If you are working in absolute silence and start to feel uncomfortably, you can always introduce some custom noise, be it a rain sound or ocean shore or noise of any color you like. Feeling chatty? Take Bob to a cooler and chat what you want, he's a chatter, too. On the other hand, it is very problematic (and really rarely effective) to just stand up in the middle of the noisy room and ask everyone, however kindly you manage to do that, to shut up at least for ten minutes, because you absolutely cannot concentrate in this goddamn noise that's been driving you nuts since said Bob came in at 9:05.
The point being, I want to be in control of my sound environment. Preferably without the need of earplugs or bulky headphones or other extreme measures like showing up at 7 a.m. or staying late just to get some shit done when the office is finally empty. I cannot concentrate, cannot even think clearly if there is almost any kind of noise - chatter, music, phone talks nearby, traffic noise from the street when the window is open or almost anything else, including my own voice. I know a lot of folks that, like me, would rather spend a night in the forest than an hour in the open space office.
From some comments I presume that it is probably impossible to convey to some lucky people with their extreme tolerance towards loud sounds how excruciatingly painful constant, unavoidable noise may be, but let me try anyways: it is a real damn torture resulting in days of not zero but of negative productivity. It's been my worst enemy at every place that I've worked at (close second are constant distractions, but I think these two are cousins), to the extent that my only special requirement for any job or workplace now is: please, let me sit in a quiet place.
For me, my biggest "focus" times are almost always with noise-cancelling headphones on with blaring music that I don't have to think too much about (no vocals, etc). Even when I'm alone in the office, I still need something like that to be at maximum productivity.
However, if I can hear people talking around me, my mind almost immediately gravitates toward their conversation; one of the biggest distractions to my work.
Then I realized that it wasn't the case for music I know really well. Even jazz or complicated folk (Chris thile) is great if I listen to an album over and over. I get in the zone. Try an album where you know almost every musical element and lyric. Put the album on repeat and see if it works.
I don't always listen to '80s pop, but when I do, it's when I am doing the long late night hours. A habit that goes back to college.
"Land of Confusion" coming on the stream was a highlight of one of the nights. The more tired I got, the more the music was working for me,
So for me a "library rules" office would just mean fewer conversations to drown out the little noises that nobody even realises they're making. I'm sure I unknowingly make some variety of noise that someone else hates too.
sox -t sw -r 44100 -c 2 /dev/zero -t alsa pulse synth pinknoise vol -9 dB band -n 800 1200 fade q 5 30:00 10
It's filtered pink noise; last time I checked sox didn't have a brown noise generator.
Edit: what do you know, I just checked the man page again, and sox does now have a synth brownnoise option. You can play with the "band" parameters (or omit it) based on your local noise spectrum.
Edit 2: you can also use the "bass" and "treble" filters instead of "band"; the former are easier to understand IMO. It's been a long time since I read the sox man page; it's crazy how much it can do.
I tried your command on OS X but changing alsa to aiff but nothing plays. Any suggestion?
You can also look at the output of "sox -h" to see what audio device drivers your sox has.
Someone will say something in the next room, with the door open, and I'll answer. They're all WTF you can hear me?
Meanwhile I'm all WTF do you expect, I have LoS and you're only 40 feet away.
I go to the office for the noise - In fact, just before a long weekend, or thanksgiving, when my area of the office starts to get a bit quieter, I go absolute batshit, and either have to leave the office and go somewhere where there are people, or start yelling out at random to people to make some noise. The silence is deafening.
Some of my most productive coding, documenting, or troubleshooting sessions have been done in coffee shops, where there is a lot of background chatter and activity.
I much prefer Open Cube cultures, where you can see and hear people talking. I don't think I would last very long in a "Library Quiet" culture.
And I'm a little bemused how so many people can cope with living in urban environments rather than rural ones. The noise, smells, neighbors right through the wall, traffic, etc. But I suspect the majority of HNers live in urban environments. Noise tolerance, like urban, population density and crowd tolerance, is personal and subjective and it's tricky to rationalize why people do or do not want to "control" it.
