Sound of Silence

The Effects of Work Environment on Developer Productivity

Space may be the final frontier. It may be wide and open. Or even closed and confined. In the software development world we often focus on tooling and its effect on programmer productivity. This crazy distributed world is encouraging us to think less about the importance of physical workspaces.

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What attributes of our working environment make us more or less productive?

White Noise

Noise travels. Having a multitude of colleagues speaking on the phone leads to an incessant buzzing travelling around the floor. Individual conversations on the floor contribute to the swarm of bees buzzing around your head as you work. Software engineers perform very thoughtfully intensive work. Concentrating on writing code, reading code, or completing any intellectually gruelling tasks requires peace and quiet.

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Programmers shouldn’t need to utilise headphones to help them complete thought intensive tasks

Let’s Get Together

Whether you work to live, or live to work, we spend the majority of our week in the office. The office needs to feel homely yet not encourage leaving at an unreasonable hour. Being human, software engineers will still want a fixed location to flock to every day. My experiences with hot desking early in my career emphasised that human beings are creatures of habit. The majority sat in the same desk everyday. Their lockers were only filled with their non-essential hoardings when visitors needed a desk. Flex desking possesses primarily fiscal benefits as you have less empty desks in the case of sickness and holidays. However it does depersonalise individual work settings.

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Sitting teams away from each other is not as good for the pedometer as you may think

Where I Draw the Line

With an emphasis on co-located teams within many Agile methodologies, collaborative spaces are required to foster fraternisation. To encourage innovative solutions means your work environment must include tools to help encourage ad-hoc creative thinking. Tools must be openly available without the need to lock coders in conference rooms.

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Windows and whiteboards can be used for collaboration and design, not just menus!

Common People

There are far more productivity enhancements I can recommend based on my time in the relegation zone. It is important to regularly evaluate our work environments and experiment to determine which options will work for the engineering collective. Measurement of individual productivity would be the best mechanism to determine if developer productivity is being impacted by their surroundings. Once the fix is identified, it should be adopted across the entire group to prevent feelings of resentment developing.

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Measure developer working habits both in and away from the office to determine space effectiveness

Lead software engineer with a strong interest in Agile, UX and Usability. Lover of cooking, tea, photography and gin!

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