Because it's what we help so many other companies do, getting great space for ourselves was obviously a top priority. We opted for an open floor plan. We love how this layout fosters a strong sense of community and openness for our team. Still, there are plenty of drawbacks in the form of endless possibilities for potential distraction from casual conversation to eating noisy snacks to our personal favorite: Nintendo 64 breaks.
Thanks to tools like HipChat & Slack (we have used both), we don't sacrifice anything by having an undivided workspace. The rooms are our private offices. Direct messages are our one-on-one meetings. The development team didn't need a separate conference room to go over last week's pivotal tasks; they can simply "meet" in a designated chat room. Rather than everyone talking across the room and creating a verbal spaghetti bowl of simultaneous conversation, we keep it online and organized.
We are able to create a private sphere without threatening the sense of community that is so important to us. It also gives us a dedicated platform to share ideas and articles (work-related or not) without clogging up each other's inboxes or losing messages buried in email chains. For our team, it's the personal relationships that form the web of a team-wide sense of personal relationship. Nobody ever has to feel excluded because everyone is equally accessible.
It can be hard to form one-on-one relationships in an open-layout office where group conversation prevails, especially in a startup where everyone is totally engrossed in their work. TheSquareFoot is no exception. We describe our culture as studious, yet lively. We work hard together just as much as we support each in other in personal endeavors. It's hard to find that golden line between work and personal as well as group and one-on-one, which is why our mini-family relies on these chat tools so much.
Overall, using an inter-office messaging tool has fostered a company culture that is more productive, more creative, and more sociable. We knew going in that it would help to organize inter-office communication and serve as a place to share documents, collaborations, and conversations, but the additional benefits for our team on a more personal level has been a wonderful bonus.