About work-related online chats

Recently I’ve heard people at my workplace talking a lot about disliking the OpenSpace floor plans, and how they are distracting people from work, and how the productivity is going down, and why somebody won’t measure it.
To be honest – I disagree. I love OpenSpace; at least at my company people rarely talk loud in the open areas, and I do not have any problem concentrating on what I am doing while people are walking around. I love the convenience of visibility – I can always find a person I need, even if somebody is at the meeting, I can see through the glass door; I can always walk to anybody, and have an impromptu conversation. OpenSpace allows to solve problems as they appear, and really reduces the time spent on the not-so-productive meetings.
But there is another thing, which I think is a real time-killer: the online work-related chats. Here is why.

We are always being told, that we are expected to watch all the chat rooms where our assistance or opinion may be needed.  For many people it means watching up to ten chat rooms (if not more!). You know – I’ve honestly tried , and I can tell you:  if you closely follow the conversations in five different chat rooms, you literally can’t do anything else!  If I want to allocate a couple of hours to debug some code, I need to stop following the chat rooms completely.

Yes, you can set up notifications from the chat rooms. But one – it’s not always you, who’s being addressed directly; and until you really read the request, you won’t know whether you are a right person to respond. Two – that implies, you should read your e-mails every “small” number of minutes.

I know that people often expect you to react on emails more or less immediately. So here we are – if you come back to check you emails every 15 min, how much of actual work will you have done?  Another thing surprises me: I’ve heard from some people, that I should not just walk by other co-workers and ask the question, instead I should e-mail my question and/or hipChat it, and wait for 15 min for a person to respond. I’ve being told, that walk-ins are disruptive. My question is: why a necessity to check you email notifications every 15 min is less disrupting than replying to a question in person – and only at the time when somebody actually does something, not all the time.

… This being said, working in almost empty office between Christmas and New Year can be extremely productive:)

Our workspace:

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8 Comments

Filed under Companies, People, Workplace

8 responses to “About work-related online chats

  1. I don’t like OpenSpace: there are too many people around, I like it only in the morning when it’s empty. I don’t like to speak with people, that’s why I prefer to write by mail. I understand that walk or phone and ask will be faster, but it need to much from me to speak with smb.

    So I understand all the arguments, but when it’s possible I prefer to write not to speak.

    • I was talking “from the other end” – I understand, that it might be easier to email than to talk (although sometimes time is too critical), but being on the receiving end of communications I prefer to be asked rather than checking emails/chats all the time.

  2. Elena

    I am confused. Open space usually means cubicles. Not glass doors.

  3. I know I’m too late to jump on this wagon, but I have a few points to make…

    1. re. HipChat: we have an unspoken rule that whenever we need a person’s attention, we reference them in the chatroom directly. You can setup HipChat to only notify you actively when someone is mentioning @you. The bonus here is that if you are in a deep thought process, using a messenger allows you to “swap” at least some of your work before you address the colleague’s issue. You do not have that luxury when they just come over and start talking.

    2. What I see in your photos is not open space, but regular walled cubicles. Open space that people object to has no walls above the desk level. Some businesses go even further and completely eliminate the notion of a personal desk — you can come over to any desk and hook up your notebook. That would make anybody but the most chatty colleagues scream in horror.

    That said, I enjoy open space most of the time. Even though I am an introvert. An alternative — sitting in a walled space all day — sounds ultimately depressing to me. BUT! I have quality headphones that isolate me from everybody when needed. Headphones are increasingly becoming a must-have attribute of a modern office.

  4. The pictures where mostly made on the first couple of days, when we didn’t yet “inhabit” this office, but in reality the way we work there – is IS an open space, because the walls do not separate you from the rest of the team, and most of the teams sit in their team-rooms all the time, But when I was posting this link, I’ve realized it’s not that visible.

    Yes, @you is good, but unfortunately most of the time you are expected to react in the group discussions, when the question is to “somebody”…

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