From adding picnic tables to installing tree houses, companies big and small are paying close attention to office design and the way it impacts how we work. As with many workplace trends, startups are leading the way--tricking out their spaces to resemble a nightclub or a mod coffeehouse or to bring the outdoors inside. This topic has been top of mind for us in recent months as we’ve been going through our own office redesign. How will the design communicate our company culture? What will help our teams get their jobs done in ways they find exciting?
It's no surprise that startups have long been on the cutting-edge of office design. Many are operating under incredibly lean budgets, which forces them to create new ways to do more with less. The payoff, workers at these companies say, is more inspiration, a greater sense of community and more effective collaboration.
Still, some managers and employees are skeptical about breaking with classic office designs, long symbolized by corner offices and partially-secluded cubicles. There's a comfort to having a space to call your own, one that allows you to tune out from the hum of the office and focus on the task at hand.
How do you know if it’s time for an office makeover or to stick with tradition? In the coming months, we’ll show you how we’re deciding to answer those questions. For now, let’s take a look at the main pluses and minuses of both options:
A Home Away From Home
The key feature of open offices is the "roaming desk." In this setup, there are no formal offices and nobody is assigned a seat. Workers instead arrive in the morning, pick a place to sit at a table or in an empty room and either hunker down for the day or hop from one location to another all day long. When done, these employees pick up their laptops and whatever else they brought with them and the space is left empty for the next coworker.
Another component of open offices is communal space--and plenty of it. Whether in the kitchen or areas set up to mimic a living room, these spaces serve as meeting grounds for impromptu conversation and brainstorming sessions. They're also places for relaxation, since workers at companies experimenting with cutting-edge design practically consider the office their second home.
Overall, there is often a sense of equality in an open office space. It's nearly as likely you’d sit next to a recent college graduate as you would the CFO.
On the downside, open offices can come at the price of privacy. Conversations can easily be overheard, or prove distracting to other workers. It's also a difficult setup for employees who thrive on structure--or companies that want control over what visitors, whether clients or vendors, can see or hear.
Rooms with a View, But What Else?
Call this the "Mad Men" model. Closed offices are populated with assigned desks and offices that follow a strict pecking order. The motto here is, a person for every desk (as opposed to, say, a coffee table), and a desk for every person. In this scenario, movement is limited. Hallways can be empty for stretches at a time. Employees at best can hope to run into one another at the coffee machine or in the restroom. Here, the boss sits in the corner office with a view; the intern out front next to the storage closet. This design type works well for companies with clear divisions of power.
One of the main advantages of a closed office is a sense of job security. After all, you have your own desk and your own personal space--a sense of permanence and belonging that can get lost in a more mobile, open environment. Plus, offices with floor-to-ceiling walls and doors help keep distractions to a minimum and guarantee privacy when needed.
The potential cost in the classic office setting is a sense of community. Employees can't easily have the spontaneous discussions that can foster the closer bonds that lead to more effective collaboration.
The setup that works best for your company can depend a lot on the nature of your business. Workers who must collaborate and think creatively (think advertising execs) often thrive in more open settings. Those who are reliant on having a single desk and confidential communications (think lawyers) will fare better in a traditional setting. While the old adage, "If it's not broke, don't fix it," is appropriate when assessing whether to shake up your workplace design, a thorough evaluation of how a reconfiguration of your office might aid workflow and performance is always worthwhile.
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Cartoon Coffee Break: Fitness Challenges
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. +++++ We’re approaching the middle of January, and New Year's resolutions are in full swing. For many, that means being more active and creating a regular gym schedule. But sticking to these goals can be challenging, especially for employees who work at a desk for eight or more hours per day. HR can help employees reach their goals by fostering a culture where workers feel empowered to prioritize their health and by offering benefits like gym memberships or wellness stipends.
