Motivating Productivity

I recently moved into an office with several developers, some of whom are using the space as a kind of co-working space with everything you need for a technical development shop. This office is somewhat unique, in my experience, with many developers with a variety of expertise sharing their experience in a casual environment.

Naturally, in a space like this, with everyone being friendly and sociable, there are often conversations taking place over a variety of topics. Phone conversations have limited privacy, and result in the noise level in the space rapidly rising. When the socializing starts, productivity drops across the room.

The question here is not how to reduce the distraction – that’s the easy part. The real question is how to motivate people around you to be productive so that none of the issues above become real issues.

I personally prefer a work environment with some ambient noise, whether conversation, or music, or other sounds that can’t be clearly made out. Others prefer an absolutely silent work space, and others prefer complete chaos. Trying to get several people in a single office to agree on the environment can be quite a challenge.

One part, however, should not be too difficult to resolve – that is, the need to have at all times a professional work environment in which productivity of one person is not hampered by the socializing that goes on.

Perhaps the best way to approach this is to educate the individuals in the office as to what a professional environment is, and only then can real progress be made. To help out, here’s a starting list, though by no means absolute or complete:

  • Clean and tidy: How do you convince a potential client of your professionalism when walking into your office they see papers scattered about, chaos ruling the day? Not to mention that a tidy work environment can also have many productivity benefits as well (not sterile – tidy).
  • Quiet: It doesn’t need to be silent as a tomb, but having a low level of ambient noise helps people concentrate, and removes distractions.
  • Friendly: No, you don’t need to have a long conversation with every person who walks through the door, but a pleasant “good morning” can help start someone’s day off right (note, I learned this from my current environment, where every person will greet you when you arrive).
  • Industrious: Okay, you may not want to see everyone sweating away at their tasks, but at the same time, signs of work being done can promote a generally more productive environment, creating a cycle of productivity.

What do you think? How would you go about removing distraction from your work environment, and how would you go about promoting a productive environment? What do you think a professional work environment looks like?