Is an open office right for your business?
In 2011, Software Advice expanded rapidly, and we found ourselves outgrowing our office. As we started looking for a larger space, one of our top priorities was to create a collaborative and creative environment for our employees. We didn’t want to just stick people in cubicles.
Unfortunately, most of the office spaces we found were bland and compartmentalized. For example, traditional office layouts require you to reserve a conference room in order to collaborate with your colleagues. So we decided to think outside the cube: instead of simply moving into an office building, we took a former concert venue–the Austin Opry House–and turned it into a wide-open workspace (pictured above).
One of the crucial components of our office is our custom, “farm table” workstations. These multi-person desks, modeled after French farm tables, allow team members to communicate easily, yet they are big enough to give everyone their personal space. In the spirit of collaboration, I decided to “open-source” the plans for these workstations, and share some of the lessons we learned while creating our open office space.
Key considerations for an open office
When building our open office, there were a few important factors we needed to consider:
Collaboration. Again, one of our top considerations was fostering collaboration among team members. We seat four team members at every 5’x8’ workstation so that everyone has enough room for personal space, but they can still communicate easily with the group. There are no cubicle walls preventing employees from freely exchanging ideas or asking each other questions. This fosters teamwork and creativity and keeps projects constantly moving forward.
Momentum. Momentum is critical to success. Since we have an open floor plan, the dull roar of our sales team serves as motivational background noise for the rest of the company. We all feed off of their energy, as every call they make is a tangible opportunity for revenue. It reminds us that we must constantly move forward: if a revenue opportunity is lost, we dust ourselves off and go on to the next. As a small business, lost opportunities have a greater impact for us than they do for larger corporations.
Budget. Operating within budget is also crucial for small businesses. We worked with Wendy Dunnam Tita, an architect at Dunnam Tita Architecture + Interiors, to create workstations that would provide the functionality we needed without breaking the bank on materials. For example, using medium density fiberboard (MDF) instead of wood to construct the tables gave us more bang for our buck. Using these tables in an open floor plan also allows for easy scalability. We can have the tables built on an as-needed basis when our company adds new team members.