I fall asleep more easily if I have chatter around me (so I listen to podcasts). This is unusual but not something I need to rationalize away. It's just how I tick and other people tick other ways.
Yes, I am that distractable. Everything is that interesting to my magpie-like mind. But conversely, when I take your noises away and move into the mental headspace, then I will make magic happen. I am hired to do magic. There are other people like me. Please give us the space to do what we got hired to do.
;; if you want to talk, please schedule meeting, ping me on irc, or use IM.
I haven't yet found music that doesn't distract me, but I am heavily used SimplyNoise, and their new rain simulator SimplyRain. I'm finding the rain with ~50% intensity and rare thunder to be more comfortable than brown or pink noise myself. Other rain simulators haven't worked this well for me in aiding focus.
Would like to hear more of your thoughts.
- zero to slight physical discomfort. Taking time off to blow nose, stretch from back pain, etc, is not helpful
- clear head. Intrusive thoughts and worries, as one might expect, do not help me focus.
- Total quiet is nice, but not required. So long as its not insistent or random loudnesses (i.e., doesn't grab my attention), I am OK with it.
- Often, a drink ready to hand. No idea why.
- With respect to sound, I prefer over-the-ear headphones, since sticking stuff in my ears is not my thing. I favor upbeat/peaceable music - Iron and Wine is one of my standbys.
- And finally - and worst of all - an interesting problem. I have to actually want to work on the thing to really get going, otherwise it's a effort where I have to essentially mentally set aside my distractions and prepare to "go deep".
I have to actually want to work on the thing to really get going
And I actually liked working in a small (~6 people) busy startup where everyone was in earshot and you were all on the same page at all times.
For me, it's open-back visibility. Noise I can shut out. Being visible gives me the creeps. If I am going to be in a place for the amount of time equal to a trans-Atlantic plane ride, then give me a goddamn decent space rather than treating my flight-or-fight response as your own personal toy. Asshole.
Add some conference rooms of various sizes which can be taken over for weeks (the "war room" model), and some other meeting areas.
Plus some lounge open spaces which can be used for working, too (like, say, an actual library type space, where there are people but it is quiet, and also a video area)
Even spending $2500/mo/engineer on facilities doesn't seem unreasonable. That could get you quite a nice office. Even $1k/mo should do it (500 square feet per person in a place like Mountain View outside downtown)
Lots of shared space for meetings (with high resolution projectors!) and general chit-chat/hangout time, but any actual work-work is designed to happen in the offices. Not that you couldn't take your laptop into the "lounge", but it wouldn't be optimal.
I worked opposite a lady who would have various male admirers who would come over several times a day to chat her up. So these guys would either stand directly behind my chair and try and talk through me or go around to her side and whisper stuff to her and they would sit and giggle.
Of course nobody achieved any actual work there, so projects were always late. Their solution was to add more people to the project and more people = even more noise.
There were all kinds of rules and strict dress code, no dyed hair, no personal effects on desks, no mobile phones, no visible tattoos etc.
Not the most fun place to work, so after about a year I actually left for a job with longer hours and a worse salary.
I'm not sure what's up with the anxiety - are you constantly trying to hide that you're on the web all the time and getting nervous as a result?
I don't agree with this.
Bullpens/developer rooms are designed for collaboration and they have been for the last fifteen years. They are for developers to whiteboard or bounce ideas off of each other. If you are in a bullpen the expectation shouldn't be quiet.
With that said you cannot (or should not) have bullpens without open offices that developers can choose to walk in and shut the door. Offices should be some distance away from the bullpen and be unlabeled-first-come-first-serve (they should be designed for quiet focus). You should also be able to work from home whenever it best suits you.
Also, after reading some of the other comments, a bullpen is not a way to stuff the developers, call center team, and the sales team into one cheap room! If any company does this it's a sign of poor management.
