Zach Ware – Using the community as an extension of the office

So at Zappos we have desks and we have conference rooms, and if you want to meet with someone there is nowhere to go. There is not a table, or a set of couches, or room, where you can just kind of run off without scheduling it. So what ends up happening is, if you and I wanted to get together we will have to schedule a conference room because there is nowhere else to meet, conference rooms are always over scheduled, right. So maybe we’d have to wait a couple days to meet, then we’ll book a half hour or an hour, when we really only need five minutes. The only place that we could meet is in half hour conference space. So you end up spending half an hour just wasting time and we didn’t really need it.

So, in our new office space, we’re designing not only smaller workspaces for employees to encourage them to be more mobile, and we’re not actually assigning desks to employees. So if an employee wants to take a desk and say, “That’s mine, I’m going to live here,” they’re absolutely welcome to do that, but we’re not going to make them do that. And sort of the requirement that we have to meet there for that to work, is for there to be an abundance of what we call, unplanned collaboration spaces, so that could be something like a table at the end of the workspace, where I can sit around and just be like, “Hey! I need five minutes, let’s go talk.” It’s small one-on-one rooms, private rooms, places to get away, and then the conference rooms actually become collaboration rooms that are built around their needs, so one room, larger room, might be a presentation space that has a projector and a bunch of light boards. A smaller sort of war room might be a table that has white boards and a whole lot of plugs, and really, really comfortable chairs, we are there for six hours. There might be a small brainstorming room that has just chairs and white boards. There might just be a lounge area or a lot of lounge areas where someone can just go off and so to have a cup of coffee, or have a beer, and just talk about what they’re trying to get through.

We anticipate somewhere between about 30 and 40 percent of our space, being dedicated to unplanned collaboration and gathering spaces, where today it’s about probably 5 percent. And I think, that’s so for the workspace, that’s a critical change for us. The other aspect of what we’re trying to do downtown, by moving from a Suburban campus to an urban campus, is actually using the community, the area outside of the office as an extension of the office. And so, there is a side project that Tony and few of us are working on called Downtown Project, where we’re investing in revitalizing Down Town Las Vegas. And one of the reasons for that, we’ve all stated that’s really not the only reason, is we want people to be able to get out of the office and go to a coffee shop, or go to a bar, or get into the park, go to a restaurant and work, because that’s what they kind of want to do anyway, and people naturally are more comfortable in those types of spaces. So by designing a smaller office, we are encouraging people to get out of the office. And I think that’s actually something that a lot of companies can learn from, is that you’re not only allowing your employees to get out of the office, but actually building a workspace that encourages that. And that’s something that’s really unique, I think, about how we’re approaching this new office.

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