I had an interesting conversation a while back with a colleague shortly after we all relocated to the same floor in our building. She was proposing reorganising the floor into large groups to foster talking, sharing, collaborating — all those buzz words of the modern workplace.
As an introvert and a fairly reclusive one at that, I was horrified and could feel the panic rising at the mere prospect.
I knew enough of the people on the floor, as well as what they did, to know this was not a good plan, quite apart from my personal feelings about it. She is an extravert and naturally assumed everyone was like her, and it had clearly not occurred to her that others might want and need different things from their work space.
I suggested she look around at what people did in their jobs and consider the conditions they required to do their best work.
She had overlooked this point entirely in her enthusiasm. Most people on our floor are fairly introverted. The majority are analysts of one stripe or another, and if the prevalence of headphones is any indication, uninterrupted concentration is what they need and prefer.
The need to not be interrupted is not universal. For several years (I have no idea how I survived so long) I worked with people who thrived on interruptions and considered their day dull beyond description without at least one every 30 minutes or so. If things got too quiet they generated their own interruptions.
Needless to say, their interruptions were imposed equally on everyone around them. Some popular choices:
- Loud conversations with anyone within sight (sight distance being determined by the length of the side of the floor)
- Listening to voice mail messages on speakerphone
- Making calls on speakerphone
- Describing aloud what they are doing on their computer and blaming said computer’s response for their own lack of know-how
- Not muting the sound on their computer so every time they hit a wrong key, everyone hears. Repeated endlessly – see previous bullet
- Similarly, their computer beeps or dings every time they receive an email
- Text message alerts for every single message, doubly annoying when it’s an ongoing conversation
- Mobile phone ring tones that are turned up to the loudest setting and announce their music preference
- Singing to themselves
- Whistling tunelessly
- That Guy who has a very penetrating voice so that every conversation he has, be it on the phone or in person, is audible from the other end of the floor
Apart from finding all these things supremely annoying and distracting, my fundamental issue is — why do I need to be alerted every time something happens to someone else?
Besides, it’s work: quit interfering with my ability to do it.