I'm a headphones-focus person and I can't stand people talking around me when I focus. However, unless it is excessive (someone doing a conference call on speaker every day) then it's just how offices have been since... well forever. However, in every place that I've worked there has been offices that you can use to focus (or a liberal work from home policy). I typically spend most of my time in a closed door office getting all of the hard think-work done and then the remainder in the bullpen doing CRUD work.
A company that has a bullpen and enforces a quiet rule feels like a company that simply does not know how to build a proper development environment (Oh, developers are supposed to be in, like, big rooms or something, but our developers don't like noise... okay how about we make it a 'quiet only' big room... or something)
A civilised, open plan engineering office should indeed be quiet. Not silent, but fairly quiet.
We did exactly the opposite to your method by the sounds of things - meeting rooms for 4 to 5 people, and one or two much larger rooms, were available around the edges of the floor to go and bounce ideas around or discuss things. The rest of the floor was quiet space but informal conversation was fine. It worked very well for us.
I am somewhat of a misanthrope. I don't trust most people. I don't expect them to trust me. They shouldn't trust me if they don't know me, especially if the stakes are high. Much of the answer to the ubiquitous question, "Why Does Work Suck?" is that the stakes are just too high to trust anyone. The activity of work isn't so bad. The social bullshit and paranoia are intolerable.
I wouldn't let 20+ strangers in my house, 5 days per week. I resent that I have to let so many people-- even though there's nothing wrong with them as people, it's more that I don't know them and I have no choice-- into my career. It's not a problem with the people as people. The people themselves are fine. (They're in the same miserable, cramped boat that I am in.) I just resent being visible and the constant second-by-second impression management makes it hard to get anything done. I spend 90% of my emotional energy on appearing productive and that leaves little for actually being productive, and it sucks.
you use that word. I don't think it means what you think it means - or that it has the implications that you think it has; I am a misanthrope, but that does not influence my reaction to the floor plan of the office I work in. actually, I'd most likely go insane in a cubicle farm. there are ways around to signal that you don't want to be disturbed in an open space.
given that you write:
> I don't trust most people. I don't expect them to trust me.
> The social bullshit and paranoia are intolerable.
I do assume that you're referring to your own paranoia, here...
> [snip the rest of the workplace description]
... which leads me to think your problem is not the office planning, or your social issues (with or without medications): I think it's your current job. my entirely serious suggestion is to either change it, or ask to work remotely, if you still think that you'd enjoy it more (and if they don't allow remote work, I'd seriously consider changing jobs anyway).
That said, open-plan signals to me that the company doesn't actually value productivity so much as image and availability. This is something that I have learned with age not to take personally, but I still dislike it.
I realize that 99% of white-collar work for the most talented is compensating for other peoples' fuckups, but I don't have to like it.
It may not be your perfect office environment, but that doesn't mean that other people (me) don't work much better when in an open space with some casual (quiet) impromptu collaboration possible. I would find being stuck away in individual or small offices quite isolating and stifling.
You ought to talk to your employer about making other working arrangements if you feel so strongly about it, assuming you haven't already and I'm not just being patronising here.
I don't let it get to me. It's not personal, and I know cognitively that no one's really watching me. (I spend more "web time" in open-plan offices because I can't get into flow.) It's just creepy. It probably reduces productivity by 80%, but surprisingly that doesn't seem to matter, because modern work environments seem to cripple everyone about equally.
What open plan says to me is that my employer cares more about my personal availability than productivity. Which is not worth taking personally, but it is a depressing statement.
No, it is perfectly fair and accurate. You can still collaborate just fine without an open office. Read peopleware, noisy open offices are detrimental to productivity, even for the people who claim to like them and "need" them.
Again, just because you don't like open doesn't mean nobody does, or that in non-US countries an open office necessarily means lots of noise.
That said, it does seem like the pendulum is moving back toward privacy in offices, though what that will look like is anybody's guess.
I for one am a fan of the office design concept known as Activity Based Working, where the work areas provided are the one's that are most conducive to your particular company's need. Not all companies, and not all tasks are best served by either having all open or all closed workspaces. Instead, offering a variety of places for employees to use seems most prudent - but again, only offering things your employees need. So if you don't need an executive boardroom, don't add one to you plan as it will just go unused.
