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  • BlueLeavesDesign

99.98 % of Coders Hate Facebook's New Office ...*

*Just Read 'Hacker News' or Reddit.

Facebook's office is one huge open plan. Which Coders hate. They like silence & focus to do Deep Work.

Deep Work is work that produces things that matter in the world.

Its valuable work. Its work we get paid to do. It’s thinking work. It’s the kind of work you need to do to solve hard problems. It requires TIME, SPACE & FOCUS.


Modern offices, especially open plan ones (aka Facebook), go against principles of Deep Work. They lack focus and push us into Shallow Work-- which is easy, repeatable, mundane.

How can our offices foster Deep Work ? How do we reinvent our offices to

increase our capacity of doing work that is meaningful ?


The Case Against Open Offices

  • As per 'The New Yorker', 70% of offices are open plan offices. Although they are collaborative, they’re also distracting & noisy.

  • Workers are 66% less productive in an open plan office as per ’The Sound Agency'.

  • Institute of Psychiatry, London discovered that ‘second-screening’ lowers IQ. More than drugs or sleep deprivation.

  • A national study in Denmark reported that workers in open offices took 62 % more sick leaves due to increased anxiety.

In addition ...

  • Computer work distracts every ten and a half minutes. 23% of those distractions come from email.

  • But the biggest source of interruptions comes from the workers themselves.

  • Switching from one task to the next without finishing the first causes 44% more distractions.

  • The three most annoying office noises were ringing phones, machines, and conversation.


The conclusion is clear: Lack Of Focus makes it harder to get things done**


**This is because of 'Attention Residue'.

If we switch from one task to another, there’s an attention residue of at least ten minutes. This means if we take our mind off the task at hand and look at a message for example, we need 10 minutes to re-focus on the principal task after seeing the message. This lowers productivity and increases errors.

So to maintain productivity and accuracy, we need to minimise ‘attention residue’


The Hub & Spoke Office

A Hub & Spoke Design Model is a hybrid model which has a single entrance into a common hallway (for conversations) that spokes out to individual offices (for deep thinking).

M.I.T.’s Building 20 is a famous example of the this.

  • Built around World War II and before its demolition in 1998, it was one of the world's most creative spaces.

  • Bose speakers. Modern linguistics. Radars. The World’s first hacker space. All started in Building 20. Nine Nobel Laureattes have worked in the building.

  • The F shape of the Building created hubs where people would bump into each other for conversation and for exchanging ideas. They would then go back to their rooms (Spoke) to work without distraction.

  • Having a temporary structure meant walls could be moved easily. Shifting entire departments was simple.

What designers learn from Building 20 is the importance of mixing disciplines. Of having shiftable moveable spaces. Using hallways and staircases to foster idea exchange. And At the same time, having separate rooms for deep thinking.


The Eudaimonia Machine : A Template for A Deep Work Office

Created by David Dewane, an architecture professor, ‘The Eudaimonia Machine’ is a template for a Deep Work Office. Its a long rectangle with 5 rooms in linear progression. You’d need to walk through each room to get to the next.

  • The first room is ’The Gallery’. It should get the creative juices flowing by showcasing awe-inspiring Deep Work.

  • After The Gallery comes 'The Salon' . It would have a bar, coffee lounge, couches to debate, brood and discuss ideas.

  • Beyond the Salon is 'The Library’ with books and other resources to compile data for the project.

  • The next room is 'The Office' . It contains a conference room with a whiteboard, some cubicles and desks. ‘The office,’ Dewane explains, ‘is for low-intensity activity.’

  • The final room is ’The Chamber' . Each chamber is a 6' by 10' room protected by thick soundproof walls for total focus and uninterrupted work flow. You work for 90 minutes. Take a 90 minute break. Repeat 2-3 times at which point your brain will have achieved daily focus limit.


In essence, tomorrow's creatives & entrepreneurs want calm functionality that acts as blank canvas for innovation ...


Other Tips to do Deep Work :

  • First, schedule time for deep work. Authors, for example, often do a monastic retreat. They isolate themselves completely for long stretches of time to focus only on their writing. Others reserve specific blocks of time — Daily, weekly or quarterly.

  • Turn Off Social Media. No facebook. No instagram. No twitter. Apps like 'Freedom’ help.

  • Use Pomodoro technique. 25 mins. of intense work, followed by 5 minutes of active rest. Repeat till task complete.

  • For many, it’s the noise that disturbs us the most. Create a “virtual wall” between yourself and the surroundings. Use big Headphones and play sounds that are natural and predictable. Music with vocals use up brain space.

  • Keep machines that produce a lot of noise (printers, photocopiers) away from the work area.

  • Writer’s Cabin. Perhaps your situation won’t allow you to make adjustments to your work space. Find your Writer’s Cabin. Figure out a place where you can do serious, uninterrupted work. It can be a coffee shop, library or laundry room in the back of your house. Your ‘cabin’ is your space in which you get work done.


To get a PDF of this article, reply to this mail with subject 'DEEP'.


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