Working Without Walls

If we asked you to close your eyes and picture an office building, what would you see? Is it a tall rectangle? Do you see lobbies, cubicles, and offices? What if instead, we asked you to picture your ideal office building?

That was the motivation behind our new building design. Our people are doing exciting work and we wanted to create a work environment that matches that excitement. According to Ann Bamesberger, Head of Workplace Efficiency, “the office is not bricks and mortar. The office is the experience of the employee when he or she engages with the rest of the company.”

We piloted the new design on our South San Francisco campus. The rollout featured an open floor plan, but also included individual and team rooms for when people needed their own space. As part of the program we encouraged people to give us feedback about the new layout.

If the data came back that people weren’t responding well to the new layout, we knew we’d have to start again. But thankfully, after the first few weeks, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Blocks of time cordoned off for meetings were replaced by quick, casual conversations that allowed people to get the information they needed and get back to the task at hand.

The open, neighborhood-style design also helped with a problem we’d been facing. We didn’t have enough space for new hires, while at the same time—due to travel and flexible scheduling—50-70% of our existing workforce was not in their offices most of the time. The open floor plan will increase our building capacity by twenty-eight percent. Ann hopes that “what we learn from these prototypes can help inform a broader design model for the company overall.” We’ll keep you posted.