Bringing back the Zen to Programmers

Sometimes traditional Sales and Marketing companies try to grow their in-house software development team, having said that, what is considered a productive work environment for the more social sales and marketing folks, may not be as productive for the knowledge workers.

Photography by Templeton Elliot © All rights reserved

The product of programming is intellectual property produced using hours of mental work. It is essential that programmers work in an interruption free environment.

Phone rings, pagers, customer support calls, spontaneous meetings, loud conversations, music leaking out of an iPod, or random stakeholder visits are all examples of work place noise which may not sound as intrusive for Sales and Marketing staff, yet deadly to a knowledge worker’s productivity.

Brains have no toggle switches

Programmers do not instantly switch their brains to ON and OFF mode. It often takes 10 to 20 minutes for them to reach a mental immersion state. Every interruption requires the mental-immersion recovery to be repeated. Multiple interruptions during a working day mean, little time left to think and therefore get anything done. During the time allocated to programming, programmers should not be expected to answer support calls, respond to emails, accept visitors, or attend unnecessary meetings.

Space planning matters

Large open space offices may look architecturally modern and stylish, but they introduce lots of interruptions to a programmer’s work environment. Yes such a space planning may seem to save some cash for the company, but they’ll more likely lose it on their knowledge workers’ poor performance.

A proper plan would be separate rooms, each about 400 to 600 s.f. , with doors for every team of 3 to 5 programmers. This setup could also facilitate team dynamics and intellectual bonds among the team members. Work environment needs to be completely noise free, well lit, air conditioned, and peaceful.

Unified, clinical, and all consistent office interiors serve the ego of the company brand, yet crush an individual’s sense of identity and creativity. As a general rule, soften the authority of company’s furniture police, and allow employees to personalize their work space. This would help them stay inspired.

Inspired employees do wonders!

Get the Ergonomics Right

Cubicle is just another name for Programmers’ Torture Chamber. A Computer Desk should not face the wall, because having a blockage 4 feet away from our faces causes constant eye strain. Programmers should be able to rest their eyes by looking at distant objects from time to time; which is why having large windows with blinds in the room is always a good idea. Every programmer also needs to have at least 30 s.f. of desk, and 100 s.f of room space.

Programmers often work long hours and are prone to repetitive work stress injuries to their eyes, back, arm, elbows and fingers. Chairs, Work stations, keyboards, mice, or trackballs have to be ergonomically designed suitable for long hours of work.

So you can’t afford accommodating a software development team

Employers who are unable to provide a suitable work environment to their programmers, may want to consider outsourcing their development projects, or negotiate telecommuting and more flexible work hours with their knowledge workers.

Please consider that your employees do not always complain about the poor quality their work space, instead they are likely to leave your organization for some valid but obscure reason!

On the other hand, quality of your work place provides good grounds for your programmers to turn down a higher pay job offered somewhere else.

[tags]Ergonomics, Programmers, Zen, Poor Quality Workplace, Cubicles, Office Space Design, Workspace Planning, Noise, Workplace Interruptions[/tags]

One thought on “Bringing back the Zen to Programmers”

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