I had offices at IBM and Apple, where I was able to get deep work done. The unspoken rule was:

  • Leave your office door open if it’s ok to drop in and ask you a question.
  • Close your door if you’re deeply engaged in work and don’t want to be interrupted.

We also had open shared spaces (near the coffee, of course) where we could chat and collaborate. The model worked fairly well, but we would have benefited from collaborative spaces with tables and whiteboards.

After Apple, my corporate life was cubicle hell. No deep work could be performed effectively in a cubicle. Constant interruptions.

Sometimes you would reserve a small conference room, or grab a phone booth, to try to get some quiet work done. But, they were in high demand and people with actual meetings took priority.

Eventually, it became clear that the only way to get deep work done was to retreat off campus to a coffee house (the “cabin”), or work from home (WFH). Unfortunately, WFH is still frowned upon by many managers. You’re supposed to be in the office, engaging in meetings, collaborating, putting in face time.

I wonder how long it will be before the love for this open office model completely collapses and companies start restructuring their spaces to get it right?

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