By contrast, HPEs who are masters of their discipline—dedicated to a life-long pursuit of truth in craft—hate distractions because they simply can't get their work done. These folks then must stay after-hours, or work from home in order to find an environment in which they can be effective. Distractions and interruptions for HPEs come in many forms:
- Natural distractions from the space (loud noises, people walking by the hall/desk/door constantly, deliveries, tours, chatter and laughter, temperature swings, office animals, etc)
- Personnel interruptions (someone has a question, someone needs feedback, there is an 'emergency', someone is upset, someone found something cool to show, executive keeps bothering, etc)
As nicely explained by Andrew Lucker, we can think of distractions as clouding the concentration capacity of our brain, like overloading a computer with too many tasks:
Working memory is full of all the things that you are consciously aware of at any given time. That dog sniffing around, the music your deskmate is listening to, the meeting on your schedule, and everything else that you may be worrying about. These things fill your working memory, and are a huge drag on any attempt to work with the [new ideas] in your head. Too many simultaneous distractions will effectively block any attempt to reach the glorious flow state of mind.
If one's goal as an HPE is excellence, then distractions will prevent efficiency and end up a source of deep frustration. If distractions/interruptions persist, people will simply find another job—because a corporate culture that doesn't understand the HPE is supremely dispensable in our hyper-competitive market. In my HPE survey, I found that 65% of people expressed "ability to master my trade" as one of the primary reasons for leaving their job.
If we're worried about HPE morale and retention, we have to directly address daily distractions and renew our faith in process.
2) Poor productivity hurts our products and time-to-market.
If our most talented employees are fighting an uphill battle against constant distractions and interruptions, our end products will suffer. Simple.
3) Generally speaking, our offices are too open.
There are too many visual and auditory distractions. We need more normalized codes of conduct, thoughtfully walled space, visual partitions, alcoves, private work rooms, and vastly more sound suppression. We need space where our HPEs can engage and retreat as needed. We need fluid space with an emphasis on predictability and calm.
To be blunt, most of our office implementations are just downright lazy. We spend untold thousands of dollars on free coffee and meals, gym memberships, creative perks of all kinds, yet our modern office spaces end up so similar, with so little functional creativity.
4) We need to slow down and listen to our people.
Our high-performance employees are already showing us what they need, but are we really listening? Sadly if we are unable to tune in, their need for calm space and ethical process will often become clear only in hindsight. Similar to customers choosing to shop elsewhere, our HPEs vote with their allegiance and are quite comfortable finding new jobs—leaving us to pick up the organizational tab which is vastly more expensive than we might think.
William Belk is an enterprise software strategist and proprietor of Rocket Fueled People (http://www.rocketfueledpeople.com) a collective focused on the unique needs of the world's high-performance employees. This post was originally published on Medium and is republished here with permission of the author.