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Where do you do your best work?

Jason Fried, at a recent TED conference, presented his thoughts on why work doesn’t happen at work.

There’s a lot of what he said that I can really resonate with; I work in an open-plan office, and for the most part find that quite difficult. My best work (and probably my best thinking) happens in a quiet atmosphere, or somewhere I can tune out the background noise. One of the pitfalls of an open-plan office is that noise-levels are, in large part, dictated by others: some people like to think aloud or in conversation with others, and their ideas thrive in connection with other people. Some people just enjoy an almost constant background banter. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy that too, and find external processing of ideas and creativity with others incredibly stimulating. But when I need to get something done, I prefer a quiet calm, or at least somewhere I can tune out the background noise.

There are certain tasks that need me to be able to think clearly and coherently. For example, coding often needs you to be able to plan how one piece of functionality could be coded in a number of different ways, and determining the best route requires being able to consider not just the next line of code, but the implications of that on the next 50 lines.

Unfortunately, it’s often when doing those tasks that need my highest concentration that I find it all the harder to tune out what’s going on around me. And I’m not a nice person when faced with those conditions.

Jason compares work-patterns to sleep-patterns. When we sleep, it’s not a simple binary. You are not just asleep or awake, but your sleep is characterised by cycles and patterns. Medics and psychologists alike recognise how disruptive it can be to have your sleep disturbed, and Jason suggests it can be equally disruptive to have a work cycle interrupted; something that might happen many times every day in most offices. “The best gift you can give to a colleague is four hours of uninterrupted time.” He even goes as far as suggesting ‘silent Thursdays’, or even one silent Thursday afternoon each month, to see what difference this makes. It doesn’t sound terribly realistic, and I know many people in my office would (rightly?) balk at the idea; but as I think about it, I wonder if it might redress the balance of ideal working conditions for different types of people. If we work in an open-plan and ‘disruptive’ office for 160 hours a month, suddenly 4-16 hours a month given to conditions that might be more favourable to other people doesn’t sound a lot. Although that does assume that you can do your best work, under those conditions, in a specifically allotted time.

I think one of my major problems with Jason’s presentation, though, is that it feeds my selfishness. The working conditions he describes are my ideal, and I would love to be able to regularly have quiet space to get things done. But deep-down I know that’s not realistic. Part of my value to the organisation isn’t just my individual productivity, but the shared value of connections; being disrupted to help another, and having the freedom to interrupt someone else to get the help I need.

And people work differently. My ideal would be, I suspect, far from ideal for a good number of my colleagues; people whose creativity and productivity is catalysed by constant connection with others. One colleague (not based in our office) explained to me recently that when he needs to get something done, he turns his wifi off; but he also admitted that, as an extrovert, he thrives on ‘distraction’.

People are different, and that is good. People work differently, and how we accommodate those differences is important.

As we consider an office move this year, with potential to change and shape the way we organise that office, this certainly does give food for thought.

ff1 update: great britain

Dear Andy and Mooresport

Here, belatedly, are the results from Silverstone; does anybody else think we could do with a bit more movement at the top and bottom of the table?

I might delay publishing results from Germany until the FIA World Council decide if Ferrari should face further penalty after bending the rules concerning applying team orders. But what do you think? Should team orders be banned? Do you think they inevitably affect F1 anyway? Do they spoil the sport for fans?

Let’s see what happens in Hungary…

1 Chris Illingworth Four Wheels 1122
2 John Rhodes The Pheasant’s Revolt 1108
3 Simon Rodden Last Minute 1074
4 Gaynor Bingham No Hope 1028
5 ↑ 1 Lynne Rodden The Gherkins 1016
6 ↑ 5 Al Briggs Alabama GP 965
7 ↓ 2 Andy Moore Mooresport 961
8 ↓ 1 Josh Rodden Creme Egg 960
9 Andy Showell-Rogers Eat My Dust 948
10 ↓ 2 Ruth Moore Moore’s Movers 929
11 ↓ 1 Tracy Forster Penelope Pitstop 926
12 Jackie Moore Shiny Happy Speedy 917
13 Oscar Leitheiser F1 Circus Clowns 888
14 ↑ 1 Dave Coyle Aotearoa GP 846
15 ↓ 1 Scott Boyes Scott Racing 825
16 Peter Jones No Driver Aids 798
17 Ron Jones Win Or Bust 737
18 David Holland Green2Cheques 612

The shredder.

