When I announced to my friends that my company is changing the office and we’re moving from a fancy villa to an open space building, they thought I was joking. How come that any modern company decides to bring to life the concept taken from dark times of office design, they wondered.
This step seemed to be (at least) controversial.
People use to see open-office as a cheap version of a proper office (the unspoken word “cubicles” hangs in the air). Also, first things that come to people’s minds are “distractions” and “no privacy”.
I can’t blame them, I used to work in an open office and I wasn't able be productive knowing that my manager creeps over my shoulder. And I must admit, I also had my doubts whether open space will work for us.
But now, two weeks after settling in, I can already tell that fear makes things look twice as bad as they are. In this post, I’m going to show you how much our company has benefited from moving to an open space office, and how many problems it solved.
The company grows, problems grow too
Before I decided to join LiveChat, I had serious doubts whether I’d like to work for such a crazy company. These were the times when I was working in an open space and I hated it, but it still looked much more professional than this obscure, single-family house packed with people.
Tempted by the dream job though, I joined LiveChat forces and started working in the said house, which quickly turned out to be too small for our team. Although the atmosphere was fantastic, we liked each other a lot and the work was done fast, the whole place was crowded like a chicken coop.
Several months later, 35-people strong LiveChat team moved to a new, bigger place - to the fancy villa. This place was supposed to solve the problem we had previously: not enough space.
Now, every team had its room with a lot of working space, a lot of comfy sofas and poufs, restroom areas, a garden and a terrace. Everything seemed to be perfect! We had a beautifully designed, modern office, a lot of space, we liked people we worked with, we liked jobs we were doing. Nothing could go wrong!
As it turned out, three years later the very same spacious villa was bursting at its seams.
The company grew from 35 people to 90 people and suddenly it turned out that we’re out of space again. Some people started to work in the coffee bar, some worked in the dining room. As you imagine, it was hard to find a quiet place for yourself.
But it wasn’t the biggest problem. The worst part of it that a company that always put teamwork first suddenly had a couple of separate teams that spent the most time in their lairs, seeing each other on Pizza-Friday only.
Instead of having one big team, we split into separate crews.
Suddenly, it turned out that we hardly know people from other teams. At the same time, we were constantly hiring and one day I realized I don’t know names of the people I pass!
As you can guess, it also had negative influence on our communication.
The zero hour
News about changing the villa to open space office struck us like a lightning. Some of us still believed in open office stereotypes and for those, the future seemed to be dark and gloomy. We were thinking about the disadvantages of an open space: lack of privacy, noise, inability to focus, germs, air-conditioning wars.
But the time flows and the last day in our old office has come. We moved to an old, military warehouse that was re-designed to fit both: our work and aesthetic needs.
Open space office remedy
Now, after a couple of weeks, we can already tell how much has changed in our work. It took us a couple of days to settle in and get used to the new place, but quite quickly we got into the new routine, especially that the office didn’t look like we’ve expected.
It wasn’t just a regular, dull open office but a 20,000 sq ft loft with huge windows, wooden ceiling beams and (yes!) scooters to move around the office faster.
It also turned out that this step was a cure for all ills.
We know how important communication is, especially when you work with customers. That's why we've introduced a "one table" rule; we made sure that our team was sitting around one, huge table. Thanks to that, they can see each other and communicate. Thanks to the new office, we can preserve this tradition, even though we still grow.
Piotr Bednarek, LiveChat Chief Operating Officer
At first, not having rooms sounded like a huge disadvantage. But now, when there are no artificial borders, we can see each other, and we can move freely between departments. It makes it much easier for us to communicate because we can communicate face-to-face.
It means that:
- our communication is more effective (it’s much easier to explain something once, instead of writing an email and then respond to questions for half of a day),
- it’s easier to understand each other (body language, facial expressions and voice tone are extremely helpful to understand a message),
- it builds relationships (said body language and tone help to get to know another person, build connection).
Also, looking at the speed of our growth (yes, we're still hiring!), we can be sure that the next LiveChat team members will also have a lot of room for themselves.
More personal space
Every team consists of different kinds of people. Some of them need more personal space than others and feel overwhelmed with crowded places. At the same time, most people find it difficult to focus and be effective in a crowded workspace.
Having a huge office gives people a lot of room to breathe, clear your mind and focus on your tasks. Also, people who work on laptops can choose one of the many places to work. Thanks to that, every person can work in an environment that suits them the best, boosts creativity and problem-solving abilities.
Apart from that, it’s nice to not have another person breathing down your neck!
Boosted team spirit
The most important thing for me is that the entire marketing team is finally working together, all in one place. I like how spacious the office is and how bright it is. With its unique style, it’s not a typical office space. I like it a lot and others seem to like it, too.
Szymon Klimczak, LiveChat Chief Marketing Officer
People working nearby, in the same space, get to know each other very quickly by talking together while working on projects. It also allows people who are not involved in a project to share their knowledge on the topic and propose possible solutions.
It’s also much easier to integrate with the whole team when you can see them in person and makes it more comfortable to talk to each other about non-work related things.
Another thing is that in open environment gives a lot of transparency and allows people to be up to date with what is going on in the office.
Not as scary as it sounds
Open space office for many people sounds controversial and it’s understandable. Even now, when I’m writing how it benefited our company, I have in mind that it’s not a solution for every company.
However, looking at the problems we were facing for years now, having open office sounds like the best thing since sliced bread. It helped us to get more comfortable, to get more space, improve our communication and boost our team spirit. We can now focus on building new products and developing the ones we already have.
Also, let’s not forget about scooters.
And dogs, of course.