Productivity environments

Software development is a highly intellectual activity that requires long periods of uninterrupted concentration.

Productivity Environments provide developers with the freedom from noise and interruptions they need in order to work effectively.

The use of Productivity Environments can benefit any kind of project – business, shrink-wrap or systems.

Once companies focus on excellent Productivity Environments they will experience improvements in the following:

  • Quality of work
  • Productivity/Speed of development
  • Developer morale
  • Retention rates


  • Potential reduction from nominal schedule: Good
  • Improvement in progress visibility:  None
  • Effect on schedule risk:  No Effect
  • Chance of first-time success:  Good
  • Chance of long-term success:  Very Good

Major Risks

  • Lost productivity from status-oriented office improvements
  • Transition downtime
  • Political repercussions of preferential treatment for software professionals

Major Interaction and Trade-Offs

  • Trades small increase in cost for large increase in productivity
  • Large increase in quality of development

Using Productivity Environments

Productivity Environments should have the following characteristics:

  • Al least 80 square feet of floor space per developer
  • At least 15 square feet of desk space capable of holding books, files, notes, source-code listing and computer equipment. The desk supports should be designed so that they do not obstruct leg movements. The workspace should be configured to the preferences of the individual developer (for example, either a right-hand or left-hand return).
  • Some means of stopping phone interruptions. A “ringer off” switch with voicemail or the ability to forward calls, are the most common solutions. Engraining use of e-mail rather than phone calls throughout a company is also an effective step towards preventing phone interruptions.
  • Some means of stopping in-person conversation. A private office with a door is the most common solution. The corporate culture should allow and encourage developers to close their doors; some companies with “open-door” policies discourage the practice (apparently unaware that this harms developer productivity).
  • Some means of shutting out unwanted noise. Business and social conversations should not carry into the developer’s workspace and the PA system should not intrude to announce anything less serious than a building fire.
  • At least of 15 linear feet of bookshelf space
  • Office with external windows
  • AT least 12 square feet of whiteboard space
  • At least 12 square feet of bulletin board space
  • Convenient access to a high-speed printer
  • Convenient access to a photocopy machine with an automatic document holder
  • Convenient access to conference rooms