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?
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.