Of Cubes, Offices and Remote Access Via VPN
A system administrator's take on getting the most from the work day.
Some people follow the process and open a ticket in the system, or they call the helpdesk. The helpdesk opens a ticket and assigns it to a work queue. The people who walk up to the cube bypass that whole process for a quick favor. It may not take very long to help them out, but it does cause issues. The person who granted the favor was interrupted and lost their concentration, and possibly stopped work on a high severity or mission critical situation.
The person who walked up also stopped what they were doing, walked over, waited to get your attention, and then waited while you worked on their problem. This prevented you from working on the problem you had already committed to getting done. There was no record in the system that this issue came up, which in some environments can lead to an under reporting of trouble tickets, which can cause management to believe that there are less requests being fulfilled than are actually occurring. When you ask them to go back and fill out a form or call the helpdesk, they can get upset that you did not immediately help them out. If you ask them to open a ticket after the fact, that becomes a hassle for them to take care of, and they have no real motivation to go back and take care of the paperwork, as their request has already been handled for them.
What I've found works better for me is to work remotely during the day. The interrupts still come in via instant messaging or e-mail, but I can control when I respond to them. During an event that requires immediate assistance, I can easily be paged or called on my cell phone. Just because an e-mail or an instant message comes in, that doesn't mean I have to immediately stop what I'm working on in order to handle it. I can finish the task I'm working on, and when I reach a good stopping point, I can find out what the new request is. Depending on the severity of the request, and how long it will take, I can then prioritize when it will need my attention.
I also find that since my coworkers are not standing there waiting for me to respond, there is less time wasted by both parties. They send me an e-mail or instant message, and go on doing other things while waiting for me to respond. If it's appropriate, I have them open a ticket and get it assigned to the correct team to work on it. For some reason, the request to have them open a ticket has been met with less hostility when I have done it over instant messaging versus a face-to-face discussion.
Offices Versus Cubicles
My next favorite place to work, if I must be onsite, is an actual office with a door that I can shut. Many companies have gravitated away from this arrangement due to the costs involved, but I think it bears some reconsideration. The noise levels in a shared office environment end up irritating a good portion of the employees. Office mates that use the phone can be heard up and down the row. Some employees want less light, some want more. Some want less noise, some want to listen to the radio and shout over the cubicle partitions to get their neighbor's attention. All the background noise and the phone conversations make it very difficult to concentrate when working on problems.
There can be advantages to a shared work environment. When you overhear an issue that a coworker is working on, for example, you may be able to offer some help. Other times, it can be conducive to a quick off the cuff meeting with people. You can quickly look around and determine if someone is in the office that day. Some people thrive in a noisy environment, and it often all comes down to personal style and how people work best. I think many companies would be well served to offer options to their employees.
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