The Office: a Good or Bad Working Environment?

Last week, CNN Opinion ran a piece by Jason Fried, who argued that the office is one of the worst places for productivity. He says, that if you ask people where they prefer to work, they tend to have one of three responses: "a place, a moving object, or a time." Given that companies spend substantial amounts of money on facilities, ergonomic furniture, and office perks, it's definitely important to consider whether the office does its job as a positive work environment.

Fried explains that the office is a place that facilitates disruptions and interruptions. Creative people, especially, need periods of uninterrupted time to think and focus. With a phone call here and an impromptu meeting there, the office tends to leave employees perpetually on edge.

In his article, Fried proposes three solutions to help make the office more positive as a work environment:

(1) No Talk Days: Employees commit to a time when they don't interrupt each other, leaving coworkers to be productive in silence.

(2) If you can, cancel your next meeting, and take some time for yourself.

(3) Use passive communication in order to avoid face-to-face and phone time. When you're focusing on a task, try to use email or IM.

To some extent, I agree with Fried. On a day to day basis, I wear many professional hats: writer, graduate student, class instructor, and social media marketing professional. Sometimes, I feel like I just need to hide from everything and everyone. As much as I adore the students that I teach, I don't always want them interrupting me when they run into me around campus. For the last week, I've been working non-stop on take-home finals, and I've limited my outside-world communication as much as possible.

I work in a lot of places: computer labs, my couch, my bed, libraries, Starbucks, and on-campus restaurants. Every few weeks, I also try to make it to my company's office so that I can touch base with my team. As much as I love the flexibility of working remotely, I do-- honestly-- find myself missing the office.

I like my office because I like interacting with people, plain and simple. I don't get a whole lot of face-time with people when I'm at home, and I'm not the biggest fan of IM when it comes to relaying important messages. I've been out of the office for about three weeks, and I can honestly say that I miss it.

While I do agree that we all need some quiet time, I don't agree with Fried's statement that the "office is one of the worst places to work." I also don't think that it's impossible to focus in a busy environment. Especially if you're management-level, it's more important to strike a balance: focus despite what's going on around you and quickly switch between your focus and social modes.

I like my office because I have a really nice chair with dual screen monitors and some of the coolest people that I've ever met on every side of me. Honestly, I can't wait to go back.

What do you think? Do you think that the office facilitates a positive work environment?


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