Why Developers get Private Offices at Teamwork.com


We are just about to launch our new Teamwork Campus One office in Cork. Fitting out the campus with loads of small offices so that each developer can have a private space to work in completely soaked up the available space and was quite costly. But we think we did the right thing because we strongly believe that open plan for developers is a big mistake. To explain why, here is a copy of a page in the Teamwork.com Manual that we give new employees.

We do our utmost best to try to give every developer at Teamwork their own private office. Yes it’s completely unfair to everyone else… but we do it for a very good reason. Read On.

Why Do Developers get a Private Office?

For us, the whole private office for developers thing originally comes from a famous (for nerds) book called Peopleware that discusses the best way for software teams to be productive ― study after study showed that developers need uninterrupted time to get into “flow”. Open plan offices are a distraction from getting into flow. Private offices encourage it. The book also argues for private offices for each developer because most software development is done in isolation.

Our hero, Joel Spolsky is a big advocate of this and he first put us on to this idea. We strongly believe in the idea and have validated it with our own experience.

We are the only software company in Ireland that we know of that do this which is a great pity. We feel that many software firm owners have read Peopleware, say it’s an amazing book and then proceed with open plan anyhow… a cram-them-in-keep-costs-down mindset.

“Open space is fun but not productive.” link

Microsoft have sunk billions into the question “how do we make better software faster?” and they have experimented with everything. In the end, one of their biggest findings is that programmers must get privates offices and this is a core tenet there.

You quoted “open space is not productive”; I’m not a developer but I feel I’d be more productive in a private office. Can I get one?

You may very well be more productive in a private office, but it’s simply a matter of cost-benefit-analysis and available space. We give developers priority on the available offices but it’s not a status thing, it’s because we want to get our developers into “flow” state ― it’s like writing a book, one interruption and all the great characters and plot twists in your head disappear, possible forever.

We certainly don’t want a them/us culture either – we are all in this together! What we’ll do instead is make sure there are plenty of meeting rooms and great breakout spaces for when you need deep thinking time.

Anyhow, I’d be interested to hear your comments below. Cheers.

  • Renan Danton

    How do you evaluate communication in your team of developers?