30 Oct 2019
Focus and the Office
I’ve been thinking recently about the conditions necessary to produce great work. These conditions differ per person and may seem inconsequential when listed out. Standing versus sitting desk, light versus dark room, background noise versus complete silence, online versus offline - are these responsible for work quality?
Most of my posts end up reading like Economist articles without the great writing - by this I mean that I always take a middle position toward complicated questions. Here though, I know I wholeheartedly believe that the conditions to produce high quality work are specific per person and require work to replicate. I don’t think it’s chance that so many authors retreat to cabins in the woods or mountain settings to write books. Setting oneself up for success in focusing and then delivering something great requires knowing oneself. When am I distracted? When am I completely in the zone?
What’s interesting to me is that “working from home” - which really means working from a place someone believes gives them the best chance of work success, a place that isn’t necessarily home - is the only avenue most workplaces allow for people to optimize their own environments. Even the best crafted office is going to have some opinions built into it. These opinions are one or a group of people’s view on what makes a great office, and it’s obvious these views are all over the place. I have worked in open office plans, cubicle-based offices and offices where there were no desks and people sat on beanbags and couches. I believe in everything there is no silver bullet, but there really is no silver bullet to office environment perfection. Everyone is different, and it’s impossible to make an office work for everyone.
Environment hugely influences focus, which hugely influences great work. Why do we so often assume a one-size fits all for environment? The common reason I hear is that people need to be able to meet in person and communicate as clearly as possible. If that’s true, why not have meetings in person and then let people do deep work that requires focus where ever they want?
To be clear, this is not a pro remote-work article. Rather, it’s a suggestion that we all think more critically about the environmental conditions per person that lead to success.