Monday, September 16, 2013

Open offices can ruin concentration

Unintended Consequences #1 million: Open plan offices, with low cubicle walls, no office doors, and cafes scattered around give workers the attention span of the Brazilian fruit fly.

Well, they didn't actually say Brazilian fruit fly, but the message is clear. Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Sept 11, 2013, says the real culprit is not email or IM, but one's coworkers.

Face-to-face interruptions account for one-third more interruptions than email or calls.
Average time spent on a task before interruption: 12 mins, 40 secs.

Average time  to return to that task: 25 mins, 26 secs.

Time it takes to achieve same level of concentration: 15 mins.

Percentage of tasks interrupted in open plan offices: 63 percent.

In closed offices: 49 percent.

Interruptions cause exhaustion, frustration, anger. Error rates on the computer skyrocket.

A 2-second interruption is enough.

Some open offices have privacy rooms.

At one hospital, personnel concentrating--say on getting the right pills to the right patients and not kill them--wear a paper sash that says--leave me alone, I am thinking.

Most of this is commonsense--but what is the solution.

When my daughter comes in my office with a question, I like to think my dazed scowl and frantically waving hand will ward her off--but maybe a sash would work better.

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