Office technology and design are constantly evolving, and this year’s hot new thing could be next year’s fax machine. With that in mind, Robin brings you The State of the Office 2018—a series of in-depth articles detailing how innovations in technology and design are changing various aspects of the workplace, and what everyone from CIOs to office managers needs to know to stay current. Each week, we’ll issue a new report focusing on a different section of the office. This week: executive offices.
In 2012, Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s new campus, a 430,000-square-foot complex comprised almost entirely of a single room, would be “the largest open floor plan in the world.” You’d expect such a grand proclamation from Zuckerberg. But what you wouldn’t expect is that in the massive office of his creation, he works at the same kind of desk as every other Facebook employee, right in the trenches of the open office.
Zuckerberg isn’t the only high-profile executive whose workspace is no more luxurious or private than that of his underlings. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has a desk that’s the same model as his call-center employees’. Before his foray into politics, billionaire and Bloomberg CEO Michael Bloomberg worked at a desk “exactly the same size as everyone else’s.”
As companies’ hierarchies are being deliberately flattened in the name of transparency and camaraderie, some CEOs and other executives are forgoing desks altogether. Indiegogo CEO Slava Rubin is the company’s only employee without a desk. Meetup.com CEO Scott Heiferman and HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan don’t have desks. Mapbox CEO Eric Gundersen said, “My office is wherever I open my laptop,” reiterating that being able to float around the office improves communication. Square CEO Jack Dorsey is guided by the same principle.
“Mainly I’m just walking around the office. Sitting down with people. Figuring out what’s going on. What the biggest challenge is. What we've built. Resolving any issues that occur.”-Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square
Virgin CEO Richard Branson has never had a desk, much less an office, which he thinks will one day “be a thing of the past. ”But as The Wall Street Journal wrote last year, some CEOs want their offices back. Not quite the Mad Men-era executive office you’re probably thinking of, however. In 2018, executives’ offices are all about flexibility. Jim Keane, the CEO of office-furniture maker Steelcase, works in a 5-by-8-foot pod when he need to buckle down, and is otherwise bopping around the office with customers and employees. Blake Harvey, the CEO of a communications firm, works in a one-person office he rents from Servcorp, just a few steps down the hall from his employees in a coworking space.
For most executives, finding the middle ground between placeless-ness and extravagance is probably their best bet. An alcove, for instance, offers an executive relative privacy, removed from the office’s thoroughfares, while also being accessible and un-intimidating to employees.
A visually prominent “statement” desk in an open office indicates the status of an executive while conveying that he or she is open to interacting with employees. No matter the style of their workspace, executives’ most valuable piece of productivity-boosting technology might be what sits on their head: noise-canceling headphones.
We've covered every corner of the office from lobbies to desks and conference rooms to pods. Now it's time to hear firsthand how leaders in tech and design are transforming their own offices. Up next: the first of three extensive interviews.
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