Maintaining an Open Culture without Opening Up Our Floor Plan
Openness may be a cornerstone of our corporate culture here at Arraya, but it hasn’t become part of our floor plan.
Although our company culture is progressive and supports innovation, we feel it is important to give our folks a spot to come to during their time in Arraya’s offices. Having an open floor plan works great (e.g. no cubicles), but employees need a place to call home. Non-traditional layouts can encourage collaboration and creativity by giving employees an unrestrained, unstructured work environment. I still believe in the effectiveness of the traditional set up, however – just with a slight twist.
Some Arraya employees have a space – complete with walls – to call their own. While we definitely value openness and collaboration, we feel this is the best situation for Arraya. Everyone needs a private spot to go to sometimes in order to clear their heads and get some work done. Employees are free to personalize their cubes or offices with pictures or whatever strengthens the idea that a workspace is their ‘home away from home’.
The twist is many of our employees spend a good chunk of their time working off-site. Sales reps are always traveling around, meeting with customers and prospects. Engineers are out in the field, working inside customers’ facilities to design and implement solutions. Since they aren’t around much, these employees don’t get a designated desk or cube. On those days when they do make it into the office, however, there are a handful of extra (swing) cubes available for use.
For those folks that don’t have their own space, we still want them to feel at home here. This is where utilizing social tools like Jabber and Yammer has paid off for Arraya. They’ve helped keep bonds strong between employees and encouraged innovation, even if those employees aren’t in the office Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
Employees can use Jabber to instant message each other ideas, comments or even files. The one-on-one nature and the quick pace can make these conversations feel a little bit more personal than just sending out an email and waiting for a reply.
Yammer is great because it functions pretty much like Facebook for businesses. Employees can post successes, ask each other questions or pin up helpful links or stories. Then they can comment on and even “like” each other’s posts.
Almost everything that comes through, whether it’s a Jabber message, a Yammer post or even just a standard email, has the sender’s picture attached. This adds a personal touch that eliminates the issue of “connecting names to faces.”
These tools have given our remote employees multiple avenues to stay in touch and work together to come up with unique and effective solutions.
The benefits of these tools has carried over to our employees who are in the office regularly. These individuals still get their personal space and privacy in their cubes or offices. But, with the help of Jabber and Yammer, employees can work socially and build strong interpersonal relationships – without us having to call in a demo crew to start tearing down walls.