What I Did And What I’ll Never Do Again!

I need to come clean folks. I’m guilty of one of my cardinal sins, even though I’ve repented my old ways. I too had an office and worse yet, had all my leaders in offices at some point.

We don’t have them anymore but there was a time when I thought an office was a vital reward for climbing the corporate ladder.

If your workplace has offices, that’s okay! However, please allow me to explain why I will never confine myself to an office ever again.

I grew up believing that all the schooling, days and nights dedicated to becoming a better leader and hard work would allow me to receive promotions and someday have that stunning corner office with a couch, a TV and a bunch of other fancy amenities. Like many people, I believed this to be a sign of success! Today however, I know that nothing could be further from the truth.

Many companies like to boast that they have open communication policies along with trust and transparency but then hide behind closed doors. Truth be told, we were no different. At Roma Moulding, we had plenty of offices in addition to 6-foot partition walls and cold, sterile boardrooms. Back then, we thought we were open and that anyone could just knock on our doors and come in. However, through hindsight, we’re able to see that there was a big lack of trust, poor communication and very little transparency. The walls did exactly what they were built to do – separate and divide our team from each other. These barriers inadvertently created a me versus them mentality which further diminished any trust and transparency.

Today, we’re proud to say that we don’t have an open door policy. There’s no reason to knock on someone’s door to speak; we have no offices! During our restart, one of the first things we did was live up to Roma Family Core Value #9 Deliver transparent, open and honest communication by creating an environment that nurtures collaboration and trust.

Now, everyone sits in similar workstations out in the open and the results have been amazing. Our Graphic Designer, Paul Mitchell is a creative guy that has been a team member for three years. He witnessed what we were like before the walls came down.

“It used to be a long, slow boring day at work,” said Mitchell. “Now that we’re all together, it’s much easier to bounce ideas off of each other, get the assistance needed to move forward with projects and generally just know the people you work with better. I never want to work alone in an office again!”

The benefits of going, office-less are endless. For me the biggest advantage is being on the floor with the team and feeling everyone’s energy as we work together! Open office spaces have taught our teams invaluable skills such as learning to focus in a sometimes hectic environment and better mutual respect of common spaces – it’s tough not to refill the printer paper when everyone can see you were the last to use it!

Additionally, you have a better pulse on what’s happening with you team. You’ll be able to identify who truly is a team player, who’s focused and who talks to their Mom all day. You’ll learn things about your team like who likes to eat what and when, what music they appreciate and what their interests are. I’ve had the privilege of being part of many conversations with team members that leaders who lived in a corner office simply wouldn’t be privy to. It’s not all about being open; going office-less encourages transparency. In a lot of companies, marketing gets labeled as the cool kids who work on awesome ads, product launches and promotions – the fun stuff! Now that the marketing team is out in the open, anyone is welcome to walk through their space and witness the sweat pouring off their cheeks as they create the perfect design or look to the sky searching for the perfect word to describe something. Open spaces give team members a chance to see what others are working on and you may be surprised who’s got a keen eye for customer service or who can walk the walk with your IT team. Suddenly your pool of internal candidates seems a lot deeper.

On top of that stuff, at Roma, we find creative ways of getting each other’s attention. That person you need to speak to won’t pick up their phone? No problem, fire a Nerf dart or grab a megaphone; you better believe that gets their attention!

You can still have quiet spaces reserved for private conversations. We borrowed a page from Zappos and have created huddle rooms, where teams can meet in a funky and intimate space. We encouraged team members to design and decorate our huddle rooms and the results are amazing. We have one jungle themed room complete with a campfire and another rock and roll themed room with records and guitars on the walls. No more boring old boardrooms, hello meeting with a banker by a campfire!

We host tours of our headquarters often. This year alone we’ve had more than 60 groups that want to know more about how we do what we do. After a recent tour, a partner of ours, Steven from Dedicated Sound and Audio, proclaimed that he was distraught that he spent $1000.00 on brand new high tech locks and the installation. After seeing our facilities, he mentioned how he was now going to have to pay another $500.00 to remove them all!

Steven also mentioned, “I’m blown away by Roma’s culture, core values and great open work environment – it’s a great model to follow if you value transparency and collaboration.”

I challenge you to examine the reasons you need to have an office and encourage you to get out of your office and tear down the walls between you and your team!

Tony Gareri

CEO & Culture Enthusiast

Drawing from firsthand experiences, Tony addresses how a culture evolution can lead to improved business results and happier work environments.

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