I’m totally jealous of Campaign Monitor’s new offices. My professional career has consisted entirely of open layout offices. Everyone sitting at long tables with no privacy. Just to take a phone call you have to wander off and hijack a conference room, talk in the bathroom, or leave the office entirely. It’s ridiculous. The greatest benefit of an open office is that it facilitates face to face communication. But is that really the most efficient means of communicating? Programmers need quiet time uninterrupted to produce their best work. Momentum has a huge impact on productivity.
I recommend reading the entire post. There’s lots of good tidbits like this:
This isn’t just anecdotal either. There’s been plenty of interesting research into open plan vs closed offices too. A study by Microsoft showed just how destructive interruptions can be to productivity. Here’s some commentary by Bill D’Alessandro on the findings:
“The researchers taped 29 hours of people working in a typical office, and found that they were interrupted on average four times each hour. Here’s the kicker – 40% of the time, the person did not resume the task they were working on before the interruption. The more complex the task, the less likely the person was to resume working on it after an interruption.”
Microsoft Research, A Diary Study of Task Switching and Interruptions (PDF)
Last year a team of Australian scientists came to a similar conclusion. They found that working in an open plan office leads to lower productivity and higher staff stress.
“The evidence we found was absolutely shocking. In 90 per cent of research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative. It has been found that the high level of noise causes employees to lose concentration, leading to low productivity. The research found that the traditional design was better – small, private closed offices.”
Dr Vinesh Oommen, Asia Pacific Journal of Health Management