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How Facebook Keeps Employees Happy in the World’s Largest Open Office

Source | INC : By Tanner Christensen

Today, when considering a place to plant yourself as a business or an employee, you’ll inevitably run up against the question of whether open office floor plans–with their enormous, shared, cubicle-free layouts–hinder or boost collaboration and creativity.

Open office spaces have well-established benefits: increased collaboration and bonding among co-workers, easier communication, and an increase in idea cross-pollination.

Yet there are also downsides (both perceived and very real) to open floor plans too: they may increase the spread of illness and block employee’s ability to be productive due to unavoidable sensory distractions, like a standing meeting nearby or someone walking by with brightly colored balloons. These are serious drawbacks not only for creating productive spaces, but for helping inspire employees to do their best work.

As a Facebook employee who works in one of the world’s largest open offices called Building 20, I believe open offices can absolutely yield more productivity, collaborative work, and creativity, but only if done well.

At Facebook, utilizing open space well is exactly what the company seems to be doing, as Facebook employees are reportedly the happiest and most satisfied with their work, compared to peers at companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and Tesla.

How exactly does Facebook make its massive, single-building office space work to bolster productivity, collaboration, and creativity?

1. Focus on mobility.

Each Facebook employee is given a laptop, not a desktop computer.

The major perk of a laptop as a primary work machine is the ability to detach from your desk any time; either for projecting work in a meeting room or for hiding away in a nook of the building to focus.

Of course, all that mobility isn’t any good if there are no spaces dedicated to quietly dreaming up ideas or for holding group meetings. In Facebook’s Building 20 there are countless meeting rooms for one-on-one meetings or sessions of 20 or more people, in addition to small “libraries” tucked throughout the campus, typically above the hustle of desks and walking paths. Each library is a dedicated quiet space where employees can kick back on a comfortable chair to plug-in and focus on ideas, read a donated book, or just relax for a few minutes away from otherwise biting distractions and stressors.

The ability to freely move and work anywhere on campus makes it possible to proactively avoid space-related distractions or constraints. Mobility also enables employees to avoid burning out by working in the same area day-in and day-out.

2. Allow for flexible scheduling.

In addition to physical mobility at the office, many Facebook employees have the flexibility to control their work schedule, within reason.

Early mornings and late evenings tend to be quietest times in the office, for example. So if you’re an early bird or late night owl and want some time to work uninterrupted, you would have the flexibility to work whichever hours allow you to do just that.

Additionally, for many teams there’s the ability to work from home on an as-needed basis (particularly if you’re feeling under the weather). New parents get four months paid maternity or paternity leave, and because Wednesdays are typically reserved for non-meeting work (in what many employees have dubbed “Work from home Wednesdays”), camping out in a quiet corner of the campus for the bulk of a Wednesday becomes a convenient option to get work done.

And when it’s time to come back to collaborate with team members, your dedicated desk is there waiting for you.

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