Wednesday, December 31, 2014

More Walls, Please

The best time of year to work at the office (as opposed to someplace else) is now, the holiday season. Just about everyone is away on vacation; unlike most other days, the place is nearly empty and wonderfully peaceful.

My office, you see, has an extremely open layout (i.e., where the walls between desks are low or non-existent), and it can feel quite overwhelming. Look up from your computer, and you find yourself staring into your neighbor's eyes. Extend your legs too far and you're playing footsie with him or her. Coworkers gather behind your chair to chat; in fact, conversations are never-ending all around you. Read an email, or look at your bank account balance at your own risk; when you do, everyone will know about it.

I've always been surprised that others don't seem to mind open offices. According to an article I saw yesterday on the Washington Post, though, people mind more than I knew. The lack of privacy, and the distractions, appear to affect most people. Not only does it diminish productivity, but it makes people feel "frustrated" and "helpless". I believe it. If only I could convince my boss to believe it.

Apparently, the main selling point for the open office idea is that it "enhances interaction" between coworkers. That, I'm guessing, is an idea originating from an extrovert. For me, less interaction would be ideal. And more walls.

It's an amusing article, and I like how the author ended it by promoting the work-at-home solution. "At home," she writes, "my greatest distraction is the refrigerator." Well put.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Attendance Is Tentative

During the last several years at work, I've gradually developed a nifty habit. When I receive meeting requests via email, those Microsoft Outlook invitations that list me as a required attendee and ask me to accept, I always -- always -- respond with a "Tentative", even when the person organizing the meeting could fire me himself or have any number of others fire me.

Most people have shrugged it off, though, dismissing my responses as quirks of mine, or at least they did so at first. I'd still go to most of the meetings for those first couple of years, despite my tentativeness. But slowly I began missing meetings, or calling into them. Or finding reasons to work from home. And nowadays I rarely attend meetings at all, except for the ones that I've organized myself or that I know I'll get something out of.

I treasure this habit, and I've even been asked how I'm able to get away with it.

I know this is terrible by most standards and that I've probably ticked off many coworkers. On the other hand, I've become much more productive and incalculably happier at work. It's a relief to skip meetings, especially since they end up being filled with small talk and repetitive discussions that won't contribute to my productivity at all. Wasting my time just so that I can be seen as a participant is irksome. I'd rather not be seen at all. Just let me get my job done!

I worry that I may be missing too many meetings lately, though. My habit might be getting dangerously out of hand.

Today, for instance, I received an email saying:

"Hey Zeri,

Hope you are enjoying the alone time ;)

Could you please join the [very important company] call next week? They were all wondering today what we are up to..."

Sigh. I guess I'm in trouble. But if people want answers from me, I don't understand why they don't simply ask. Conference calls and meetings seem entirely unnecessary.

In any case, I'm thinking of attending the meeting next week. Tentatively, at least.