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Workplace Environment

Does anyone know of any studies done relating office environments (e.g. noise levels, private vs. open offices, etc.) to programmer productivity? Everyone seems to have a ton of anecdotal evidence (note the many threads when Joel opened the new offices), but have any studies actually been done on this? I've found a few articles on ACM, but most were quite old and a little bit off topic.

In my office (a room with 150 cubes), I can't get any work done without wearing headphones because of all the random conversations around me. Is this just the way it is for programmers these days or are our standards getting too low?

Tom Mack
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

There are a few studies discussed in Peopleware on this topic -

Ben Richardson
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The environment is important IMO, I am working on a large project at the moment and we just got a new project manager about a month ago, one of the first things he realised was that our environment was not too good so we moved floors and everybody was happy, eventually though he upset in some way everybody on the team (5 people), usually by trying to make people work longer hours, the only thing he didn't realise was that our team is a team of people who are already driven, so they're pretty maxed out anyway. Result,  the personal dynamics of the team are now screwed, and productivity has sunk to low depths. Team members will now actively find reasons why things can't be done, whereas before any solution to a problem was set upon eagerly.

What am I saying (gotta think) - the physical environment is very important, but it only matters once the big things are sorted, i.e workplace dynamics, relations between team members.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Used to work in an internet consultancy - soft tone uplighters, personal desk lamps, no overhead tubes, very nice to work in, and sometimes long hours as well, but you felt valued.

Now I'm in tube heaven (where more than 50% are twisted 90 degree so they don't glow) and still doing some fine work, even though the place isn't comfortable. After 8 hours as a code drone I will leave the office, and yes, it can wait until tomorrow.

However, the biggest difference between the two is that I would never recommend where I'm at now to a friend...

Raddy Echt
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I have a friend who loves to work in coffee shops, and is much more productive there.  Personally, a closed-door office is the environment I'm most productive in.  So, I realize I'm not answering your question, but my point is if you have team members who can tell you that the current environment is hindering their progress, that should be enough justification for making changes.

Alternatively, you could propose to mgmt that you verify these results by doing your own study.  I realize that this might not be scientifically valid, but who knows, it could work.  Just trying to be helpful.

Scot Doyle
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Assuming of course that you aren't doing pair programming :-)

Scot Doyle
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Don't read Peopleware. It's just bunch of crap put to gether that can't be applied to real life.

As I said earlier, I think the authors were smoking something while writing these 200 or so pages of ultimate nonesense.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Don't read Peopleware at your peril.

It's still one of the best project management books ever written.

Mike Treit
Tuesday, November 18, 2003


Oh yeah? because so and so said so? how impractical one can get huh? huh?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Read Peopleware yourself and form your own opinions.

Personally, as a sometimes-manager and as someone who works on software projects, I thought it was incredibly insightful, and that's independent of the fact that I have my objections to some of the ideas presented.

In my opinion, everyone who works on a team that is primarily focused on doing intellectual work should read it.

My objection is to the comment "Don't read it, it's not applicable to the real world", because that's simply nonsense - there are many companies (mine included) that take the lessons in Peopleware to heart, and I have no doubt that it makes a huge difference in building killer teams.

Mike Treit
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Hey yoyomama, it was from reading Peopleware that I found out I wasn't odd for retreating to the server room to do some thinking.  It was just too damn noisy in my cube to get in the 'zone'.

Greg Kellerman
Monday, November 24, 2003

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