And in my experience educating them does not help, as long, as the managers are resistant. I had a lot experiences, were the managers came again and again with this sort of behavior and whatever I did to educate (or show) people, that I am in a "do not disturb"-moment was fruitless. Headphones == tap on shoulder. Hood of jacket == tap on shoulder + strange look.
If the culture, set by managers does not value makers, you are doomed. And educating managers, who live and breath a meeting, question work-style is really not easy. If a manger has never been a maker, you are lost. You won't change their minds.
Really, me? I have given up... as sad as it is.
A lot of corporate culture here is not so much result-focused, but sitting on your back, doing your time.
And in a lot of cases, this might work. If I were the typical product manager, this would work. But having found the bliss of automating things via scripting, I feel more and more like a maker and can more and more understand, not to disturb the makers and what it costs to be the disturber. But here most product managers are more managers, then makers - so the live and breath a manager-schedule, being able to cope with interruptions quite easily. So no problem for them, but a problem for our developers (and to some extent guys like me)...
... but as it is mostly my problem (and has been in previous gigs as well), it is something that I have to deal with obviously, as I am part of a minority here.
The situation is not so bad, that it kills me right now, but I will keep looking - and using my time, learning some new things while "doing my time in front of a monitor" ;-)
Being able to get a quick answer to a question is important. Being able to ask my question in a way that only distracts the person to whom it is addressed, and in a way that allows them to defer answering until they're at a natural stopping point makes us all more productive. As does being able to save the answer so I never have to bug anyone for that question again, or even share it when other people encounter the same issue.
Having an "open plan" for a smaller team - say under 10 - is probably a good way to go. That way each team can develop rules like this 'Library Rules' idea, or a more interruptive one if thats the way they feel they get more work done.
I can think of a few reasons why I disagree with this.
- Your peak productivity can only be reached if you are not disturbed every five minutes from the work you are doing on your computer. We all know that focus is important, and indeed it is hard to focus in a noisy environment. I remember that the guys at GitHub have some kind of "no live talk" rule : if you need to speak to someone, do it on the internal chat room, even if he's litterally 1 meter away from you. It has several advantages : you can choose when you want to read messages and when you want to reply to them. If you're in the middle of a hardcore debugging session, you are free to continue. It also has the big advantage that chat can be recorded and reviewed and searched at a later date : live speech can't — or at least not easily.
- On the other hand, if you're in the phase of a project where you need a lot of interaction with other people and where it would be to cumbersome to do it via chat, like when you're trying to design your architecture, or when trying to agree on rules, specs, etc... Then just set up a meeting : that's what they are for.
While I was in Japan, I noticed that it was quite possible (and many did) to take a nap in McDonald's. Conversations indoors tended to be very reserved.
As a country, I think we're getting louder. I've brought a Decibel Meter with me before and seen it hit north of 70dB. This constant level of noise everywhere we go can't be good for our hearing.
Another thing that can affect volume is the density of tables in a restaurant -- same feedback loop in place. If you can't hear the conversation at the table next to you, then you can speak in a lower voice also.
Also heard lore about casinos using extremely bright and dizzying carpet designs to get you to avert your eyes from the floor, and onto the gambling equipment.
Not angrily, or at traffic, just because.
These places also don't blast rock music over PA systems while people are trying to eat. I've been in some joints where it's literally an arms war between the diners and whoever has their hand on the volume control. Management wants the place to seem lively and hip, but by the end of the evening people are literally shouting themselves hoarse.
I once visited a restaurant that appeared to be using this technique when we were the only people in the entire place (~7500 square foot space). I literally had to lean across the table to shout at a coworker because he couldn't hear what I was saying otherwise.
In the summer, I spent a few weeks in Taiwan. The quietude and calmness even in a group setting made it a lot easier to focus on a group engineering project. Mostly though, I miss the food.
