With today's emphasis on collaboration, you might think an open plan office is the way to go. By eliminating even cubicle walls, it should be easy to encourage communication and collaboration, right?
Unfortunately, that's not what happens. What happens in an open plan office is it becomes noisy and full of distractions. There may be a few types of work where that isn't a problem, but software development isn’t one of them.
Software development is highly intellectual work. The hands-on-keyboard coding is just typing; that's not where the developers' skills and talents lie. Those skills are in their ability to think through a challenging design problem or a difficult bug in order to come up with a solution. And being able to think like that requires quiet and the ability to concentrate; exactly what's missing from open plan offices.
In some companies, the open plan gets in the way of collaboration in other ways, too. Developers who are desperate for the chance to think book conference rooms where they can close the door and block out the chatter. That makes conference rooms unavailable for their intended purpose. When there's no conference room available, either the meeting and its collaboration doesn’t happen, or the meeting is held by telephone, adding to the overall noise level and distraction.
It isn't always possible to reconfigure office space, but companies can take a few steps to help developers cope. Even low cubicle walls can help block some distracting sights, and you can offer developers noise-canceling headphones. Noise baffling curtains and ceiling tiles can help reduce the decibel level. Your company culture can discourage the use of speakerphones, and you can also provide small phone rooms and informal meeting spaces to reduce the number of desk-side calls and meetings.
You can use your investment in a quiet workplace as a selling point when you meet with prospective employees. Creating a workplace where developers can easily work is a sign of the respect you have for their needs and abilities.