The new office is a more open setup than the old one, or a “New Way of Working” configuration, as the company calls it. Siemens has put these open configurations, “NewWow” in Siemens’ shorthand, in place in 80 work sites around the world.
The new office in the Commons on I-90 building is smaller than the old space in Issaquah — about 25,000 square versus 30,000 — but the company says the lack of cubicles saves a lot of room. The old setup discouraged spontaneous communication and collaboration, something the company wants to change with the open concept.
The company said employees asked for the open configuration. Siemens said 177 people work out of the Bellevue office, meaning the office translates to about 142 square feet per person.
Open office layouts have become a trend in the tech world, as they are designed to encourage more collaboration. But the concept has its skeptics. Joel Spolsky, CEO of Stack Overflow, a popular Q&A site for programmers, said at the 2016 GeekWire Summit that developers need private offices and the ability to work from home so they can concentrate and produce great work. They don’t need distractions from raucous offices, with ping pong tables and fire pits, he said.
Office space greatly affects how the mind functions during the day, and different types of layouts encourage different types of work, according to Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and professor at the University of Washington. While people generally crave open space, hence the attraction to the open office, as soon as things get difficult, whether it’s a foreboding creature in the wild, or a conference call that is way too loud, people want the option to retreat and collect themselves.