*I don't mean hip hop; I like real hip hop.
When I bring up the fact that the environment is too noisy, the number one suggestion people make is "why don't you turn off your hearing aids?" This is not practical for a number of reasons.
With my hearing aids off, I will not hear you. Which you might argue is kind of the point, but the moment you want to engage me in conversation, you'll wish that I somehow "just knew" when to make an exception, and respond, rather than (unintentionally, I assure you) treat you rudely by ignoring you. I've been ignored before, and I know other (hearing) people who have been ignored. I know how it feels and wouldn't wish it on anyone.
Then there's the isolation. This may sound familiar to you: there was a link on HN pointing to David Peter's "Being Deaf" (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4001727). If you haven't done so, be sure to check it out. The big takeaway is the feeling of isolation he feels in the workplace. That isolation is real. I have to fight it too. Turning off my hearing aids makes this worse, not better.
Turning off the aids is unsafe too. With my aids off, I will not hear a fire alarm. I speak from experience -- I had someone come to fetch me because I didn't have my hearing aids in when the alarm went off.
Some of you may have read Mike Mackenzie's "My journey to a cochlear implant" (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4883252) The big takeaway here is how much effort is needed by someone who is deaf in order to 'signal process' their way through a conversation. Even with my aids on, I have to make a strong effort just to get through conversations.
Hearing isn't a skill I could get better at if I just practice. The signal I hear is garbled; if I can't ungarble it, then my choices are to get you to repeat what you said clearly (not loudly), or give up.
So. If I should ever get the opportunity to work with any of you noisy, chatty, extremely talented people, I hope you won't mind so much if I ask you to follow ‘library rules’.
I used to not be able to sleep if there was any light at all. Even regular curtains were not good enough, they had to be the ones that blocked out all light from outside. I sometimes would wake up just because someone turned on the light in the hallway, because it leaked under my door. I also had to turn my computer off, because the whirring of the fans would keep me wide awake.
And then I entered college.
People here are up 24 hours a day. Even I, during some weeks, am nocturnal due to homework. I never had a roommate, but I would wake up due to my neighbors roommates. I HAD to adapt, or else I wouldn't be able to survive. With this mentality, I was able to adjust myself so that I could sleep wherever, whenever. (reminds me of the "Everything is my fault" article from yesterday")
I feel like this situation is similar. If you find yourself not to be able to concentrate in a certain environment, find something you must do and do it in that environment. Train yourself so that you can concentrate any time and any where. Give less excuses for yourself to procrastinate, and feel awesome at the same time for being so productive.
Presumably, they now have a better working environment when adhering to the rules collectively rather than each of them individually trying to adapt. The noise level in the office is akin to a tragedy of the commons and this is their solution.
Your sleep quality is probably effected by the amount of light and other such disturbances.
There's one group who comes in every single morning and literally shout to communicate with each other. I've complained about them multiple times but nothing has been done. So what I've started doing is bringing two pairs of headphones: My Sennheiser in-ear buds and my Sony over-ear noise cancelling headphones. With both of them on and some Miles Davis playing softly in the background I can effectively block out all other noise.
In the city I live in, we have three Universities, and all of them have a 'zoned' approach. An outer work area where anything goes, some rooms where talking is allowed, and an inner quiet zone that is strictly enforced. People seem to find their equilibrium points.
The three institutions vary in standing and clientèle. The Russell Group University has the largest silent zone and small peripheral anything goes zones. The situation is reserved for the 'community' University, with a small silent zone. The technical university has about equal quiet and noisy anything goes zones with a sort of 'sensible talking' buffer zone in the middle.
I'd like to slap people who say they aren't relevant or useful, but I don't have that much slap in me. As physical books become more of an out-of-date phenomenon (thanks to the Kindles and nooks and tablets and Wikipedias and such,) people are going to see the necessity of libraries as silly.
It's why you see "libraries should be hackerspaces!" make the rounds in blogs (and at least one library in the northeast is doing this.) I went to a new library up the road recently that had as much floorspace dedicated to audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs as it did to physical books.
