Recently, we instituted a "core hours" policy among our developers that essentially equates to 4 hours of quiet time every day. During the hours of 10-12 and 2-4 developers aren't allowed to interrupt each other, nor can QA, product managers, or anyone else in the office interrupt developers. If you need help on a problem you have to either work through it on your own or wait until after the quiet time.
The policy hasn't been in effect very long, but I've immediately noticed a significant jump in productivity. I would say I'm 1.5-2 times as productive now that I'm not getting interrupted every 15 minutes. I've also notice that I just plain enjoy coming to work more now.
When we were talking about instituting the policy some were worried that it would be a problem that you couldn't clear up issues and roadblocks immediately. In practice, however, I think it isn't too much to ask everyone to wait [up to] two hours to clear roadblocks. In fact, it ends up forcing developers to solve their own problems.
When I first started with this company I was isolated in a room by myself with entire days to myself. The isolation was too much; I often felt like I was being confined in a prison. Obviously I'm not advocating that total isolation is any kind of real solution. It's impractical to suggest that developers can complete their work successfully in total isolation. It takes a lot of dialog to produce quality software. But it's also impractical to suggest that they can get any work done when they're being pestered every 5-30 minutes.
I highly recommend some sort of quiet time in any work place. In my opinion, the benefits are definitely not limited to just software engineering either.
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