Cartoon Coffee Break: Let's Talk About Your Facebook Post
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Header photo: Creative Commons
Ten Dad-Friendly Workplaces
When we talk about the quest to "have it all," it's almost always in reference to working women trying to balance a stressful 9-to-5 with the equally difficult demands of family. To be sure, women face distinct challenges in the workplace and high expectations at home. But this Father's Day, let's not forget that dads are increasingly juggling work and home life, too. Single fatherhood is becoming more common in the US—a 2013 Pew report found that a record 8 percent of families with children were headed by a single dad—and 60 percent of households with children are dual-income as of 2014, putting added pressure on both working parents. While policies in the US do not mandate paid family leave of any kind—unlike parent-topia Sweden, which offers 16 months of paid parental leave and three months specifically for paternity leave—many companies are now thinking about how they can help their workers be "Employee of the Year," without sacrificing their "Dad of the Year" trophy. Here are ten excellent companies for working dads, based on a new report from parenting resource website Fatherly. 1. Google Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 53,600 Paid Paternity Leave: 7 weeks (12 weeks for primary caregiver) Industry: Tech Dad-friendly Policy Highlight: When you work with Google, your family is part of the family—really. If an employee passes away, the company provides his/her spouse with 50 percent of their salary for 10 years and immediately vested stock options, and children receive $1,000 a month until they turn 19 (or 23 if they're a student). 2. Facebook Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA Number Of Employees: 10,082 Paid Paternity Leave: 17 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: Procreating pays off. Facebook gives new parents a $4,000 "new child benefit," along with subsidized day care. Not to mention the $20,000 worth of supplemental insurance coverage for fertility and family planning treatments. 3. Bank of America Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Charlotte, NC Number Of Employees: 220,000 Paid Parental Leave: 12 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Bank of America's twelve weeks of paid paternity leave is on par with countries likeIceland. Not too shabby. And, if you can handle the pay break, the company also allows for an additional 14 weeks of unpaid leave. 4. Patagonia Photo: Shutterstock Headquarters: Ventura, CA Number Of Employees: 2,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 8 weeks Industry: Retail Policy Highlight: Working parents don't have to stray far from their kids as Patagonia provides on-site child care for kids up to nine years old. The famously laid-back company will also provide afternoon transportation from local schools back to the office babysitter. 5. State Street Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Boston, MA Number Of Employees: 29,530 Paid Paternity Leave: 4 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Flexible work arrangements are a must for the busy working dad (or mom). State Street's program helps take the stress out of setting up some work-from-home time by requiring their managers to approach their employees about flexible work options. 6. Genentech Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: San Francisco, CA Number Of Employees: 14,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Biotech Policy Highlight: Along with dedicated paid paternity time, Genentech also offers a sabbatical program for long-term employees. Every six years, you earn six months of time off—perfect for a long summer trip with the kids. 7. LinkedIn Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 6,800 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: LinkedIn likes to encourage employees to think outside their cubicle and, in addition to "special projects" time once a month, you will get a $5,000 stipend for job-related education expenses. Maybe "Childcare 101" would qualify? 8. Arnold & Porter LLP Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Washington D.C. Number Of Employees: 1,284 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks (18 for primary caregiver) Industry: Legal Policy Highlights: If your spouse or partner is gainfully employed and you'd like to trade some of those work hours for family time, Arnold and Porter allows employees working at least 25 hours to qualify for benefits. The firm even has an expert panel on hand to help their lawyers make the switch to part-time. 9. Roche Diagnostics Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Indianapolis, IN (North American HQ) Number Of Employees: 4,500 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Healthcare Policy Highlight: Roche employees have plenty of opportunities to teach Junior essential life lessons like how to swing a bat or grow a juicy tomato. The company spends $35,000 annually on sponsored extracurriculars like community sports leagues, and also offers an on-site employee produce garden. 10. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: New York, NY Number Of Employees: 41,000 (U.S.) Paid Parental Leave: 6 weeks (plus an additional 2 weeks if have or adopt more than one kid) Industry: Professional Services Policy Highlight: Another company that values ad-hoc work schedules, PwC allows employees work-from-home options as well as ""Flex Days." So if you can cram 40 hours of work into less than five days and clear your schedule, you could end up with more frequent three-day weekends and more time with the kids. Photo: Shutterstock