I've recently read someone say that libraries provide one thing that no other building does: a place where anyone can work or study with zero pressure to spend money. That addresses your comment about "coffee shop rules."
While I still want to slap people who think libraries are irrelevant, they absolutely can't stay as just a place to check out books. Owning an internet-capable device is a lot more affordable than owning a recent encyclopedia, so computer courses are a natural thing for libraries to provide. I definitely like hackerspaces in adjacent floorspace. Chicago libraries allow residents to check out museum passes (though, access to this has dwindled quite a bit.) I believe some libraries allow patrons to check out iPads; I'd love to see an extensive ereader loaning program, though it'd require publishing companies to be less of a sack of assholes about ebook ToS.
As somebody who once did work experience here: http://tinyurl.com/d28gxz4, I was a bit puzzled to be in an almost bookless library.
I suspect "coffee shop rules" are the future of libraries.
Luckily there are lots of books, I haven't seen them removing any.
Why is this lucky? Are the books being used?
Is 37s also annoying because they do something similar? Or, are they solving an annoying problem which you're describing?
I can say from experience in many libraries that not everyone understands library rules. There's an old stereotype about black people not shutting up in a movie theater. There's a lot of truth to it, but it's not just black people, and it's not just in movie theaters.
And then there are the libraries, growing in number over time, that have simply abandoned the ideal of silence. Most libraries still ban loud talking, cell phone use, music, etc. but now some of them tolerate it and some even encourage it. Some of these noisy libraries designate a quiet area, but it tends to feel like an anachronistic throwback, designed to mollify the people who aren't coming to the library just to hang out.
I think in the future the phrase "library rules" will not mean what you might think, if it still means anything at all.
That seems like a strangely incendiary way of saying there's a lot of people who don't know when to be quiet....
I've often thought about what makes 37Signals blog, Signal vs. Noise, so popular and attractive. What's interesting about their blog is that they never post about managing projects or how to organize your contacts. You know, the problems/solutions related to their popular products. This is an important lesson.
(Visit http://37signals.com/svn/popular -> Ctrl-F "project management" -> 0 results)
All too often, startups dedicate time/money to a blog with post after post about the problem that their software solves or a very closely related subtopic. What 37Signals does is blog to their audience. Who is their audience? The Fortune 5 Million, or the millions of small, profitable businesses out there.
When these millions of companies and businesses need project management software, they're going to look to the guys that have been teaching them all along how to run a hip, cool business that operates counterintuitive to more "traditional" business rules (see Rework). The majority of people who punch in their credit card number for a Basecamp subscription don't know what Ruby on Rails is. Believe it or not, they know of 37Signals from posts like this.
If you're a business owner, growth hacker (sorry...) or blogger looking for more page hits you should have a simple text file that contains the fears, desires, wants, needs and emotions of your audience in both personal and professional contexts. Write so that your audience knows you understand their feelings and emotions. They'll keep coming back for more. And if you're done a fair job of aiming your audience scope, a majority of your blog visitors will be interested in what you're offering.
Although I agree with most of the other things you said, this particular paragraph is not true. Over the last couple of months (starting with http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3194-backstage-an-inside-look... I think) they've published several Basecamp projects showing how they use it. It's not only a write-up either, you can go into the actual BC project and see it's entire history.
Perhaps as the guy on the team that's constantly interfacing with managers or clients, you don't find any value in a quiet atmosphere. How do the rest of the folks on your team feel?
Of course, cultural practices reinforce each other. If your team practices both Everyone Is Client-Facing, and Phone-First, then there's likely a lot of chatter anywhere you go in your office and people ironically resort to headphones to find quiet.
In many teams, there are only a few that require the use of their voice above a low volume, and even then it's for limited intervals only. Without a simple well-understood rule, such folks can dominate environments and unnecessary interpersonal friction can develop.
You're doing it wrong.
