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.
The Motley Fool isn’t the only company that has built a fantastic culture, but sadly there aren’t enough of us. Countless studies show that employees are lacking engaging and healthy work environments. An interesting New York Times piece, Why You Hate Work, digs deeper into these disadvantages, mentioning faults that stem from the rise in digital technology, increased competitiveness, and our post-recession economy.
Author Tony Schwartz argues simple solutions that, if introduced, could make a huge difference in corporate environments. His suggestions ring true during a time when workplaces actually have the opportunity to evolve. It’s not necessarily a world of suits, ties, and strict regulations anymore.
In Schwartz’s opinion, companies should measure employees not hourly but by the value that they create. He explains, “To the extent possible, let them decide where to do their work, and when to do it, as long as they meet deadlines.” Trust is a huge component, and The Fool’s flexible scheduling speaks to Schwartz’s point. We throw traditional 9-5 calendars to the wind by allowing our employees to manage their own time. With this flexibility comes the expectation that employees are striving to produce their highest quality of work. Because everyone has different work styles, we also offer quiet spaces that offer a break from our open office, as well as the tools to work from home.
We believe in transparency, a point that Schwartz addresses in his column. He notes, “…seek to define all jobs in ways that feel meaningful and significant to people.” Fools are encouraged to establish honest relationships with their managers, making it easy to communicate about goals, projects, and ideas. If a Fool isn’t happy, our People Team wants to help. We organize feedback sessions to connect with Fools about their job path and progress, and recently implemented an internal reward service that allows Fools to publicly recognize others with “gold” for a job well done. Gold can be spent on gift cards for a variety of stores, and the entire process makes receiving Fools feel happy and valued.
However, it’s an unfortunate fact that all workplaces can’t — or will not try — to implement a progressive culture for employees. In addition to cynicism and anger, decreased energy is a common symptom of workplace unhappiness. To combat these signs, Schwartz suggests using 15-25 minutes for rest or an outdoor walk to increase productivity and alertness. The warmer weather has inspired a Fool Walking Group, which takes 30-minute outdoor strolls twice a week. We also have the Reading Room, a quiet space for better concentration that doubles as a place to take a power nap. Our culture encourages Fools to be comfortable enough to always take the necessary time for rest.
Schwartz’s article is one of many that shows how corporate cultures are changing. The Fool is on top of preserving Foolishness, from showing appreciation to our employees to trying out new, fun ideas in the office. Hating your job is the last thing The Fool would ever want, and we’re constantly on the search for ways to top the happiness scale.
Tom and David Gardner, along with some other incredible Fools, talk about our approach to teaching our members about investing. Get to know our founders and our office in this video. Did you know that most Fools are individual investors who follow The Fool’s own advice?
We give Culture Tours on the first Friday of each month. They begin with our core values and collaborative is always the first.
Why is it a core value: The Motley Fool was founded in community. We are better investors because we work with our members. They have experiences and knowledge that we don’t.
This translates to our working environment as well. Union gives strength. Our decisions are better when we work together. Fools are more productive and satisfied when they know each other. We gain energy when we are all working together to achieve the same goals.
Here are my honest answers to questions I referenced in my first post about core values:
1) Do we hire for this value?
Yes! We want to see it in the candidate we are interviewing and demonstrate its importance to them. Interviews at The Fool usually involve 4-8 interviewers and they all have a say in the hiring process. We also have a special part of the interview conducted by the “Foolish Ambassador.” This is a Fool from another department who wouldn’t be working closely with the candidate who gets hired. This Fool assesses Foolish Fit and core values. A software developer might interview a stock analyst or an accountant might interview an editor.
2) Will we fire for this value?
This is an important question, but it will be hard to answer for all of my posts. I don’t like to think about times when people haven’t been able to embrace our core values, but, alas, sometimes it happens. Collaboration is such an integral part of who we are as a business that, ultimately, people who don’t embrace it just won’t work out. Here is a hypothetical example of how this plays out here: Morton is a brilliant designer. He has a lot of excellent experience and keeps up to date on the latest trends. He also thinks he has all the right answers (after all, what does the scrum master know about design?). He works with his head down for weeks at a time to produce “the perfect” project that he unveils with a big “TA DA!” By the time he’s done, he has strong sense of ownership and reluctance to accept constructive feedback. But instead of applause, his fellow Fools are confused and frustrated. While he was heads down, the project evolved and the design no longer addressed the needs of the project. Even worse, he’s not willing to listen and make the needed adjustments. He is frustrated with the team and they are not impressed with his lack of collaboration. Great Fools don’t “TA DA.” They seek input early, often, and from a variety of sources.
3) Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?
It’s almost impossible not to see collaboration when you walk through the office. We have no private offices and most of our desks are on wheels, so teams can easily push their desks together to work on a project. Frequently you’ll see several Fools playing pool or sharing stories from their recent vacation. There are also a lot of white boards with people huddled around them, discussing what they’re working on that day.
4) Is the value referenced frequently? When was the last time?
In fact, so frequently that it’s just part of daily Foolish vocabulary. I promised to answer this one honestly (also a core value), so the last time I saw a reference was today on our intranet – probably not the best example but it is the most recent:
Mark K: Hey Fools: if there’s an empty dishwasher right next to the sink, why are there always dirty dishes in said sink? A conundrum, wouldn’t you agree?
Peter V: I commented on this to Anthony just a few days ago! It just doesn’t seem Foolish to expect someone else to clean up after you, does it?
Tom: OTOH, collaborative is a core value.
Let’s be collaborative on this blog post. I certainly don’t have all the answers. How do you collaborate in your office? How can we top it?
Desks on wheels! Giant inflatable pool toys! You never know what you’ll encounter when you walk through our tech department. VP of Software Development Tom Conner takes you on a tour.
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.