The TEN7 Workspace – a Vision Realized
“Space, the final frontier.”
These epic words uttered fifty years ago by Captain James T. Kirk set forth in motion a cult experience in television matched by none other. It referred to an endless number of galaxies comprising “space”, and the voyages of the Starship Enterprise “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations... to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
The grand stuff of science fiction. However, our attention today is turned toward yet another concept of space… the space most of us spend 30% of our lives occupying… our workspace and TEN7’s workspace in particular. As you can see, our workspace is definitely open, a concept envisioned and pursued early on by our founder and principal, Ivan Stegic.
In this interview, Ivan discusses his passion for open-space, single-table design and how it came about.
Jonathan: Tell us about the genesis of the current open-space design that TEN7 currently enjoys.
Ivan: My favorite family activity is sharing a meal at the dining room table. I love it. There is no better place or time to connect with each other and to enjoy life together. Sharing a meal at the table is the source of my motivation to create an open-space office for my company.
Please explain the connection between your family dining room table and your current office space design.
Sure. The primary reason for the open-space design and the large table was my hope that this would allow us to be connected to each other, just like in a family dining room: sharing stories, contributing knowledge, providing mutual support. The only way to accomplish this was by putting all of our desks together. Everyone together at the same table, metaphorically and literally connected to the same mission of colelctive success. And the only way to accomplish this desk arrangement was within one large and open space, much like the one we have today.
This appears to be a rather unique concept design for any office. Did you have any prior experience with the concept?
Yes. I saw a similar implementation at a local ad agency. I visited and was truly inspired, but at the same time disappointed that I wasn't the first one to implement it! It definitely encouraged my concept of the large table, where the team would work together, under the best collaborative conditions.
Tell us more about the design and installation of the large table.
I knew the only way to accomplish the “dining room table effect” was by putting desks together. I had to find a space that would accomodate such a large piece of furniture. It took a few months to find the perfect space, long and narrow. Our contractor built the table using twelve wooden doors each measuring 80” x 30”, creating large individual workspaces. The doors were then joined together with clamps, propped up using 48 IKEA legs, with power underneath.
What are the challenges you and your team face working in an open-space at one large table?
We've all needed to learn how to set our own boundaries, how to behave in an open environment, and how to cooperate in the space. We were all initially concerned about private spaces, so we installed a soundproof conference room for those times when quiet is imperative for a group. We also installed sound dampening ceiling panels to help control noise levels. Our architect knew that the table was central, but that privacy was also important. Multiple meetings at the same time are still a challenge: additional spaces like our lounge and kitchen, are available for use, but still cause distraction. We're not tethered to our desks, which is wonderful. We can view the office landscape and know whether it's appropriate to interact or not.
How have clients and other visitors reacted to this unique space design?
Comments have been positive. Most seem to appreciate the open nature of our space, reflecting who we are and what we do. It's inviting to the external community, clients, vendors, Drupal folk, everyone! People walking into the space for the first time always remark at how quiet it is.
The TEN7 staff was also interviewed about their unique workspace. The overwhelming response, when asked if they approved of the open space design and the large table, was quite positive.
Thoughts from Staff
“Greater community mentality, we’re all in it together, every person is familiar with all clients.”
“Clean and efficient, had specific design in mind when created. Not traditional office space.”
“Often conducive to collaboration when it's most beneficial. Other times it's too open and creates distraction and collaboration is not required.”
“Positive, very easy to help one and another in problem solving; I can listen in and learn while others solve problems, and this contributes to personal growth.”
“There is a constant awareness of other team members enhancing overall team effort.”
“Really helps; builds more cohesive relationship; we're not isolated; enhances collaboration and we're very collaborative; improves our remote work and why working remotely is successful for us.”
“Definitely yes. Clean. Unnoisy. Visually and psychologically collaborative & inviting; not a sterile pristine environment.”
“Yes, very well designed. A humane space to work. Egalitarian, everyone has same space.”
“So easy to interact; look down the table & who is available to meet with; more informal; noise level is acceptable.”
“A coffee shop environment, alive and vibrant.”
And some not so positive comments:
“No personal privacy, no isolation.”
“Lack of personal privacy is a bit of a bother, used to working alone with total control, having to deal with humans.”
“The big table fails, a bold design choice that is nothing more than a big obstacle that achieves zero purpose.”
“Leisure space is not segregated; there is no way to achieve isolation.”
“Any space requiring headphones to achieve isolation fails.”
It appears that Ivan’s vision and experiment with an open space and the big table has succeeded for the most part. Judging by the staff’s collegiality and productivity, I’d say it’s here to stay.
Author’s note: Today marks the five year anniversary of moving into our own space. We’re so glad to be here and look forward the next five. Happy Halloween!