Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Peopleware: Part Two - The office environment

Summary of part II of Peopleware: Productive Projects And Teams

So if the managers job is to enable people to work, how does he/she do that?

The first step is acknowledging that the resource that you are managing i.e the peopleware does not come from a factory. They are unique and every individual has their own way of working and choice of keyboard/mouse/screen/desk arrangement etc. You can't have all the desks look the same and all the walls have the same paintings and all the floors look exactly alike. Give the people freedom to mold their environment according to their needs and wants. Once that gets out of the way, people can focus on the work and not fuss about how the silly mouse on their table annoys them. So get out of their way.

The thinking worker also needs to, surprise surprise, think. That requires quiet and focused time. In an office environment with a lot of distractions, this becomes impossible. If people come early or stay late just to get some work done, you should be worried.

Saving money on space is not the smartest move. The company may save a penny on space but will pay a dollar because of the reduced productivity. People are not chickens that can be crammed in tight cages and still lay eggs. You need to provide ppl space and reasonable privacy to do their best work. Office quality is directly proportional to product quality. More noisy offices produces more buggy software. Also quality workers tend to gravitate towards quality offices. So even if everything else was same, if you loose out on quality workers you loose out on quality products. They companies producing quality products all provide their workers quality offices.

You should enable people to have that focused time. People should expect that and no body should be offended if a colleague didn't reply immediately because they were focused on a problem. Asking people to report the number of productive hours each day builds this awareness in the people that this is something that they can expect to have and builds a culture of people letting other people work without distractions. Start measuring the environment factor (e-factor) on regular basis.

e-factor = Uninterrupted hours/Hours in office

If the e-factor is less than 40%, the office environment is not letting the people to get in to flow and get the job done.

Management should make sure that their is enough space, enough quiet and enough privacy so the people can get the work done and then get out of their way.

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