Developing the perfect office space is one tough feat, but our People Team is constantly striving to fulfill 300+ Fools’ needs and wants. From adding new quiet spaces to knocking down walls, one Fool’s role is solely dedicated to our office’s cultural development. No matter if a Fool is shy or social, 4 benefits of our open office stand out:
1. Real (read: not electronic) Communication
At healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline, the absence of cubicles created more transparency among employees. After implementing an open office layout, overall email traffic declined by more than 50% and decision making accelerated by 25%. These productive shifts occurred because “workers were able to meet informally instead of volleying emails from offices and cubes.” In a casual, open environment, employees are more encouraged to engage in face-to-face conversation. Plus, you never know when a random brainstorm might lead to the next best idea.
Closed offices are a thing of the past, paving the way for more openness in both the physical and literal sense. One source explains, “Reasons for going open make for great agency rhetoric: communication, ideation, collaborative resonance, speed.” In an open office, there’s a sense of community that can’t be mirrored electronically.
2. Approachable Company Leadership
Maybe your organization’s executives are intimidating, even though we all know they shouldn’t be. Our open office definitely plays a part in connecting Foolish leaders with employees. Tom Gardner and David Gardner are just like normal Fools. Private offices aren’t requirements for them; in fact, you’ll often find Tom on a public treadmill desk and David among fellow investing Fools on his Supernova team. FoolHQ maintains a supportive environment for collaboration and creativity on all levels.
3. Unique Workspaces
We encourage Fools to do whatever it takes for them to produce the best work. Think beyond a cubicle and imagine moving around to different spaces throughout the day. Couches, beanbags, and working tables fill our office to accommodate different personalities. Not feeling inspired? Sit beside a window or find a quiet space to concentrate. Conference rooms don’t have to disappear, but we’ve added more informal meeting spaces that don’t have to be reserved.
FoolHQ is in constant flux. Fools voice their opinions on office space through engagement surveys, coaching sessions, and casual conversations. If a request can be honored, Fools will go to great lengths to ensure others’ happiness.
4. Convenient Collaboration
We keep Fools’ desks on wheels for a reason. If different teams need to work together, collaboration should be easy for them. With stationary desks, full office moves took too much time. Now that Fools’ workspaces are mobile, these moves can be finished in one (busy) morning.
Don’t isolate employees based on their departments. Some Fools are embedded onto different teams to boost collaboration and spread mastery of other skill sets. Shuffling Fools around to fit the needs of our business simply wouldn’t be as seamless without our open layout.
One thing we’re working on at The Fool is creating a culture that supports both introverts and extroverts. While extroverts tend to be energized by spending time around other people, introverts like myself expend energy interacting and need time to recharge. With the business world trending toward open floor plans and collaborative work, many offices seem to favor extroverts. But the Fool is home to many incredible introverts, and we want them to be able to do their best work here, too. While our efforts are still in progress, here’s a list of four things that we either are doing or are trying to do that help support our introverts.
(Note: Not all of these were designed specifically for introverts and all of them have benefits for extroverts as well.)
The Meyers Briggs Profile
Education about the introversion/extroversion spectrum is very helpful in building a knowledgeable and supportive community. Our internal university recently held a very well attended class on the Meyers Briggs profile. This tool does a great job at explaining the difference between introversion and extroversion and gives everyone a vocabulary to talk about the differences between the two. Education builds awareness, which helps both introverts and extroverts work better, together.
Many introverts, including myself, prefer one-on-one or small group conversations to mingling in a large crowd. Our mentoring program creates a structured setting in which this can happen. The deep relationships that can develop through consistent one-on-one contact in the mentoring program are the type of interaction that many introverts crave.
As part of our Wellness program, we offer weekly meditation sessions and periodic longer visits by meditation specialist Jonathan Foust. For introverts this offers a regularly scheduled time away (and a dedicated Outlook calendar appointment) to re-energize and recharge. Including meditation as part of our Wellness program also is a company-wide indicator that taking time out of your day to ‘do nothing’ is not just supported, but encouraged.
This is one of the areas that we’re still working on. Our open office structure is great for collaboration and for those who gain energy by interacting with people, but it can be taxing for introverts (and for anyone who needs to get work done without interruption). Based on feedback from Fools, we’re working on creating spaces in the office that can serve as ‘concentration areas’ where people can focus without distractions or simply escape to in order to recharge.
Finding the right way to balance the needs of introverts and extroverts in an office can be tricky, and we think we’re on a good path. But we also want to hear what other organizations are doing. Are you an introvert struggling with your open office? An extrovert constantly coming up with reasons to leave your office? Do you think your organization does a great job at supporting both? We would love to hear your comments.
For more information on introverts, a great resource is Susan Cain’s TED Talk on The Power of Introverts (based on her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking). Other articles about introverts have been published by The Atlantic, Time Magazine, and Forbes.