It’s been years (about 3) since I started working for companies that prefer huge rooms containing the desks of all employees to smaller offices and more private offices. The reasons are good ones: have top and middle management work in the same room with their teams and they wont feel or look privileged. It also makes it really easy for people to get to know each other when they’re together all the time. Those weird cases where you don’t know half the people you work with are less likely to occur.
Teamwork is the idea behind it all, strong and lasting relationships, but to what extent? That and the more down-to-earth fact that it’s a lot cheaper to put together such an office. I see the purpose to put the entire development team in the same room, they need to work together closely and having to walk around to talk to each other will be really time consuming. I also understand the concept of placing the testing and QA teams with them, they also need to efficiently communicate to make the product work.
But let’s face it, when it’s everybody, that turns into constant noise, constant distractions to work on ignoring and most importantly the risk of being interrupted at any time. Some tasks require a lot of concentration to be completed in the best possible manner. Especially when it comes to creative thinking. If you start working on a story, an article, a press release, if you want to think of a strategy for a certain event, being constantly disturbed with something else is really annoying. And counterproductive, to be honest.
I for one have build my very own separation technique. Thanks to my headphones and my ability to sometimes work better when I’m listening to some music. Unfortunately I don’t to that well with force fields 🙂 I also do not support the idea of cubicles. Maybe you hear less of the noise, but they are so tiny and so far from any real window, I think anyone can get claustrophobic in due time.
So I do believe proximity can help build up a team. But you cannot apply that to a whole company. Yes, I think the sales team should have their office, especially since sometimes they deal with confidential data. The marketing team should have their own office, and so on.
I don’t think how the miracle of performance can happen if the individual efficiency of all employees is decreased. I also have the feeling that long term costs are also a lot higher than one would expect. What do you think?