Reading Jef Claes post on The open plan fallacy inspired me to share my opinion too. (Go read Jef’s post before you continue reading).
I don’t know how it is at other places in the world, but here in Belgium, the ‘Open Office’ idea is really popular. The idea is that everyone is sharing the same workspace. In the morning, you enter the building, take your first cup of coffee and go sit where ever you want. Everyone is sitting in the same open office. In the evening you remove everything from your desk, put your stuff inside a locker and the next day it start’s all over again. (And if you don’t like the person sitting next to you, the next day you can go and sit somewhere else).
As Jef mentions in his post the open office layout certainly has some advantages. It stimulates communication, creates more networking opportunities, optimize the usage of the available space and reduce costs.
I have to agree with all those advantages (it’s always fun to chat with a colleague you have not seen for a while), but this comes with one cost: productivity. In my experience I have seen that teams get most effective when they have their own space, isolated from any distractions. Teams should be able to communicate freely, share ideas, do code reviews and have some fun. But in an open office layout this is hard to do without disturbing others.
I’m not advocating to introduce cubicles and all work in our isolated space but instead to create a mix of team rooms and open spaces. I do think this will increase productivity a lot…