Focus Time

At Bombayworks, we have an open working enviornment.

Though open enviornment is good as it enhances communication between colleagues and improves overall work environmental satisfaction, but it decreases work efficiency as well. With open enviornment its really difficult to concentrate on your work with lot of noise poping around.

In open enviornment people interact at random times, play music and have random noisy discussion. Sometimes when you are working hard to bring some functionality in place, someone will randomly bump in and ask some random question, thus forcing you to loose your focus.

In 2011, the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis said that though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.

At Bombayworks, we didn't wanted to loose the flexibility of the open-plan layout, yet we wanted to do something to improve the efficiency of the developers here. So we experiemented with dedicated focus zones. We practiced 30 mins focus session twice every day.

Rules were simple (yet hard to follow initially)

  • No Music (Though you have liberty to hear music in your headphones - if that helps you to concentrate)
  • No Games
  • No general announcements
  • No loud discussions.
  • No communication. (Though urgent communications regarding project were allowed.)
  • Basically nothing except for project work.

Below were some suggestions passed on to developers to help them make good use of focus time.

  • Pick the most important task you want to complete for the day and work uninterrupted on it during the focus time.
  • Avoid using Facebook, twitter, social-sites, e-commerce sites etc... Basically anything that distracts your work.
  • Avoid multitasking. Just do one single task at a time.
  • Minimize distraction as much as possible.
  • Avoid checking email during focus zone.

Proposed focus slot were:
11:30am - 12:00pm - Focus Time
03:30pm - 04:00pm - Focus Time

Intially there was an argument from developers of whether this is actually necessary? But then after trying it out for week, we got some positive reviews from few developers and then we decided to experiement for few more weeks.

After practicing this for more than a month now, result is clearer. It feels that developers who take it seriously are able to achieve a lot in 30 mins of focus time then they would have normally done in that time.

This entry was published on 2nd Jan, 2015.