pattern: when your office isn't a good place to work

i’ve noticed a pattern among a ton of my friends who do knowledge work. that pattern is that our offices are terrible places to do work. this is often in spite of the fact that we have nice offices and like our coworkers.

so what’s the problem?

in my mind, it stems from two problems. the first is that not all work is created equal. and by that i mean not all work requires the same conditions to be done. there is a type of work that i call heavy-thinking work often requires long stretches of uninterrupted time. those long chunks of time support focus, create flow, and allow generation and manipulation of complex ideas.

the other type of work is… well, actually maybe there are two more types. one is connection work (i.e. meetings). connection work matters more and more these days because the problems that have yet to be solved are complex and require collaboration. (sidenote: it may also be true all the problems that were “solved” without collaboration may not have actually been solved and some of what we’re dealing with as a modern world is problems that were “solved” in isolation (i.e. a solution was generated that worked in one particular context but breaks in others) and then exported to the world).

the other is menial work (processing expenses, (sometimes) checking & responding to email), managing file systems, etc.). most knowledge jobs require this on some level.

so given these three types of work as i see them, the problem with our offices is that, in the modern, open office era we have somehow been convinced that all of these are equally possible to do in the same space.

they are not.

words / writing / post-processing
286w / 9min / 5min