I want to create a new workspace for a small software development team (4-15 developers).
Is there any research into whether open workspaces or small offices make for a better working environment?
The problem is that different people work better in different environments. What you should do is have plenty of private spaces and a few usable public spaces for groups. Your spaces will not effectively work at 15 people; try to design spaces for 6 or fewer.
I’ve worked in cubicles, a private office, a shared office, and a open area. I disliked the open area because of a lack of privacy. And basically all the open space pioneers backed away from the idea quite long ago.
EDIT; Here are some interesting reads:
Contrary to the original (claimed) intentions behind the open-plan office philosophy, namely the improvement of collaboration and communication research has shown that they actually cause a significant decrease in both face to face interactions and productivity.
They also appear to lead to a negative impact on employee health, one study showing a staggering 62% increase in the number of sick days taken by employees in an open plan environment vs having closed offices.
The only real benefit to open-plan is that it allows for reduced expenditure on office space, now in some locations where space is at a premium this trade off may actually make more financial sense:
An approximation for the cost savings in using open-plan can be done:
(Square feet per person saved via open offices * # of employees * Cost/square foot of office space)
So as the number of employees goes up - so does the value of potential cost reductions.
If the lost productivity of the open-plan model results in lost revenue of less than the additional cost of having closed plan offices then it can still make sense.
4-15 developers.. that's a lot of variance, it's difficult to get something liked by everyone.
To add to what has already covered by UnhandledExcepSean's answer, I'd say, even for the same person, not everyday work requires same working condition.
Example: In a design review meeting, I'd like a open workplace where I sit face to face and discuss. Same me, would like to have a semi-private workplace when I'm trying to read, understand and debug someone else's code.
What I'd say, organize the available place into three categories
Even if you can't get the third one, it's okay. Have spaces for both 1 and 2, and let people choose what they prefer.
This is just my experience about what I found worked best. In one company we were in an old big house. Each room was large enough for 6 people, so each team had a room to themselves. The volume and "fun" were controlled for how busy each team were.
The team members could just ask a question to the room and the correct person could now answer. Without disturbing other teams to who this question was irrelevant.
I now work in one room with the entire company, not a single sound barrier. Everyone is sat with headphones on, so nobody can add their own information which is relevant but you didn't know existed to ask about. But i guess they are cheaper for the company.
Anecdotally: I've worked at companies that have had shared offices (usually 2 people per office) and that have had an open office arrangement.
Ironically, I've found myself collaborating less in open office arrangements.
In contrast, with private offices: