But this article isn’t about the disastrous consequences of the open office floor plan or why they are so draining to introverts (there are already many articles and books on the topic) – instead, I want to suggest how to improve developer spaces and why these small changes can be important.
So how do induce a productive workspace?
Here’s the thing – I want to do my job. I want to complete my jiras or assignments and mark things off my checklist of work to-dos so when I slide into bed that night I feel like I accomplished something and can sleep easy.
The environment is crucial for falling into that uber-productive flow-like state.
There’s a reason why places like Google and Facebook in Silicon Valley are able to hire the best tech talent – unlike other companies, they have curated an environment that addresses developers’ needs and constraints.
I’m going to paint what I would consider being a utopian working space, a place that I probably wouldn’t want to leave, and I could guarantee an extra two hours of productivity easily a day.
A Corporate “Utopia”
The chair is not the bog-standard office uncomfortable type, but instead designed as a gaming chair, with all the garnishes of a pro-gamer would dream of and unbelievable comfort.
There is a noise-canceling set of over-the-ear headphones which are already on their charger and ready to go, battery life of easily 10 hours.
The keyboard – now I’ve seen many devs be particular about their keyboard so have the option for them to bring their own but otherwise, the default should be a Razer-like quality pro keyboard with backlit keys and proper spacing to ensure comfort and add the cool factor.
Mouses should also be optimised for comfort and not the cheapest you can find (looking at you banks). All this, plus the lights in the room aren’t glaring hospital lights but instead a nice low glow that doesn’t make your eyes feel like they’re bleeding after you’ve been under them *and* staring at a computer screen all day.
Make sure the desks are not touching the neighbouring desks or cubicles, because everyone has their ticks and some people love to tap their feet or spin pens when they’re thinking and you don’t want to feel the vibration or movement from your neighbour.
The idea is to reduce stimulation in order to optimise the ability of the brain to enter into a deep flow state. This is the ideal for a productive programmer and many can get lost for hours in this trance-like, problem-solving mindset. Lastly, this office has shades that can lower over the windows to darken the room because some like to work in semi-darkness (which can further reduce stress on the eyes).
Programmers (and many people who also aren’t devs) are at their desks and on their computers in a semi ‘metaverse’ all day five times a day. It very much can be a home away from home and so creating a comfortable and inviting space is important.
Ideally, the programmer should feel like captain Picard settling into his captain’s chair every morning when he or she arrives at their workstation.
Another aspect of offices that could cater to the introvert or programmer is to have communal areas with games. The last thing I want to do after programming all day is small talk – it’s hard to shift gears. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to spend some free time hanging out with people!
The thing I enjoy most is a mutual activity, whether it’s foosball, a friendly switch Mario Kart competition, or a little chess game. It’s much easier to socialise with someone new when you’re doing an activity together instead of just hanging around the proverbial water cooler.
To Sum it All Up (TLDR)
Some banks and many companies in Hong Kong are reeling from the drastic changes that COVID has brought to the local and global economy. Being able to change an already existing office space is difficult on a low budget but even doing just one or two of these things would make a big difference.
- Reduce Stimulation
- Proper delineation of personal space
- Sleek and actually comfortable high back chair
- Big ol’ headphones with battery life
- Backlit keyboard with raised keys
- Mouse that fits the hand (find smaller meese to fit women’s hands)
- Ability to control the lighting in some manner
- Competitively friendly communal areas where you can do more than just small talk