About a year ago our group moved to a new facility and as part of the move we decided to co-locate (buzzword for a team room). I had little experience with a team room and there was some apprehension prior to the move, mostly around whether there would be too many distractions for people to work productively.
For the most part it has been a huge success. Often there will be a discussion where someone who was not part of the initial conversation may chime in with some useful info. We don’t need to schedule a conference room for an impromptu discussion or our daily standup. We can also use the team space to put up tracking charts and whiteboards up on the wall. To the amazement of the non-software folks in the company we still use IM. It tends to cut down on the quick and easy questions that could be distracting to others over the course of the day.
Yesterday was particularly fun where we had a very spirited discussion on how often should you check in and is it OK to check in when the automated build is broken. The debate was lively but respectful and at one point we even closed the door so as not to disrupt other groups. Everyone had a chance to chime and I think everyone also had fun with it (the debate was fairly semantic, but that’s beside the point). I don’t know how we could have had the discussion with the benefit of the team room. It was like a little snow squall: it was quiet, then a short intense storm blew up, and 15 minutes later it was quiet again.