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We changed our work area layout from a cube farm to what is variously known as a bullpen or a fishbowl style open layout. We are finding this is more helpful for team collaboration and provides an area in the middle for the daily scrum stand-up. And we do the Sprint Planning in the conference table in the middle, instead of booking a conference room, which we used to do earlier. The downside is that there is some loss of privacy. What is a good work area layout for scrum teams? And if it is an open layout, is there some way to mitigate the loss of privacy?

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Productivity Trade-Offs

Open plans increase communications opportunities and interpersonal bandwidth. However, the potential benefit doesn't come free; as you've seen, it often comes at the expense of both privacy and interruption-free quiet spaces to work. Some teams find this a net benefit, but some do not; it is generally considered an agile best practice, but it's not an indispensable one.

Options and Work-Arounds

Some teams embrace workspace work-arounds such as stuffed animals wearing "Do Not Disturb" signs, noise-canceling headsets, or sign-up sheets for temporary quiet spaces. Other teams rotate on-site work with telecommuting, or hoteling of private offices.

Another common option is half-height cubicles. The idea there is to provide some limited privacy and personal workspace while enabling coworkers to prairie-dog over the low walls whenever they need to see who's available or to ask a quick question.

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