How We Work: Space

A look at the Collective Idea workspace.

What is this, a coworking space? –Visitor to our office

We get that comment because our office setup doesn’t have cubicles, nameplates on doors, water coolers, or filing cabinets. Our workspace is different, but there’s a lot of rationale behind it.

So what’s different about it? No assigned desks, fewer spots than people, lots of standing, and open spaces with a variety of seating.

No assigned desks

We don’t have our own spots. Instead we have a bunch of large monitors and everyone grabs a location for the day and hooks up their MacBook. Or they grab a conference table, or a comfy chair. Why flexible spaces? We’re not all here everyday (client visits, working from home, etc.), so there’s no point saving a spot. When we are here, sometimes we’re working alone, but we also might need a collaborative spot or conference room.

Fewer spots than people

We purposefully have fewer monitors than we have people. Not because we’re cheap[1] but because we want to encourage pair programming. Pair programming, or “pairing” really just means “working together”. If everyone has their own spot with their own monitor, it is an extra barrier to go sit next to the person you’re working with, whether another programmer or a designer. We want our space to encourage behaviors we value, and direct collaboration and pairing is a big one.

Fewer spots also reduces clutter that piles up. We’re not clutter free, but we’re forced to keep things a bit tidier.

Lots of standing

Of our main workspaces, we have twice as many standing desks as we do sitting desks. I’d love to say this is because we want to force people into healthy situations[2], but the real reason is much more simple: we like it. Before we had a real office, we used to stand at counters at coffee shops. So we made sure our first real office had standing desks. We began with two standing desks and two sitting desks, then fought over the standing ones until we got more.

Open office environment

Ok, ok, I know open office plans are considered the new smoking, or whatever the headline of the day is, but we think they can have merit. Private offices are great, but space is expensive.

From the beginning, we had a mainly open floor plan, but we’ve always had private, quieter spaces. Just like desks, these spaces aren’t only one person’s but belong to whomever needs them at the time. As we expanded our office, the biggest need was more quiet spaces (we’ll save that for a future post).

We want everyone to work where they work best, and be flexible to change as needs change. Open floor plans are great for days when you want people around. Quiet spaces are good when you don’t. We try to give some of everything, as best we can.

[1] Though we are cheap.

[2] See: Five Health Benefits of Standing Desks

Photo of Daniel Morrison

Daniel founded Collective Idea in 2005 to put a name to his growing and already full-time freelance work. He works hard writing code, teaching, and mentoring.


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