Open Space is Broken. All Hail the Open Conference Room

When starting her new startup serial entrepreneur Iris Shoor wanted to do away with the nearly ubiquitous open space

Iris Shoor 12:1226.02.18
One of the most significant decisions in developing a company’s culture relates to the division of office space. Open space, division into offices, team-based division, mixed offices, a small or a big kitchen — each one of these decisions will probably affect the way the company functions.


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In theory, an open space office sounds like a great way to encourage teamwork and open discussion. However, most open spaces are quite noisy and are not that conducive to actual discussions. Many people are easily distracted by every phone call, joke or noise around them. If there is indeed a lot of interaction in the open space, it can become an enemy for productivity. If not, there is no real reason for an open space, other than saving some money on rent.


Iris Shoor. Photo: PR Iris Shoor. Photo: PR


I am a big believer in separate rooms, each accommodating 4-6 people. Such a division ensures a quiet working environment for most of the day while enabling more discussions and effective teamwork. Another notable advantage of building small groups is that it enables the creation of beneficial group dynamics by grouping ‘veteran’ and new employees, for example.


Another concept that sounds great on paper but is far from great in reality, is having the CEO seated in an open space just like any other employee. Companies, from Facebook to Intel, take pride in this decision, as a symbol of transparency and accessibility. In many ways, this is the next generation of the open-door policy. In reality, however, these CEOs spend 95% of their time in conference rooms, behind closed doors.


When I founded Oribi Systems Ltd., I decided to turn things around — I wanted my own office where I would have a quiet place to work on the product, but chose a completely open main conference room — where all the interesting things happen and the important decisions are made. By removing the main wall of the conference room and designing it more like a living room, we made it more inviting to sit in. The concept was to make any employee interested in listening or joining in on the meeting feel welcome to do so. Even our board meetings take place in the open meeting room.



In Oribi, we chose to furnish all meeting areas with sofas instead of chairs. This sounds like a small change, but just imagine how it would feel to hang around in the living room with your friends if you had to sit on conference room chairs instead of lounging on the couch. If an open conference room is a somewhat revolutionary concept which some within the company might disapprove of, furnishing the conference room with sofas is totally worth a shot.


This article was originally published on Ms. Shoor's Blog


Iris Shoor is a serial entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Tel Aviv-based analytics startup Oribi Systems Ltd.
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