Saturday, August 15, 2015

Workspace improvements from Agile Practices Workshop at Agile 2015

One of the tasks I gave out at my Bootcamp Track talk at Agile2015 was to design a workspace better than the one your team currently has. I received more than one answer, and thought I'd share them here.

One list was about how to make a more productive space. The answer was this short list:
  • All workstations in one room
  • White boards and writing utensils
  • Post-it Notes
  • Videoconferencing Tools
  • Proper & available hardware for testing and experimenting.
These seem like very small things to ask.

Well, the hardware might be tougher depending on the application, but a lot of organizations use cloud servers these days so it's more about budgeting than acquisition.

Everyone sitting together is a topic I want to address in a separate post, but I want to call out that being located near the people you're actually working with is a great advantage, as is being located away from people you aren't actually sharing work with. 'Nuff said.

A lot of us work in distributed teams, so I want to recognize the videoconferencing support here. Videoconferencing tools these days range from free (or nearly so) to some pretty sophisticated hardware-and-software solutions, but I think that a very large screen with a web cam and Hangouts or Skype will satisfy most people. ScreenHero might be better for pair/mob programming. 

Overall, these things seem to have a lot of benefit, and not very much cost for the benefit provided. It might be worth having your company look into a trial period of inexpensive tool "auditions."  Maybe they can grant temporary authority to move desks. Maybe a petty cash fund to buy whatever you need (within the fixed spending limit).

The second list was about making the workspace healthier:
  • Make all desks treadmills
  • Restrict diets to soylent
  • Mandatory toothbrushes
  • Work on running track
  • All desks can be exercise cycles

Some of these were a little silly.  I don't think I want to try coding on a running track, and trying to pedal and type at the same time seems tough.

I have concerns about soylent, and suspect that's not going to be an easy win. But I often bring tangerines or satsumas and almonds or walnuts to a team I'm working with. I've been known to keep healthier snacks around to make them more available than the normal vending machine fare. Besides, the smell of oranges or mandarins being peeled is far more pleasant than the smell of cheese-powdered corn chips or greasy little sausage sticks.

But for any extreme here, there are rather acceptable alternatives. Standing desks or sit/stand desks are available. "Active sitting" chairs are actually pretty enjoyable and don't get in the way of reading and writing. I find that walking meetings are really good for f2f discussions, even if you're just walking around the block together -- provided you're not stopping for sugary/fatty snacks along the route.

Likewise, providing hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes (for keyboards and mice) seems to be a minor concession to a healthier space.

Providing sugarless gums and mints isn't hard, and for that matter emergency travel toothbrushes & floss isn't crazy. Sometimes it's helpful to have them on hand (I carry a set with me).

I think that we could all figure out more healthy and lively ways to work if we let ourselves think about it for a little while. In the case of these lists, people were given a total of 7 minutes.

How much better could your workspace be if you gave it 7 minutes of thought?

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