The new workplace
Before the Petaluma-based telecommunications network equipment and software developer went public with its stock two years ago, Cyan, Inc., took its open-floorplan central office partly private, and it’s newly outfitted expansion further demonstrates a number of modern office-design trends that are starting to appear in the North Bay.
While phone booths have been disappearing from streets and building lobbies since the cellphone revolution, they are making a comeback in the workplace, as quiet oases amid the bustle - whether energizing or frustrating - of floorplan configurations with fewer private offices and cubicles.
Roughly four years ago, Cyan expanded on the third floor of the 1383 N. McDowell Blvd. office building in the Redwood Business Center development. And shortly after that time, the company installed four one-person “phone booths” into a wall on the interior of the space. In February, Cyan expanded into the whole third floor of a newly completed adjoining building, and that space has 16 two-person glass-walled booths, mostly arranged along the outside of the space.
“No one here has an office,” said Rick Johnston, Cyan vice president of business operations and customer service. “The CEO has the same 5 feet (square) of space as everybody else.”
From its beginnings nearly a decade ago with a handful of employees working on laptops atop folding tables in the same central Petaluma office room to the its new cutting-edge open-floorplan office, Cyan has been evolving its workspace as the workforce and needs to monitor customers’ networks has increased. In addition to the booths, the company has created five-person meeting spaces with a large wirelessly networked flat-panel screen on the wall, calling the CyNOCs (Cyan network operating centers) and naming them after blue hues. The Petaluma office has 20 CyNOCs with the expansion space, and the breakroom in the first building is being converted to another CyNOC with the cafeteria-style break room set up in the new space.
Among the reasons why Cyan and other companies move to open spaces is efficiency and collaboration, yet these small meeting spaces help strike a balance.
“Here at Glassdoor, we have an open floor plan supplemented with quiet spaces for those (who) work better in a more enclosed environment or need to make a phone call,” said MaryJo Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the Mill Valley-based employment-information startup.
Giant global company Siemens has evolved its New Way of Working, or NewWoW, corporate policy over the past few years and now implemented it at about 80 sites - the closest to the North Bay are Mountain View and, soon, Sacramento - in roughly two dozen countries, according to Michael Kruklinski, head of Siemens Real Estate for the Americas.
“We were able to reduce the footprint at the spaces we were using,” he said.
By using phone booths, touchdown spots such as bench-style high desks and ad hoc lounge-style meeting places, Siemens’ desk-sharing ratio increased from 1 to 1.3 up to 1 to 1.5 afterward, saving about 30 percent on space needs. That ratio changes based on the employee task and the need for them to move around, with engineers needing special equipment at the workstation being less likely to move than administrative or legal teams.
“Mainly, what we found was that people were talking to each other,” Kruklinski said.
In a consolidation of multiple Argentina offices into one under the new design, interoffice email volume decreased by more than one-quarter, he said.
The transition to shared workstations takes planning, he said. Siemens starts months in advance by setting up voice-over-IP phones so phone numbers follow the worker, no matter where the person is, and imposing a clean-desk policy, under which workers must remove all personal items from the desk and store them in a locker at the end of the day.
Cyan employees tend to move to different “pods” in the office only a couple of times a year, as projects dictate, Johnston said.
“We’re very mobile,” Johnston said. “It’s about how fast they can move around as a team.”
Employees each have a laptop, headset, keyboard and an cushion-topped file cabinet “pedestal” on wheels. With a VOIP or cellphone for an office phone, employees can move to a new pod quickly, he said.
Part of the deal Cyan made with property owner Basin Street Properties for the expansion space involved an elevated pedestrian walkway between the spaces on the third floor of each building. That configuration gave the company a number of benefits, including the appearance of scale with the company name on two buildings but most importantly better intraoffice communication.