Every office has different dynamics and has their own way off doing things.  Not only do different companies have policies that affect these dynamics, but each manager has their own view on how an office should be run.  These differences in management styles can affect workspaces in a variety of ways including the office layout and how “open” the workspace is.

Plantronics takes advantage of the open office workspace to its fullest extent, using the new acoustic furniture, and adjustable desks.  Desks can easily be adjusted up and down so that employees can sit or stand if they prefer to work one way over the other.  This allows employees to work in their comfort zone, but still in the space they need to be.  They also heavily use Bluetooth headsets paired with their computers and smartphones to maximize their communications while both in and outside the office.  Plantronics goes by a slogan, “private, but not isolated.”  This is how they approach their office space, so staff who need to do work in private still can operate, but without becoming cutoff from the staff they need to communicate with to be effective.

Open workspaces are becoming very popular, and spreading to a multitude of companies.  Even the Valve Corporation, the video game developer of the popular Half-Life and Portal series has adopted their own form of an open workspace.  Every desk at the Valve offices in Seattle has wheels, so they can easily be rolled around to join another group or project team.  Instead of offices, Valve has what they call “cabals.”  These cabals can shrink or grow based on how many people are working on a project at the time.  Valve supports their employee’s concepts, and encourages them to speak out with new ideas for projects.  If an employee feels they can contribute to a project, they are encouraged to roll their desk over to the cabal and start working.  Here is what the cabals look like.

Earlier I mentioned that managers can have an effect on how offices are run.  I once had a manager, let’s call him Larry, that said that if you ever left a person alone in a box that they would do one of two things; 1. Go insane or 2. Waste time to keep from going insane.  He forced us to work together on projects, often in groups or pairs, and we sat together in what I can only describe as a mound of chairs surrounding a trapezoid like shape of tables.  Larry had a few rules for our small office, one being that we had to sit in a different spot than we did the previous day.  Larry said it would keep us from becoming too complacent, and would remind us to think on our feet every day.  He wasn’t a typical manager, and at the time we all thought he had lost a few marbles, but there was something profound in what he taught us.  We all learned that just because something has been done one way for a long time, doesn’t mean that it has to be that way forever.  Larry showed us that communication was a keystone of productivity, and although his methods were odd, his results were positive.  The year I worked for him was interesting to say the least, but I will always remember the lessons he taught me and I still recommend some of his methods today.

So whether your office is designed by corporate policy, or perhaps a manager who is making his own rules, remember that there is always a way to improve on efficiency.  If you find yourself dreaming of life outside your cubicle, look at what these companies are doing and take action!  For those of you who have already started an open workspace; what unique things is your office doing to improve the environment around you?  Let us know in the comments!