I’ve come across some interesting thoughts on productivity, creativity and physical space lately.
First, there’s this bit from Lifehacker about how ceiling height affects your thinking. The central finding of the research is that higher ceilings tend to foster abstract thought, whereas lower ceilings tend to encourage detailed thinking. Pretty cool.
Then today, there’s another bit that says working in close physical proximity destroys productivity due to interruptions and resulting loss of focus and repeated restarts. Nothing that mind-bending here, but cool when you combine it with the former bit.
Using this logic, to foster innovation, you’ll want lots of offices with high ceilings. If you need to squeeze productivity and sweat the details, you’ll want a lot of offices with low ceilings. The weird part comes when you try to figure which physical limitation costs more, i.e. do high ceilings in bullpen-style rooms foster lots of great, albeit incomplete ideas?
What about low ceilings in a conference room? This sounds similar to recent experiences with the swimming pool that we’ve had lately, i.e. lots of detailed objections with no clear endpoint.
Anyway, this is weird to me. I’ve worked on virtual teams at Oracle for a long time, and we seem to get more distributed all the time. So, you get a really weird mix if you have a couple people in a conference room on the phone with people in home offices with high ceilings.
Another weirdy for me is that people complain that they feel disconnected from the team when they are distributed. So, we’d be less productive in a single location (due to interruptions), but happier, or at least more content, to be part of a team.
Work is a huge part of our lives. So, it should be as comfortable and stimulating as possible.
At a startup, I sat in tiny cubicle next to a painted cinder block wall, at least 50 feet from the nearest window. At the old Oracle office in Santa Monica (now a Google office), the cubes were on raised floor with no direct access to windows. All the offices had windows, so we poor cube slobs were at the mercy of the office people. A closed door meant no light for you! That was the the dopest location in the universe, right down the street from Third Street Promenade, the Santa Monica Pier and the beach, but it was so depressing. Ever had those Winter days when you came to work in the dark and left in the dark?
And just today, I was lobbying my wife to have another window put in my home office. So, for me it’s all about natural light.
What physical conditions do you think affect you at work?