My friends, we’re living in the future. We can communicate with people across the globe as if they were in the next room, we can annoy people on the train with a vast array of portable noise-making devices, and we can access just about the entire sum of human knowledge from our desktops. So why are we still working in offices?
It hardly seems surprising that there’s a game coming out called ‘Office Massacre’ (well, at least there was) -the cultural consensus seems to be that the office is a hellhole full of David Brents and broken dreams. Furthermore, over the years we’ve heard again and again that technology will let us all work from home. So why am I sitting here in a high-tech company that mainly runs from an open-plan office? Shouldn’t we all be wired up to the matrix, holding meetings in a virtual space straight out of Tron and disconnecting occasionally to watch Neighbours at our leisure?
Well, from the technology side of things, yes, I could be working at home. But I’d be at a further level of remove from the team we have here. Communication is everything, and spontaneous communication is essential in this work. As I mentioned in my first post, I want to produce usable stuff, putting the emphasis on people. There’s no better way to balance the highly abstracted coding my department has to do than to stick us right in the middle of a busy office. We can see what sales are up to, we can hear what tech support are telling the people who use our systems, we don’t always need to formalise the process with meetings and phone calls, we’re in it.
And the social side of things is much better than they’d have you believe, the writers of The Office or those smug rock stars who ‘just couldn’t bear the anonymity of office work’. Maybe we’re lucky here with this mix of characters, but come on, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of gossip? We’re all social animals, even those of us who know what AJAX stands for and can happily spend an hour solid quoting Tarantino movies, and here we all are in a big room where we can easily decide to go to the pub after work – and if I was working from home I’d never get a chance to steal Giles’ crisps.