One of the ways I was profoundly affected by my recent trip to our India office was in observing the manner in which the people worked. I am still considering how to apply what I saw and learned.
As I wrote about recently, I had the opportunity to travel to India last week. We were able to visit some amazing historical sites, and to work with our colleagues in our office there. I had previously visited India, but never before with my current company. So this was my first opportunity to meet some of my colleagues in that office.
I was able to travel together with the product manager working with my team. When we arrived, we found a meeting room marked for our use. There were a few meetings rooms set off of a main room where the bulk of the office employees sat to work. Outside of the main room was a moderately sized area with a reception desk, couches, a gavel table, an eating table, and a food preparation area.
We found that while people were in the working room, a sense of quiet prevailed. If anyone spoke, it was in hushed tones. People were not antisocial—many conversations took place, but always in the outer room. On a few mornings, as we arrived, trainings were occurring with most of the staff in the office. During these trainings, some people were quietly working at their desks, but most were engaged in the training. So we saw that in general, either everyone was engaged in a social activity, or they were all quietly working.
While I worked in this environment, I found it highly conducive to deep work. It was much easier to be productive when people were not regularly interrupting or distracting with loud conversations. No one ever said anything or asked anyone else to be quiet. There was no need. Everyone seemed to already understand the environment they wanted to create, and even as intruding visitors, we could immediately sense the proper behavior, and acted accordingly.seemed to already understand the environment they wanted to create, and even add intruding visitors, we could immediately sense the proper behavior, and acted accordingly.
Deep work is facilitator in different ways for different people. In my experience, for most individual contributor work, quiet periods of uninterrupted concentration is ideal. The approach taken by the employees in our India office is the best I have ever seen at mitigating the many drawbacks of cubicles or open office layouts. I hope I can find ways to emulate some of what I witnessed and create deep work opportunities for myself and my team.