The offices in which I've gotten the most work done had a low to midlevel din of casual conversations and banter, like a place that lets humans be the social animals they are, while still encouraging some kind of collective respect for the idea of getting work done. It's a hard balance to adhere to consistently, but I'd rather struggle with the vacillation than work in a library.
In fact, this is the very reason I gave up working at home after two years: it's too quiet. You can hear a pin drop. A library to me has the ambiance of a funeral home, and encourages similarly dark thoughts. Needless to say, I got a lot more done in an office with an officemate, where we were both banging away at our keyboards and casually chit-chatting all day.
When its 6, though, you get caught up in conversation from the other folks, just when you're trying to get into flow.
Don't throw darts at employees who don't engage in dart throwing. Don't be excessively loud. Don't drum on other people's desks.
On the flipside: don't get angry when people aren't enforcing library rules around you. Use headphones as a signal that you don't wish to be disturbed (and to block out noise, obviously.)
This smells like a "hurry in and shut up" situation. While it's better to have quiet crammed mandatory office hours than loud ones, it's even better to keep people who need solitude out of the bullpen entirely.
If the door is open, come on in.
If the door is shut, and something is on fire, knock.
If the door is shut, and something is not on fire, seek alternative means (email, ask someone else, etc).
Honestly, if people can work remotely, why can't they work from the office in a room with an actual door? I am not sold on open floor plans, but if that is what you end up with, I would at least prefer a quiet one.
If people really can do productive coding work with 4 people within 10 feet of them all having separate phone conversations, great, let them stay in the open bullpen-style areas. For others who need some modicum of quiet and non-visual stimulation, give an office with a door that closes things out.
But if you did that, there'd be very little visual status between a CFO and a developer.
Those who insist on developers being in open bullpen areas would do well to try to do their own work out in the same area for a month. They'd see just how hard it is, and how much unproductive stuff actually goes on in many situations.
Alas, the managers in one College I worked in were doing manager schedule stuff, so when they did the 'work out on the front desk' thing one day a week, they did fine...
I'm not even meaning just developers here - I've known accountants/financial people who complained about ability to concentrate when sharing a cubicle with others.
Offices simply need to have a decent number of private office spaces that people can move in to when they need 'alone' time, open collaboration areas, and larger closed off meeting areas for small group meetings. People beyond software devs would benefit from this too, but it doesn't seem to be a high priority for office planners and managers. :/
Note: this is based on what I was told when I interviewed for an ops role there in 2011. No idea how universal/up-to-date it is.
If you need to collaborate, take your conversation to a meeting room to hash it out. The general working area should be as quiet as possible.
A single noise grabs your attention in a quiet workplace.
In a loud one, it all just becomes background noise and is easy to ignore.
So it's more about achieving some constant noise level, above which no sporadic noises rise. IMHO, the "library/whisper quiet" rule achieves this.
Quiet as a library
At thirty seven
Quiet = boring to me. On the other hand most of my experience comes from games and the teams that were the most fun were the ones where we were all in the same room and could look over each others shoulders and collaborate on design.
We weren't loud but we also weren't quiet.
We have both wide ranging general knowledge and focused technical conversations in my office involving groups of people and I would be sad to lose that.
Talk about something that can deliver value or engage people and then the conversations are worthwhile.
Sarah Houghton 10 Dec 12
The ironic thing is that as a librarian, I can tell you that for the last decade (at least) most libraries don’t enforce “library silence.” We encourage people to talk, to collaborate, to discuss. As long as you’re not annoying the hell out of the people around you, we encourage a low level of conversation and noise.
Loud offices = not a great work environment, learn to understand when silence is needed, give people the space they need to work.
Then I wonder how projects like Linux kernel, KDE, Python, etc manage to get any work done.
In software development, I think the most important communication needed is to do everything in the open. This means things like a ticketing system so that everyone knows what everyone else is working on, a continuous integration system that permits deployment only if all tests pass, a wiki system to share various insights, etc.
Currently, I work in an open plan. Information hoarding is the norm here, despite chatters going on all days long. Open communication is a concept that has nothing to do with open plan.