Door
by Tara Taffera
July 10th, 2013

Office Space

For this week’s blog I decided to publish an open letter to my boss Debra Levy, president of Key Communications Inc., DWM’s parent company. I thought about sending her an email but then I thought maybe others in the industry would be interested in what I had to say.

July 9, 2013

Dear Deb,

As you know Chris [DWM video producer Chris Bunn] and I drove to D.C. yesterday to visit Intus Windows. We walked up to their Georgetown address, wasn’t sure if we were in the right place, but then saw a small sign bearing the Intus name on an institutional-looking metal door. We descended the stairs and were immediately deposited in a large open room. Chris and I looked around, then at each other and he murmured, “Now this is an office,” to which I nodded a “yeah this is pretty cool” kind of nod.

Some Intus employees, work out in the open, such as those shown here.

Some Intus employees work out in the open, such as those shown here.

Why, you ask, did we react this way? Well the photos shown here pretty much speak for themselves. You walk in and see a few enclosed offices to your right but they are still enclosed in glass so anyone can see in. To the left there are about four or five people seated at “open” desks. You hear phones ringing, people talking. In front of those desks are couches where the execs conduct meetings (I must admit they are pretty comfy). But what most caught our eye was what you saw when you walked in and looked straight ahead: pool table, foosball table, ping pong table and bar.

There are some offices with a door which look out on the recreational amenities such as this pool table.

There are some offices with a door which look out on the recreational amenities such as this ping pong table.

When we left I noticed the bikes parked near the door which told me at least a few of the eight employees in this office bike to work.

So Chris and I did our interview, left the building and immediately started talking about the office. He said, “You know Deb has been talking about moving offices. You should talk to her about this.”

So that of course got me thinking and you know me well enough to know that I can overanalyze things, which I may have done in this case.

Sitting/meeting area, bar and pool table

Sitting/meeting area, bar and pool table

You know that I’m the person in the office who doesn’t do a great job of tuning things out. If things get loud I have to close my door to work on a story. So I could see that if I was writing a story and people were playing pool I am pretty sure I would get annoyed. Do you place limits on when you can play or is it a big free for all?

You also know that I can be quite vocal in my office—constantly talking to myself. At least with some walls, people don’t always hear what I am saying. I hate to think what I would be like if there were no walls to stifle my ramblings.

But there are some advantages. No need for you to walk down the hall to talk to someone. Heck, you can probably just walk out of your glass-enclosed office and call out a name. And if you wondered what people are doing all day long the office set up is pretty much an open book.

If you’re wondering about this set up, I asked Roland Talalas, co-founder, about it and he said he likes to offer a relaxed atmosphere for his employees. He added that it also shows that Intus is an easy company to do business with.

So what do you think? If you decide at some point this is a great idea I just have two requests: some guidelines for those pool tables and one of those offices with a door. Oh, and maybe the occasional happy hour …

P.S. Since I am printing this “letter” for all to see, if you are an owner reading this I would love to know your thoughts. The same goes for employees like me. Post your comments here.

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  1. Great blog! I actually love this idea as I think your office space if very important to your work quality. My old office was laid out similarly and had an open area like that and we loved it. No pool tables or anything, but they were in the process of getting things like that when I left. We also had a really nice break room/kitchen with a TV and all of the offices had glass walls. Offices were surrounded by wired laminated glass and with the doors closed to the individual offices you could rarely hear a person talking on the phone. We did a TON of phone conferences/depositions and despite someone always being on the phone it was a very quiet office. Clients and other firms were always impressed with the waiting area too which had sofas and/or chairs out front with the receptionist and as a “benefit” we were provided with free sodas in the break room and often had employee appreciation luncheons.

    P.S. The drywall isn’t any better than glass … even though there’s a wall between us I still hear your ramblings every day!

  2. What strikes me most about the Intus Windows office is daylighting. Both the AAMA headquarters and my home office are bright, sunny spaces. Studies show this improves performance, and I believe it! I worked in an office where I was in the middle of a sea of cubicles, and I found myself veering outside for some Vitamin D much more often than I do now.

    P.S. In my home office, only the cat hears my ramblings. I try to keep them to a minimum when I visit headquarters!

  3. Open office floors have been shown to lead to greater collaboration. The old “Mad Men” style office appears to be a dying breed. Just this summer I visited the headquarters of The Motley Fool in Alexandria, Virginia. They love the open space format. Even their CEO is in a cubical.

    Not only do they have the infamous “treadmill” desk and “standing” desk, but their third floor has totally mobile desks. You can move your work space anytime/anywhere you want! Have a month long project with a co-worker? Then move your desks together. Have a hard deadline and need your space? Then move your desk into a quite corner, put on some headphones and pound out your assignment.

    The office should be designed to create a place people want to show up everyday and all day. I guess sometimes that calls for a pool table. I’ve had clients that have a cocktail hour every month. Others have a whiskey Friday EVERY Friday. I’ve seen kegerators; fully stocked kitchens; game rooms; nap rooms; lactation rooms; clinics with RNs and nutritionists; and dog friendly offices.

    It’s all about the culture you are trying to foster. A positive workplace culture is transferred to the company’s product and then to the bottom-line which is what it is all about.

  4. Great blog! I have to share an experience of a great office space. I was in Canada at a company that actually made office furniture for a “modern” office environment. The furnishings they produced are very sleek and geared toward today’s office employee. You can say somewhat industrial. Besides the actual product offering I couldn’t help but taking notice of their own office layout. It had a very sterile feel. Glass offices for everyone. On each office door was the referred to “team member” name and title. It looked to be etched in the glass but I am sure it was designed to give you that impression. Although they had a showroom I felt the product would sell itself if their customers could take the same office tour. Everything was carefully thought out all the way down to the conference room in which I met the client. As was headed near the room I noticed the etching on the door as we headed in which read “Blah, Blah, Blah”. This sure was a twist from the traditional office!

  5. Wow… I think this is a great workplace concept. It reminds me of my blog – “Work Hard, but Have fun”.
    For years we’ve had a basketball court outside. People stick around after normal business hours and shoot a few hoops. It is great for teamwork and comradery… I better step up my game… hmmm… Maybe an outdoor patio, bar, grille, big screen TV.

  6. We have a huge stuffy warehouse that basically stores our windows and allows the customer to see displays. We have a lot to learn out here in Denver. Well done on a different slant for your blog Tara! Window stories can get boring like we all know

  7. Tara, having worked at the same window company for over 27 years, I have seen a lot of things. Without a doubt, the one thing that always needs to be first and foremost is the health of its team members. You can have a robust economy, a great product but unhappy and unproductive team members and still struggle.

    I would assume that the leadership discussed with the team what their stress relievers were and these made the list. What if the leadership loved these games, but the team did not. It is imperative that leaders invest the needed time in their team to find out what they want.

    Then everyone will succeed!

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