接下来，我们不妨想想，用几条有效的约定能取得怎样的效果。回想一下大学时代，你是怎样学习的，在哪里学习。我上的是宾夕法尼亚大学（Penn.）。我最喜欢的学习地点是费舍艺术图书馆（Fischer Fine Arts Library）。主阅览室里没有墙的阻隔，一个大开间、高屋顶、采光良好的美好空间。即便坐满了人（时常有这样的情况），这里也非常安静，落下一根针都可以听到。这里很安静，是因为它有一项不成文的约定。喜欢与同邻座闲聊，想小组一起学习的人，或者希望能在“学习时”遇到另一半的人，不管怎样，他们都会到其他地方去。来图书馆里学习的每个人都清楚这一点。无需监督执行，因为所有人都遵守这项约定。
What is the solution? We all need to have fewer, shorter, better meetings. (Microsoft, can you please change the Outlook meeting default length?) But short of that, we need to send a message that concentration is important by giving it a place in our core work day. Some individuals I know have put a limit on how many meetings they will accept during a day. Some teams implement "meeting free" days or portions of days. Whatever the approach, we need more considered scheduling.
Cutting your employees' leashes
Assuming you get that right, where will people do this focused work? Having a variety of places in the office for people to concentrate when they need to is important. Equally important is giving people enough flexibility to make use of the places outside of the office.
Many managers worry that if their people are out of the office, they won't be available for others when needed. But if you've solved for the time issue, having people out of the office every now and then should not come at the expense of collaboration. Indeed, when we survey people about the ideal amount of time they would like to spend working from home, the average preference is for 1-2 days a week (1.3 days to be exact). Most people feel they benefit from being office, but they also benefit from not having to be there all the time.
A no-walls, no-cost solution
Next, consider what you might achieve with a few good protocols. Think back to college and how and where you studied. I went to Penn. My favorite place to study was the Fischer Fine Arts Library. There are no walls in the main room -- it is just a wide-open, high-ceilinged, well-lit, beautiful space. Even when every chair at every table is occupied (which happens regularly), it is so quiet in there that you can hear a pin drop. It is quiet in there because that is the protocol. People who like chatting to their neighbor, want to study in groups, are hoping to meet their future spouse "while studying," whatever --they all go somewhere else. Everyone who studies in the library knows this. No one has to police it because no one needs to.
Now, this doesn't mean that your office needs an expansive library, but what it does suggest is that you can create spaces for concentration without the expense of construction. In our office, people who need to get focused work done during the day simply pick up their laptop and move to the quiet zone. Some people stay there all day long. They send a signal to the rest of us that they need time for focused work.
Yes, collaboration is critical at work. But we'll have very few good ideas to work with unless people have time to think on their own about the conversations they've had with others. In order to strike the right balance, we must spend at least as much time on thinking about how we behave at work as what our office looks like.
Georgia Collins is the managing director of North American business for DEGW, a strategic business consultancy that helps clients improve their workplaces.