Thursday, August 6, 2009

30 Days Locked in a Team Room

Spent the last 30 days in a conference room converted into a shared work area for me and four of my (now) closest co-workers. We had asked to be moved to a shared space but none of us actually expected it to happen. After a month of it, all I can say is:

I do not want work in a cubicle ever again for as long as I live. Ever. Period.

One dude whistles. One dude crunches mini carrots all day long. One person is negotiating a house sale on the phone. And I pop my gum incessantly (if I don't I get an overwhelming urge for tobacco products). Yet it is the best work environment I've had in years.

Today I had to write up a summary of the team's past 8 retrospectives. Almost every single action item from the retrospectives over 4 months had to do with improving communication in some form, talking to each other more frequently, or getting better feedback. Until we got the team room. After moving to a shared space, the action items had nothing to do with communication. Empirically speaking, the team room unequivocally solved our project's biggest problems.

A team room has absolutely not lead to more interruptions. Side conversations are very easy to ignore. And any question you have is usually answered within seconds. Compare that to sending someone an IM seeing if they are available and then wandering over to talk. Speaking of, it's been wonderful not having to run some stupid instant messenger program in the background all day.

Cubicles are inhumane. Solitary confinement is punishment under most systems. Closing ourselves off from human contact and than holding a meeting to discuss ways to improve collaboration is laughable if we didn't actually hold those meetings every few months.

The insanity ended for me 30 days ago. I never, ever want to go back to working in a cubicle.


Anonymous said...

I agree, cubicles are the worst of all possible worlds. Fake privacy, but real barriers to communication.

Plus, pairing in a cube is almost impossible. There's never enough desk space for 2 people to work, and the computer is always in a corner so 2 people can't easily see the same screen.

Václav Pech said...

Fully agree. My best ever working experience was a single-room arrangement with me and 6 colleagues in it. The seamless flow of communication, inspiration and motivation was astonishing.