are you working in open work space where all your co-workers are sitting in the same place with no walls between each desk? If your answer is yes, then mostly you know that the majority of people don’t understand how their loud talks can affect the productivity of their colleagues. some jobs require a big amount of concentration, let me just be specific and talk about software developers.

Most companies don’t give each software developer his own office and a door that he can close whenever he wants to concentrate and get isolated of the world. to provide an office to every developer you need a big place and big places are expensive and most software companies are managed by people who don’t get why would these developers need offices; they say that developers are just normal employees, not super stars.

We know that it’s not about being super stars as much as it’s about a fact that developers work on solving problems that contain a lot of little details, and the normal human brain won’t be able to hold those details together for longer than 5 minutes and connecting the little details is another harder task. I don’t imagine that a developer working while surrounded with many talking people will write code with good quality. he won’t be able to focus and won’t notice many logical errors and after some days this will give him more bugs to solve and more time to lose. this will force the company to pay more money and lose more time.

I don’t think that you will get your own office soon; unless you get the chance to work in a company that treats developers as super stars or maybe you will wait longer till you become a manager.

But now, what can you do? I think you can try to talk with your managers about how this noise affects you and your colleagues. and try to come up with some easy to implement ideas like making every 2 or more guys who want to discuss something go out of the work area till they finish their talk or even just stay in the work area and keep it down as much as they can. it won’t be a hard thing if your co-workers respect the value of working in a quiet place. but some times it won’t be that easy, like when you find yourself sharing the same work space with people who talk a lot as their job forces them to. like customer care and marketing guys. and I don’t know a solution for this case.

Another thing that you have to put a solution for is the interruptions done by co-workers. haven’t you ever been working on a very hard to solve problem that needed all your brain power and you were just seconds away from finding the solution and suddenly you find someone tapping on your shoulder to ask you about the name of a function that he doesn’t remember ?! I know that you hate this guy and at that moment maybe you wanted to kick him in the face, but you controlled your anger and just answered his question and left him to leave in peace and tried to go back to what you were doing and you couldn’t remember the last point you arrived to in your thinking, and probably it took you around 15 minutes to get back to your last concentration level.

You have to talk to your colleagues about this problem and tell them that they can send you emails that you will answer later when you are free, or maybe you can use a piece of paper with “No Interruption, please” written on it. you can put this paper on your chair/desk whenever you need to focus on something important, so your co-workers will know that you aren’t ready to talk at the moment.

there are many pros and cons of working in open work spaces, but we can get over the cons by putting effective rules that can control the noise and interruptions, and you won’t succeed in that unless your co-workers are understanding the problem and believe in the solutions.

maybe you want to read more. Joel Spolsky talked about this topic before when he was talking about the design of his company’s new office and it was the 8th rule in the famous Joel Test “Do programmers have quiet working conditions?” . also,  you can make your managers and colleagues read the field guide to developers.

so at last, I have to say that I don’t hate open work spaces but it will be a good work environment if all co-workers understand the new rules that have to be applied to make it a healthy work environment .