The Westgate West message has infiltrated office space and inspired Steve Jobs to redesign Pixar offices: “Friendships are likely to develop on the basis of brief and passive contacts made going to and from home or walking about the neighborhood.”
Illustration by Keira Bui
“In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and later adopted similar attitudes.”
What they did
“The elevators that link the floors are notoriously slow, so instead of forcing workers to wait, the architects built vertical ladder chutes between adjacent floors. Workers are encouraged to “casually collide,” an aim that echoes Jobs’ encouragement of “unplanned collaborations.”
“No part of the office was more than 150 feet from food—either a restaurant, a large cafeteria, or a micro-kitchen—which encourages employees to snack constantly as they bump into coworkers from different teams within the company. Even if Google workers aren’t constantly generating new ideas, plenty of evidence suggests that they enjoy their work, and that this enjoyment feeds into motivation and eventually greater productivity.”
The key features that make for a collaborative office space:
An open plan and other design features (e.g., high-traffic staircases) that encourage accidental interactions.
More common areas than are strictly necessary—multiple cafeterias, other places to read and work that encourage workers to leave confined offices.
Emphasis on areas that hold two or more people, rather than single-occupancy offices.
Purpose-free generic “thinking” areas in open-plan spaces, which encourage workers to do their thinking in the presence of other people, rather than alone.
Obviously open-plan spaces are very good for collaborations. However, I want to have my own space as well, so that I can stay away from distraction, noise or interruption. As introverts, the time that we spend alone is very important because it makes us think harder and reflect on ourselves. Being forced to socialize when we need time to concentrate on our work is the worst and this can’t boost creativity. It’d be great if the company gives each employee two different work spaces and he/she can switch between them depending on the project on hand.