At HubSpot all but a handful of our 600 employees work at open desks, including the executive team. In fact, we've taken it a step further an introduced shared desks and lockers for workers who don't need any sort of private space whatsoever.
So are we fools following trend rather than the wishes of our workers? Are our employees lying to us when they claim that the open offices lead to more collaboration and create a more communal atmosphere?
In an open plan office, conversations happen in person. When everyone has a separate office, more conversations happen over email or IRC. We believe that the face to face communication is the best way to build great things. Culture and conviviality is born from spending time with people, plain and simple. If we weren't in close contact, it wouldn't happen as much.
On a personal note, all due respect to Mr. Spolsky, but walking in to 'my office' and closing the door is the antithesis of what I am looking for in a work environment. I love building great software, but great software gets written at Starbucks and in garages every day, a private room is certainly not a requirement. The most rewarding experiences I have had in software have come from working with others, without that it would all be much less rewarding.
- You need to be comfortable with wearing headphones. Most people listen to music, some white noise, but they are critical.
- It's a good idea to begin an interaction over chat ("have a few minutes?"), before walking over to someones desk.
- You need meeting rooms. Private, loud or embarrassing conversations need to happen every day, people need a place to go.
- You have to like the people you work with to like an open-plan office.