#8: Flaws in the Open Office Concept

Alison_NameLast Wednesday morning was pretty typical. I was in around 5 AM, well before anyone else was in the office and zoned out testing the software layering, stressing it to find bugs as well as put the hardware through its paces. I can’t do this with an office full of people, but I can’t take any devices out of the office until we have something to show the general public.

It’s a standing rule I agree with. The software at this point is more valuable than the hardware and we can’t let it get out.

To be honest, I’m having trouble getting anything done in the office. It’s too open. We have one of those offices that features beautiful exposed beams, original hardwood floor, and only a single sectioned off boardroom that is only separated by two panes of glass that only go up about 8 feet.

We are the modern office. Almost everyone sits at three long tables that look like we’re about to clear off our monitors and try to have the longest picnic in office history. There is no privacy and rather than block off times for meetings and brainstorming sessions, chatter is constant from “creativity collisions” happening among the team.

Creativity collisions are what Ryan calls incessant chatter. He picked it up from reading the Steve Jobs biography and also from other startups over the years. Sure, its modern and does create moments of collaborative genius, but for the most part this open office eats away at our day. And that’s the big flaw I see in this modern office.

If someone comes to me with a question or moment of brilliance that can’t wait I am pulled away from what I was doing for how ever long the other person yammers away. The worst part is that it then it takes me roughly 8 – 15 minutes to get back focused on what I was doing.

That’s why I like the early mornings.

The quiet of the pre-dawn is calming. My desk faces King Street in downtown Kitchener which isn’t overly active in the dead of  night. I can’t help it when I sit down at my end of the desk and become swept into the passing cars and buses with their headlights leading them through the light snow falling like an early morning haze before I get down to business. It’s in my peripheral as I stay dialed into my work and helps keep me in a zombified state of work. This peace only last so long.

Enter the Yammering Co-worker.

“Did you know according to CNBC the U.S. could start hiking interest rates pretty soon and in turn could freeze up new investments from VCs?” said Jasper slamming his bag down on the table behind me.

“Did you know I once had sex in the entire ’06 Volkswagen lineup one weekend?” I said. Jasper stared at me for a couple seconds trying to wrap his head around that. “What? I dated the son of a guy who owned a VW dealership.” Then I immediately tried to go back to what I was doing. I thought that little fact would quiet him right away. I was sadly wrong.

“I’m not sure they’re the same thing,” Jasper replied.

“Well of course not. The main difference is that I had the ability to actually control my situation,” I replied. “I mean, I could have had sex at a Honda dealership, but opted for German design instead. I stand by my decision. The Touareg was particularly comfortable.”

I’m pretty sure I stared off into the distance for more than a couple seconds with a grin on my face after remembering the Touareg. There really was a lot of head room.

“But this could have direct influence on us!”


“And we should look at trying to insulate ourselves from it!”


“Find other sources of investment. Government, private enterprise, anything!”

“Jasper, I understand where you’re coming from, I’m not a complete idiot,” I said. “There’s just nothing I can do to stop the interest rates from rising in the U.S. or here in Canada. All I can do is sit here, focus, and ship a great product. Ryan’s out there right now selling us and our device. You heard him yesterday, he’s finally having solid meetings.”

“You can’t be that short sighted, though?” Jasper continued.

“I’m not short sighted. I can’t help trying to care about something I have no control over. And I can’t fucking concentrate with you talking to me about this shit.”

I turned back to my display, flicked a timer on my Merge device to start timing how long it takes me to refocus. It took nine minutes to get back into a groove.

I guess I should feel lucky that Ryan’s out of the office this week shopping the sample devices we had put together. He’s the worst for trying to force creativity collisions when he’s bored in between meetings. I think I’m going to work from home from 10 AM to 3 PM now and come back into the office around 3:30 to try and avoid these inane conversations.

We’re so close. I can tell because people are stressed. They are nervous and start to talk in reaction to that. The busy work of prepping a pre-sale page and developing a Kickstarter fall back plan is almost done. People have been making bets on the largest whiteboard in the office about how much Ryan is going to bring back in a VC deal. They should leave it alone.

Keep your head focused on what you can control. You can’t control something that’s happening thousands of kilometres away. But, alas, they are distracted by the general energy bouncing around the office. Oh, open office concept, how I despise thee.


Because music is important to my day-by-day activity at work and at home I’m going to start sharing my favourite song from the last week. Take a listen to Jack Peñate – Let’s All Die. It’s peppy and a little depressing. The beat is so peppy your forget about the lyrics…and also the people around you.

Next Post – #9: 3D Printing Will Sustain Us (i.e. Me)

Previous Post – #7: The Interview with Alison


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