A young engineer was leaving the office when he found the Acting CEO standing in front of the shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.

“Listen,” said the Acting CEO, “this is a very sensitive and important document, and my secretary is not here. Can you make this thing work?”

“Certainly,” said the young engineer. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button.

“Excellent, excellent!” said the Acting CEO as his paper disappeared inside the machine, “I just need one copy.”

Lesson: Never, ever assume that your boss knows what they’re doing.

ff1 update: europe

After a topsy-turvy race – especially for Mark Webber – here is our topsy-turvy table, which has lots of movement, and our first competitor to reach 1,000 points this season. Will anyone catch these Four Wheels?

See you after Silverstone.

1 Chris Illingworth Four Wheels 1015
2 John Rhodes The Pheasant’s Revolt 971
3 Simon Rodden Last Minute 933
4 ↑ 2 Gaynor Bingham No Hope 902
5 ↓ 1 Andy Moore Mooresport 899
6 ↑ 4 Lynne Rodden The Gherkins 885
7 ↓ 2 Josh Rodden Creme Egg 882
8 ↓ 1 Ruth Moore Moore’s Movers 849
9 ↑ 2 Andy Showell-Rogers Eat My Dust 844
10 ↓ 2 Tracy Forster Penelope Pitstop 836
11 ↑ 1 Al Briggs Alabama GP 825
12 ↓ 3 Jackie Moore Shiny Happy Speedy 822
13 ↑ 1 Oscar Leitheiser F1 Circus Clowns 791
14 Scott Boyes Scott Racing 754
15 ↓ 2 Dave Coyle Aotearoa GP 752
16 ↑ 1 Peter Jones No Driver Aids 708
17 ↓ 1 Ron Jones Win Or Bust 683
18 David Holland Green2Cheques 536

ff1 update: canada

Just in time before the European Grand Prix tomorrow, here are the results from Canada. Chris Illingworth still holds his position at the top of the table (can you guess how his team is made up?), with most movement in the bottom half of the table.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

1 Chris Illingworth Four Wheels 936
2 John Rhodes The Pheasant’s Revolt 861
3 Simon Rodden Last Minute 820
4 ↑ 1 Andy Moore Mooresport 796
5 ↓ 1 Josh Rodden Creme Egg 783
6 Gaynor Bingham No Hope 772
7 Ruth Moore Moore’s Movers 763
8 Tracy Forster Penelope Pitstop 749
9 ↑ 1 Jackie Moore Shiny Happy Speedy 739
10 ↓ 1 Lynne Rodden The Gherkins 733
11 ↑ 2 Andy Showell-Rogers Eat My Dust 726
12 ↑ 3 Al Briggs Alabama GP 710
13 ↓ 2 Dave Coyle Aotearoa GP 705
14 ↓ 3 Scott Boyes Scott Racing 699
14 Oscar Leitheiser F1 Circus Clowns 699
16 Ron Jones Win Or Bust 610
17 Peter Jones No Driver Aids 592
18 David Holland Green2Cheques 479

ff1 update: turkey

Here are the latest standings in the FF1 league following the race in Turkey, with Gaynor Bingham and Jackie Moore sharing the spoils for best improvement.

So, was the Red Bull collision Vettel’s fault, or Webber’s? Would you have given Vettel a hug when he reached the pit wall, or would you be handing him his P45?

1 Chris Illingworth Four Wheels 814
2 ↑ 3 John Rhodes The Pheasant’s Revolt 741
3 ↓ 1 Simon Rodden Last Minute 734
4 ↓ 1 Josh Rodden Creme Egg 711
5 ↓ 1 Andy Moore Mooresport 693
6 ↑ 4 Gaynor Bingham No Hope 671
7 ↓ 1 Ruth Moore Moore’s Movers 665
8 ↑ 1 Tracy Forster Penelope Pitstop 655
9 ↓ 2 Lynne Rodden The Gherkins 651
10 ↑ 4 Jackie Moore Shiny Happy Speedy 642
11 ↓ 4 Scott Boyes Scott Racing 639
11 Dave Coyle Aotearoa GP 639
13 ↓ 1 Andy Showell-Rogers Eat My Dust 636
14 ↓ 1 Oscar Leitheiser F1 Circus Clowns 610
15 Al Briggs Alabama GP 608
16 Ron Jones Win Or Bust 540
17 ↓ 1 Peter Jones No Driver Aids 536
18 David Holland Green2Cheques 455

ff1 update: monaco

After confirmation of Mr Schumacher’s penalty for his final-lap overtaking manoeuvre, here are the results for the FF1 league post-Monaco; and what a fascinating race it was!

