Why is the Open Office Space terrible for Software Developers?

Why is the Open Office Space terrible for Software Developers?

And how can we improve it or at least deal with it?

What is the open office plan/space? What is the origin of this design?

Open office space or office plan refers to architectural and interior design for any floor plan making use of large, open spaces while minimising the presence of private offices.

However, the open office originally designed was a far cry from the cramped commercial version we now have abundantly nowadays.

Throughout the decades, the design has been changed from spacious, comfortable with natural lighting to.

Why this office design is becoming more popular nowadays?

Desktop setup at Unsplash HQ
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

The biggest reason is because design open space offices are cheap, particularly with globalisation and offshoring business processes to other countries.

In terms of human resource and recruitment nowadays, plenty of employees join and leave companies, thereby making this design more suitable.

The Open Office Plan became popular overnight in the world of tech when Google and Facebook adapted this for their huge space.

Most startups also tend to choose the open office plan as their nature of work is risky and is most affordable compared to private offices.

What are the Benefits?

The biggest benefit for employers and company owners is the saving of money. They can easily shift employees or teams within having to change infrastructure.

Employees of the same team can better collaborate when they sit together, particularly those working involved in the same type of work such as marketing and call centres.

What are the Downsides of open office plan?

The open office poses several challenging questions in terms of productivity and employee general happiness and well being.

Here is a list of disadvantages working in such environment:

  • flu or any contagious disease can be transmitted easily thereby affecting multiple employees
  • a lot of noise that makes focusing on creative tasks difficult and more stressful
  • personal communication or communication on the phone becomes difficult with all the noise around
  • lack of privacy, everyone can hear each other
  • some people prefer communicating through emails and instant messaging so as not to disturb others - therefore where is the productivity teamwork benefits?
  • some people like AC while others don't like, which makes it uncomfortable irrespective of whoever has his or her words

Survival Kit

  • Use headphones to signal that you are busy so as to minimise interruptions from your colleagues
  • Ambient sounds such as water falling to mitigate the voice of colleagues talking in the background
  • I prefer not buying expensive noise canceling because it’s too expensive
  • Use Pomodoros timers to work 25 minutes and take frequent physical break by walking outside

How Company can improve their Open Office Space?

  • have less people in the same perimeter
  • provide work from home option at least once or twice a week
  • have multiple satellite rooms, especially for people who are going to work together so as their meetings do not disturb others
  • provide a room for calling alone (if possible)
  • provide infrastructure that is noise absorbent (imagine working in a huge space which was previously a factory with almost no sound absorption and horrible lighting)


At the end of the day, companies want to make as much profits as possible and this office design makes it possible in terms of infrastructure and logistics (to an extent). However, open space office - excerpt a few types of work - makes people miserable, particularly creative people.

Employee happiness is as important as making profits. If people quit particularly after the company having formed them, it's a loss.

And latest studies have demonstrated a drop of productivity in such offices.