Utah companies shift to open office workspaces to promote creativity, productivity

Jane, a boutique marketplace in Lehi, has strived to create an open office space for its employees. (Jane)

Companies are striving to brainstorm ways to attract the best talent and create a thriving workplace for incoming millennial and Generation Z employees.

Some workplaces, like Google, have a cafeteria, game rooms and even trained massage therapists to help employees relax. To compete with big companies like Google, other Utah workplaces have started to adapt and model their space after these companies to attract talent.

Jane, a boutique marketplace in Lehi, allows vendors to sell their merchandise through its website. The company moved into its current office four years ago and wanted to make the new space a unique environment for its employees, according to human resources representative Dani Smith.

Jane offers employees an office space equipped with a pool table, fully stocked pantry, gaming room, kitchen, gym, showers and lounge rooms.

Kirsten Litster has worked at Jane for a year and a half and she said she was not aware of the amenities Jane provided before applying. However, since working with the company, she said she has noticed a big difference in working in an open office space versus a traditional office space.

“I feel a lot more valued and trusted at Jane. No one needs to babysit me to make sure I get my work done. The Jane amenities give us so much freedom while also giving us responsibility to work hard and get things done,” Litster said.

Litster said she feels more productive working at Jane because of the resources available to her.

Fully stocked kitchen and dining area in the office of Jane. (Jane)

“When I was in school or at other jobs, I never had time in the morning to eat a real breakfast. Knowing I can go into work and have a great breakfast every morning makes me excited to get to work and start my day off right,” Litster said.

Derik McCausland works at Caliber Communications in Provo, which has an office space similar to Jane’s. McCausaland said when he entered the company’s office for his initial interview he was impressed with its layout.

McCausland had never worked in an office that provided various amenities to its employees before. He said the office felt inviting when viewing it for the first time.

Since working at Caliber Communications, McCausland said working in an open office helps him feel more creative.

“I think it makes people feel happier and more open and able to cooperate and synergize with each other,” McCausland said.

While McCausland said an open office space helps foster creativity, he did not feel the same about productivity.

“I work in the accounting department here at Caliber and I do find looking at spreadsheets day in and day out a little stifling,” McCausland said. “I find myself getting up and chatting with coworkers. I think this is the open office work style at work making it easy to make friends and work together, sometimes to the detriment to productivity.”

Although McCausland said productivity can at times decrease in his office space, he said his work ethic has increased as he feels more energetic and at ease while at work.

“I think the open feeling around the office helps that greatly,” McCausland said. “Just the feeling of being connected with my coworkers, even those in other departments, helps me to be more excited to come to work and motivated to do a good job and make them all proud.”

Braydon Lapeyrouse currently works at Weave in Lehi, which also has an open office workspace. Lapeyrouse said he applied to Weave because he needed a new job but was quickly impressed by the people and the office.

Lapeyrouse said his productivity at works varies based on the day and task at hand. An open office space is nice for many things, he said, but he does not feel it has a direct correspondence to his productivity.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it boosts productivity, but it allows you to get more creative with how you cope with the typical stresses of a workplace,” Lapeyrouse said. “I can take care of myself as needed, and in doing so can provide myself more opportunities of extreme productivity, even if they aren’t always uniform.”

Before moving to Weave, Lapeyrouse said he came from a operational-minded workplace that gave him a set shift with scheduled breaks and required him to log every task he worked on. He said he has noticed a difference in an open office space versus a traditional one.

“It allows me the flexibility to work on things as I need to,” Lapeyrouse said. “It took a while for me to adjust and realize that it was OK to take a break just to play a quick basketball or volleyball game or go downstairs and make a snack in the kitchen.”

John Bingham, a BYU organizational behavior and human resources professor, agreed there can be some benefits to modeling an office after places like Google.

“There is research that suggests that when people have more space in their day to modulate and to engage in non-work type of activities, you actually can foster greater innovative capability in employees,” Bingham said.

Gaming room at Jane’s office equipped with couches and gaming consoles (Jane)

Bingham said a group of employees might discuss an idea in a meeting, but then play pool or ping pong and continue the conversation over lunch. This freedom can offer a unique dynamic to a workspace, according to Bingham.

“If you put employees behind a desk and say to them, ‘OK, go be creative all day long, turn out new ideas, new software and all kinds of stuff,’ a mind can only do that for so much time before it starts to tire,” Bingham said.

Bingham said having other types of activities available for employees can refresh their minds and foster greater creativity and innovation.

Open office workspaces that provide room for employee collaboration can both promote and hinder productivity, but Bingham said a company’s culture is more predictive of its productivity and performance than the workspace perks it offers.

“If employees work for a really cool company that does really cool things, do you really need to have bean bags and free soda machines? Probably not, because you are doing really engaging work that is stimulating, and people want to work there because they are doing really interesting projects,” Bingham said.

Bingham added perks are a nice way to communicate to employees that they are valued, and building amenities can help reduce costs by alleviating employee’s burdens like going to lunch or the gym.

Bingham said one reason productivity can increase in workplaces like Jane is because employees stay at work longer. He said employees can eat lunch, work out, shower and return to work for a few more hours before the day ends.

This type of model does not work for every company and is dependent on the nature of the work, Bingham said, adding that workplaces use attractive office spaces as a way to recruit talent.

A great office space can signal to potential employees the culture is collaborative and engaging, he explained.

“Now millennial and Gen-Z employees are demanding this — they are consumers of companies,” Bingham said. “When they go out to look at a company, not only is the kind of work that they’re doing important, but they want to be involved in a cool place.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email