A week ago, the BBC broadcast a drama portraying the struggle between the Leave and Remain campaigners before the UK’s “Brexit” referendum vote two years ago. The drama focused on the chief Leave campaigner, an eccentric if highly intelligent individual played by Benedict Cumberbatch. He was shown moving with his team into a suite of new offices for the campaign. He took the “corner office” - but he was also depicted ferreting out a tiny store-room where, unknown to his team, he locked the door, did not install a landline or wifi and clearly did most of his “deep-thinking” work (which also involved lying on the floor between the shelves, and writing on the walls).
It was a portrayal of an extreme case, but it rang bells with me. It accorded with my experience of some people with whom I’ve worked, when we’ve had to plan and write long-form documents. I’ve never had any problem doing this in a busy environment, by closing my mind to what is going on around me. But clearly and understandably, some do benefit when “deep-working” by shutting themselves away from distractions and interruptions, particularly from 'phone calls. In one workplace, a man I remember kitted out an entire secret office for himself in a hideaway in a remote part of our building - an entire office without a landline or wifi (though no writing on the walls).
Perhaps employers should cater for such needs. Not everybody always works best with constant exposure to distraction and communication, especially in contemporary “cube-farms”. (The former journalist Lucy Kellaway when she wrote for the Financial Times of London also covered this issue frequently.)