What’s the point of an office? When technology allows people to work anywhere, what’s the point of investing in real estate? At BestCompaniesAZ’s recent high-energy Culture Tour this week, Adam Goodman, CEO of Goodmans Interior Structures, provided insightful ideas about how to elevate effectiveness through work environments.
Noting that collaboration is increasingly important in today’s work environment, Goodman mentioned the value of well-designed physical environments in fostering teamwork, innovation, and knowledge sharing; “The size of individual workspaces is getting smaller, but the number of collaborative spaces is increasing”. The nature of collaborative workspaces is changing too. “A formal conference room sends the message, ‘be impressed’, but a living-room like space invites people to be comfortable and share ideas freely.” Even conference room walls speak to collaboration; “If there is a white board at one end of the room behind one person, it’s obvious who is responsible for the ideas. If the walls are covered with surfaces to write on, that sends a message that everyone is welcome to contribute their thoughts.”
Serendipitous encounters take place in spaces that are designed for informal, unplanned interaction. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, advocates the value of creating opportunities for serendipity. At Apple Steve Jobs created shared services spaces to ensure people from different departments met informally. Goodman noted that it is sometimes more effective to perform even solo work in open spaces; “People go to Starbucks to work on their individual, heads-down tasks. There’s something about being together in a group setting that makes it easier to focus, without the distractions of being at your desk.”
Difficult conversations at work can be more productive in a comfortable, casual setting. While showing a den-like meeting room Goodman called “the parlor”, he said, “People are able to absorb challenging feedback more readily when they are in a reclining position.” Another great company, Google, has become famous for their beanbag chairs, chosen to promote comfortable, collaborative conversations.
Transparency, a characteristic of a best company, can be conveyed by the physical workspace. Goodman’s own office is created from moveable glass panels with open gaps in between panels. “The message is, there are no secrets.”
Best companies often use their workspace to support the company values and culture. While the Goodmans offices are innovative and cutting-edge, elements of heritage are incorporated. Monitors display ads and photos from the early days of the company.
Images of people are everywhere throughout the building; on partition screens, displayed on monitors, and utilized in displays. A large mural created from a 1950s photo of Goodman’s father, grandfather and uncle incorporates headshots of all Goodmans employees. “Nothing is more important than the welfare of our people”, Goodman emphasized. “We want that to be reflected in everything we do.”
Our take? Goodmans gets two thumbs up. It’s all good.