So I know everyone here is all about private offices, how many developers actually have them. I am sort of half skeptical. I can believe that lead developers have them, but that's normally just one person in your average office.

That makes me wonder, how many developers have private offices. Which leads to the actual question: why should they have them?

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    my assumption is private offices are rare. And right now, I work in a cube farm pushing 250+ IT folk (hardware/software).
    – Tony
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 11:46
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    In nearly a decade and a half, for 10+ companies and lord knows how many different desks. Number of private offices = 0. Time wasted as a result of distraction > time saved as a result of hearing what's going on and reacting to it. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 14:16
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    Lets not forget that having a private office (which I do) and having the door to said office respected (not unless the door is closed, locked, and a snarky poster covering the doorknob) are two different things. ;)
    – AnonJr
    Commented Sep 30, 2010 at 14:24
  • 1
    related discussion at meta
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 14:09

2 Answers 2


In the management world, where concentration on a task is not an issue, offices are a means to represent status. They think "private office == more status, big private office == even more status, etc."

What most people fail to understand: Every time our concentration is broken, we create at least one bug and/or delay the deadline for another half-hour. Private offices is not a "nice to have" for developers but a must. This is not about status, this is about brain physics.

Working in an open space costs at least 30% productivity (I read that in a newspaper, start with this blog post if you want to know more). Worst part: This goes unnoticed. If you always work in such an environment, you'll never notice that it happens! Until you wonder why your neck is stiff, you feel tense/nervous all the time, etc.

If you want another productivity increase, take the telephones away, too. Unless you're doing production support, the next day is always soon enough.

To relax the team, supply free soft drinks. That costs $100-300/month for a team of 10 and makes sure they take regular breaks, drink enough (so they don't dehydrate).

The funny thing is: These aren't a bunch of myths but hard facts. Still, most companies ignore these simple, cheap ways to boost productivity. Well, except for the successful ones, of course (Google, Microsoft, etc).

See also:

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    free soft drinks = hydration? Maybe water, dunno about soft drinks...
    – Jé Queue
    Commented Oct 4, 2010 at 17:50
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    This answer deserves some analogy. A programmer not having their own office is about as effective as a teacher sharing a classroom with other teachers(at the same time).
    – Earlz
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 3:51
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    -1 soft drinks don't make sure you hydrate. If anything they have the adverse effect. in programming soft drinks is just a sterotype and band wagon that people jump on to look cool. if hydration is a concern get a water cooler or supply water bottles
    – dreza
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 10:41
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    @JarrodRoberson: Unfortunately, humans are unable to assess their own mental states reliably. When you measure stress levels and efficiency, you find that background noise reduces efficiency by 30%. When I tackle a complicated problem, I really don't want to collaborate, I want to concentrate and I can't do that when the a****** on the next table discuss some b******. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 7:58
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    You seem to conflate open offices with communication, when every study done on the matter has hands down demonstrated that communication is better when programmers have private offices. Putting them in cubicles actually hurts communication, due to noise overhead, and the interruption-knocking-them-out-of-the-zone problem. People tend to have more superficial interactions in open settings as well, to speed up and quickly get through the mindless "over communicating". There are even plenty of studies about the productivity lost to higher rates of communicable illnesses in open offices.
    – user103181
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 16:53

The Master said: “A gentleman is easy to serve, and hard to please. Nought but what is right pleases him: he fits his behests to the man. The vulgar are hard to serve, and easy to please. What is wrong may yet please them: but of their men they expect all things.”

When I had a private office, I disliked my job for other reasons (I was actually happy with compensation, and was treated very well. The lack of smart co-workers bothered me, amongst a few other things). Now I do not even have a cube, but I am happy and productive (I bought myself excellent noise-cancelling headphones for only $150, which is cheaper than paying a union-backed worker to change one light-bulb in a union-controlled building).

Instead of having luxury at work, I would rather take more $ home. Keeping my programming tools sharp is good for my salary, but I understand that a job is a job and dirty/dull work is not always avoidable.

More development managers should wear programmer's shoes, but also more programmers should have a better business sense - for instance think about how much $ just went into project X, and in the hindsight decide whether they should have bought someone else's tool instead. Just an example, and I can find many more.

Many talented developers live in a business bubble where they want to work on fun projects all year long. Street-smart developers also understand that money makes the world go round, and good customer base=everything, and sales, support, & other folks at the company matter plenty.

So, a street-smart developer will over time move to a pasture that is as green as possible, start her/his own business perhaps. An idealistic developer will ask questions on forums about how life should work, and/or will write a blog entry about how managers suck, and programmers rock, and the world is no fair to us, poor programmers.

And in the long run we are all dead, so make sure to spend your weekends wisely, such as getting drunk, having lots of sex, hiking, hitting the beach, and do not forget about ping-pong. Your list may vary. After a nice weekend work-out, your euphoria may last till Wednesday, at which point you have only 3 days of suffering without a private office left.

EDIT: When scrumming, having no walls and being able to group the new team geographically is a big plus.

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    Sorry but I disagree with your definition of an idealistic developper. I don't know how exactly I would define it but your description sound far from being idealistic. Also, you don't seem as much happy as you say you are in your new job ("3 days of suffering"). Personnaly I share an office with 2 other guy and I think it's a nice compromise between privacy and saving money.
    – n1ckp
    Commented Oct 4, 2010 at 22:07
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    Amen and Amen! This has been my exact philosophy with regard to my career for the past 6 years, and thus, I've managed to get the kind of work & money I wanted, with the freedom to move on if things don't work out. Commented Feb 7, 2011 at 6:15
  • The most pragmatic answer
    – Ubermensch
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 10:40
  • plenty of businesses do not want devs to think about business considerations.
    – Randy L
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 17:15