I get very frustrated by the extreme views about correct office size around the industry. I don’t agree with the trendy notion that everyone should be in one giant room — but I don’t agree that everyone should necessarily be in individual offices, either.
By far the most productive work environments I’ve ever worked in (regardless of my title, I’m always a programmer of some flavor) were at Looking Glass Studios (the game company) and Buzzpad (which was created by a bunch of LG refugees). In both, we were centered on “pit” environments — a moderately large room that served as the office for a team of 6–10 engineers.
Yes, it could be a bit noisy, and sometimes a little distracting. But it was small enough that it wasn’t usually distracting, and spending all of our time with our teammates meant that communication was excellent. You didn’t send an email, you just turned around and had a conversation.
It’s not for everyone, and we recognized that — some of the serious hackers needed their own offices, and got them. (And yes, it was easier for a senior engineer to get an office — but not all chose to do that.) The company wasn’t trying to follow some ideology about office design — we were just trying to figure out what worked, and do that.
I really wish more people would stop trying to come up with one-size-fits-all solutions, and instead recognize that, for best results, you need to figure out what’s best for this particular team…