You Feel The POWER.
The leather the glass the fine deep wood grain. You’ve made it. Finally.
You glance out the window into the sunlight and watch the cars go by and gaze at the people (they look like little ants) down below headed to lunch or home or back in to work for…..you!
You lean back in your chair and think about what it took to get here. The years of sacrifice. The endless hours. The ass kissing and hand holding. The pictures “that’s the cutest baby I have ever seen” stuck on cubicle walls.
You’ve paid your dues.
And then you hear that someone has mentioned “workplace environment.” You have no idea what that is so you Google it. ” What is this bullshit? We already have a great office space and we paid top dollar for it.”
Then you hear that someone has decided that a big remodel is possible.
You make a couple of calls. “Shit” this thing may be real. You get a plan sent to you and pull it up in a PDF and look directly for your office.
“Shit, what is this?” It’s gone and replaced with tables and a POD whatever the fuck that is.
Picture me in New York or San Francisco.
I walk down the street with a computer slung over my should in a bag and phone tilted towards my face looking at a map. It directs me to a simple door with a number next to it and a buzzer. I reach out and push. ” Hello?”
” Hello, yes is that Duke?”
” Yes it is.”
“Oh, hi glad you made it, come on up.”
The door buzzes and I enter squeezing up the steps.
Walking up the steps I turn to the left and see a row of screens and chairs. I lift my bag so that it does not get caught on the bike handles sticking out in the hallway. As I reach the top of the stairs I hear the sounds of quiet patter on keyboards. A phone rings and someone answers it as they step thru a sliding glass door onto a wooden deck. The doors are all along one wall about fifty feet long and the light is bright and full.
Clean clear faces look up and smile. I am greeted by the voice I recognise as the one on the other end of the speaker.
” How was your trip? Do you need anything to eat or drink?”
” Great same as usual crying babies endless lines,the glamor of travel. If you have some kind of water that would be wonderful.”
” Sounds like fun. He is upstairs meeting with someone. He should be down in a minute. Go check out the kitchen and see what is in the fridge. I’m sure we have all kinds of drinks in there. Take what you want.”
” Ok, thanks.” I wonder thru the office. The tables are clean and simple. Glass walls are on either side. Whiteboards are visible everywhere. I enter the kitchen in the back of the office. It is open and visible to most of the rest of the office. Two people are sitting talking and eating something green and salad looking. They nod in recognition. The counter space is huge and takes up two separate walls. A big wooden table is in the middle with stainless steel appliances and work station looking racks on both sides. Three huge tubes of cereal take up space next to the refrigerator with the Fruit Loops catching my eye. I must resist. I open the fridge and stare. It’s a huge double-sided restaurant style behemoth and I need a minute to figure out what I am looking at. Is it food is it drinks or is it some kind of alien beast that stands humming before me? I grab a bottle that looks like it is labeled with some kind of orange juice. I am hoping that is a safe bet and close the door. The two people at the table look at me and smile as if to say “yeah that was my first reaction too.”
I work my way back towards the front and spot the CEO. He is wearing jeans a pullover of some sort and shoes that look comfortable and ready to climb a mountain. We shake hands and head into one of the glass conference rooms. We exchange professional pleasantries and he loads up a demo for me. We go thru it and I have a few questions. We discuss the market his product his team money and who is looking to buy who. He needs to get something from his desk for me and walks out of the conference room to a chair and screen in the middle of one of the rows of tables. Someone walks up to him and asks a question. He looks at his computer screen and taps the keyboard a few times. The person smiles and walks away and the CEO heads back into the conference room and sits. We talk some more and then finish. He suggests we take a small office tour
We open the glass door and he walks out of the conference room talking as he points towards people at specific spots and mentions concierge recruiting product development and then we end up downstairs. He points to the coders section. It is quite with headphones plugged in bags of opened Cheetos visible bowls of quinoa and energy drink cans stacked on top of each other.
“They come out of the “zone” at all different times of the day and night pasty-faced and round red eyes. Usually they give you a head nod saying “What’s up” and wander off to the kitchen looking for something healthy. We never have meetings with them. I don’t want to stop the problem solving time. If they get off of it sometimes they can’t get it back. I try to make sure we get together at least once every other day for face time. Most of the time we play some kind of competitive game like ping-pong or chess for the hell of it.”
We walk back up to the kitchen and he grabs some kind of cheese plate from the fridge and puts it on the end of the wooden table. I must resist.
“‘I love your office its bright and open. I like the vibe.”
” Thanks, we had to lock it down early because the prices are getting outrageous.”
” Location demand and all of that stuff.”
” Oh, that’s right you are a broker.”
” Hey, it never goes away. You know I noticed there is not many closed in spaces. You don’t have a private office?”
” No, it never crossed my mind. We all need flexibility and we wanted it to also be efficient. No wasted space.”
” Yea I get that but what about privacy?”
” Not sure what you mean. If we want a private conversation we find a spot and do it.”
” Come on what about the man cave office. Framed prints of your degrees, pictures of your charity golf foursome and that prized print of the 16th hole at Augusta with the deep thoughtful quote at the bottom.”
He smiles. ” Whatever that stuff is we are not into that kind of thing. We leave it at home.”
” I did notice a Tardis and a runners bib from a triathlon.”
” Yes, some of that stuff shows up from time to time.”
“One of the things I noticed is that this place has a gritty real world feel to it.
” You mean people just doing work? We call it getting shit done. We are not here for show.”
” There is a lot of talk about culture and community.”
” Yea I hear that all of the time. Mostly it comes from people who have never been in a company like ours at all. They are just guessing and they are trying to recreate it but still hang onto their status and peer network. Everybody here knows what everybody makes and they know what they are here to accomplish.”
” So the culture and community thing comes as a natural part of it?”
” A little bit we work hard on it but it’s more about how we do our business not just some bean bag in a corner and Friday beer night. It’s part of what we are everyday. We spend a lot of time here. Some of us spend more time here than we do with our families.”
” Do you think you function like a family?”
” Woh. not so sure about that one but if you think about it we eat together we work on specific projects in groups. We congregate in small groups and as one. We adapt and change the space and needs of the individual depending on the project at hand.”
” That was deep.”
” We really did think about it before we started. It has and will evlove in some ways but we still are sticking to the culture we created when we had three five or fifteen people.”
” It’s working. I can see smell and feel it.”
” Thanks it’s important to us.”
” No corner offices in your future?”
” Never entered my mind. Fuck corner offices.”