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Re: On Creating an Effective Work Environment

by chromatic (Archbishop)
on Aug 22, 2003 at 03:29 UTC ( #285650=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to On Creating an Effective Work Environment

  • No cubicles.
  • Give developers a quiet environment.
  • Set up a big room with plenty of space for everyone to work together.
  • No fluorescent lights.
  • Plenty of whiteboards and index cards.
  • There should be plenty of room for developers, their managers, and some sort of customer to work together comfortably.
  • Have a couple of small offices for work that needs absolute quiet or privacy, but don't give them to anyone permanently.

If you want to develop teamwork, your workspace has to encourage it. If you want people to work together — if you want developers to ask each other and the customer questions rather than guessing at the answers — it has to be easier to work together than to work separately.

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Re: Re: On Creating an Effective Work Environment
by Anonymous Monk on Aug 22, 2003 at 04:18 UTC

    Thank you for your response.

    You raise a good point about making it easier for people to work together than separately. Could you elaborate a bit more on the contents of an ideal meeting room (for roughly 6-10 people?). Projectors vs. whiteboards? Are computers at all necessary?

    As for the extra couple of small offices - do you think the benefits of having these would outweight the hassle of moving developers around? I've found most people are rather attached to specific configurations (both of their software and physical setup). Also decent sound proofing isn't so expensive for a company our size, is the separate location more for noise factors, or change of atmosphere? Thanks.

      I probably wouldn't have a meeting room, preferring to save the space for a big workroom. That has a threefold effect. First, you have more space to use for actual work. Second, you have no secret meetings larger than two or three people. Third, everyone has to be involved in any meeting, so you have pressure to have fewer meetings.

      The important thing I want to encourage is happy and accidental teamwork. Provided you have a healthy team, I know of no better way of accidental teamwork than having everyone work in close proximity. (Obviously, if you're working as individuals, you'll have concentration troubles. I'm a strong believer in pairing, though, so it tends to work out nicely, once you get the hang of it.)

      The extra offices are there for private phone calls, one on one meetings (performance reviews), and private e-mail or research. They're temporary; you wouldn't use one for more than an hour or two at a time. (I like the way the O'Reilly offices in Sebastopol are laid out — there are offices and group work areas. If you want your own office, you can have one. It's in the middle of the building, though. The group work areas are along the outside, by the windows.)

      Figuring out software and physical setups is trickier, but if you want the happy collaborative accidents, you need to standardize on one or two configurations that everyone can work with productively. It's more important to work well as a team than to use what you were most comfortable with on your own.

      There are legitimate and important ergonomic considerations that may come into play, and those have to be taken seriously. In those cases, you may need special equipment, but that's motivated by the genuine need to include someone in your team, not to assuage someone's preferences.

      The sound proofing is mostly for noise, though having a different atmosphere can be nice. Lots of companies already have different atmospheres for different groups. If you visit O'Reilly headquarters, you'll notice that customer service feels very different from HR and both are quite different from marketing, not to mention online publishing. (For one thing, there's a bookshelf full of foreign translations just outside online publishing, while the marketing department has lots of posters and end displays and a whole table full of pamphlets, mailings, and geegaws.)

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