Some companies embrace Agile software development methods, and organize their workers accordingly. The idea is to divide the company’s offices into core project team areas with main work areas.
These work areas have comfortable seating, shared tables, and quiet workstations [or pods] around the perimeter. There are large, visible charts, whiteboards, monitors, and papers. This helps anyone get quickly up to speed on project status without having to interrupt team members. There are small meeting rooms that offer privacy too. One of the basic tenets of Agile development is the concept of pair-programming. Two developers work together to write code. So, the use of dual monitors is a common technology requirement.
When a company sends developers to a customer site for a project, the client is encouraged to create a similar setup to maximize communication and information sharing. However, not all companies acknowledge or are willing to reconfigure workspaces. At the very least, a client should create an open area like a large conference room or table to facilitate communication and private spaces for the length of the project.
Even though an Agile-inspired layout, like the one mentioned above, is quite successful some IT employees consider it too open. This is especially true if the layout is not implemented properly. There needs to be enough space per
employee. Employees need to be able to kick back and make a phone call or eat their lunch. Sometimes, employees just enjoy the privacy of their office. They typically don’t have a problem with getting or giving co-workers constant and immediate access, but when they think they will lose their space they become fearful. They want their retreat place.
So, the idea is to emphasize that employees can use the shared team space and their private office or cubicle space. Or better yet, create a place for employees to retreat to take care of their private business, make phone calls, or to just get some quiet time.
One company that uses Agile methodology is State Farm Insurance Co. Executives noticed that there were too many empty cubes at their headquarters. So they decided to reconfigure.
The company adopted some of the Agile office layout principles. The idea behind “Systems@Work” is that employees no longer have an assigned desk. They built a variety of spaces where people can move around. Employees are given the mobile tools they need to make it happen. They are issued laptops and cell phones and basically “hotel”. They are not tied down to any specific area, and can sit anywhere to get their jobs done. However, State Farm still offers quiet areas in addition to the open team environment.
Plus, the company asks that their people travel light so they can move within 24 hours. Laptops, cell phones, and personal effects should fit in one box that they can pick up and take wherever they need to go. If an employee can’t fit their items in one box the company recommends that the employee get rid of some of their items.
State Farm officials confess that this new office layout represented a considerable expense. However, they also state that the return on investment is positive and Systems@Work gets solid reviews from its employees.