It looks like there’s some friendly family-rivalry underway, with Simon Rodden’s jump up the table being followed by Josh and Lynne in hot pursuit!

1 Chris Illingworth Four Wheels 701
2 ↑ 1 Simon Rodden Last Minute 644
3 ↑ 3 Josh Rodden Creme Egg 639
4 Andy Moore Mooresport 616
5 John Rhodes The Pheasant’s Revolt 612
6 ↓ 4 Ruth Moore Moore’s Movers 592
7 ↑ 2 Scott Boyes Scott Racing 570
7 ↑ 3 Lynne Rodden The Gherkins 570
9 ↓ 1 Tracy Forster Penelope Pitstop 569
10 ↓ 3 Gaynor Bingham No Hope 565
11 ↑ 1 Dave Coyle Aotearoa GP 560
12 ↑ 2 Andy Showell-Rogers Eat My Dust 548
13 Oscar Leitheiser F1 Circus Clowns 528
14 ↓ 3 Jackie Moore Shiny Happy Speedy 523
15 Al Briggs Alabama GP 495
16 ↑ 1 Peter Jones No Driver Aids 465
16 Ron Jones Win Or Bust 465
18 David Holland Green2Cheques 387

ff1 update: spain

Here is the (belatedly) updated table following the race in Spain. Monaco results to follow… dependent on the results of Mr Schumacher’s appeal against the time penalty for his final-lap overtaking manoeuvre.

This week’s award for the biggest mover goes to Simon Rodden! Well done.

1 Chris Illingworth Four Wheels 577
2 ↑ 1 Ruth Moore Moore’s Movers 511
3 ↑ 9 Simon Rodden Last Minute 510
4 Andy Moore Mooresport 502
5 ↓ 3 John Rhodes The Pheasant’s Revolt 501
6 ↑ 1 Josh Rodden Creme Egg 499
7 ↓ 2 Gaynor Bingham No Hope 494
8 ↓ 2 Tracy Forster Penelope Pitstop 484
9 ↓ 1 Scott Boyes Scott Racing 480
10 ↑ 3 Lynne Rodden The Gherkins 477
11 ↓ 2 Jackie Moore Shiny Happy Speedy 469
12 ↓ 1 Dave Coyle Aotearoa GP 462
13 ↓ 3 Oscar Leitheiser F1 Circus Clowns 454
14 Andy Showell-Rogers Eat My Dust 446
15 Al Briggs Alabama GP 405
16 ↓ 1 Ron Jones Win Or Bust 395
17 Peter Jones No Driver Aids 371
18 David Holland Green2Cheques 343

ff1 update: china

Here’s the latest update from the FF1 league, and the final part of the asia-pacific leg. It sounds as though most teams have made it all (or at least some part) of the way home after the ash-cloud problems, so hopefully the exciting racing will continue in Europe!

1 Chris Illingworth Four Wheels 476
2 ↑ 3 John Rhodes The Pheasant’s Revolt 436
3 ↑ 1 Ruth Moore Moore’s Movers 430
4 ↑ 2 Andy Moore Mooresport 411
5 ↑ 5 Gaynor Bingham No Hope 404
6 ↑ 2 Tracy Forster Penelope Pitstop 402
7 ↓ 4 Josh Rodden Creme Egg 398
8 ↓ 6 Scott Boyes Scott Racing 397
9 ↑ 5 Jackie Moore Shiny Happy Speedy 385
10 ↑ 2 Oscar Leitheiser F1 Circus Clowns 373
11 ↓ 4 Dave Coyle Aotearoa GP 372
12 ↓ 3 Simon Rodden Last Minute 370
13 ↓ 2 Lynne Rodden The Gherkins 360
14 ↓ 1 Andy Showell-Rogers Eat My Dust 351
15 ↑ 1 Al Briggs Alabama GP 328
15 Ron Jones Win Or Bust 328
17 Peter Jones No Driver Aids 268
18 David Holland Green2Cheques 254