Destroy the Cubicles

Secret 2

Apr 19, 2010
Outside Magazine
John Gans

John Gans    Photo: Courtesy of NOLS

Because inspired people need inspired surroundings. You know, things like surfboard storage (Redspin, #24), dog-friendly offices (too many to name), and even kegerators (Smith Optics). Other companies, like Nau (#22) and Ruff Wear (#41), have removed barriers to communication by, well, removing walls. At both outfits, employees sit in an open-floor work space, creating a vibe that encourages a smoother flow of ideas. At Horny Toad (#37), brainstorming sessions often happen over the office Ping-Pong table, and the fine people at Adventure Life Journeys (#45) run their operation in a modified Victorian in the middle of Missoula, Montana. Management principle? It's easier to stay calm when your desk sits in a bedroom.

When Keen (#28) converted an old warehouse in Portland, Oregon's Pearl District into a new company HQ four years ago, they took the opportunity to rethink work space entirely. The defining feature is a 3,000-square-foot "living room" outfitted with accessories such as a Wii game console, a movie screen and projector, and musical instruments. "There are times when you're playing and times when you're working," says Kate Lee, Keen's head of human resources. There are also times when you're sharing: Keen lets local nonprofits use the space for fundraising and other activities. "We wanted an office that reflects the values of Keen and the needs of our people," says Lee. "That's what we have."

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