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Two Plugs Away

March 6, 2013
The office at Valve. Notice the wheeled desks.

The office at Valve. Notice the wheeled desks.

I’ve always enjoyed smaller environments, where people are more free to work in the way they want to, when they want to, as long as they are productive. I applaud the efforts of small companies to design offices or spaces where employees feel comfortable working and enjoy spending time. Some large companies do this as well and maybe this is necessary to offset the grind of long hours, but I believe the owners and founders of smaller companies often cultivate a friendly, close atmosphere and they hope their people to want to come to work. After all there are plenty of places one can work that will exact and demand long hours, often without any recognition of the hardships or without any additional benefits for your efforts..

I ran across this piece on the culture and hiring at Valve, a gaming company that makes Steam and Half Life. They have a very free flowing culture, depending on the individuals to make good decisions for the company and their own teams. I’m not sure how scalable this is, or even how easily this can be replicated to other companies. As I’ve watched Red Gate grow over the years, it’s been an amazing place to work, but it’s not without some pain points. We’ve done well, though I don’t know that the ideas from Valve would work there.

At the bottom of the article, however, I was struck buy this quote:  Everyone’s desk is on wheels. “There are only two plugs that need to be unplugged in order to shift from one team to another.” That’s an interesting way to design an office setup. Your desk is your desk, and you can customize it for you, but since it’s on wheels, you can move it if the need to change arises. That doesn’t happen too often in larger companies, but I do think the idea of virtual teams that come together for projects and then disband would work well in this environment.

Even in the operational world, the option of periodically moving my desk and changing neighbors without the hassles of packing up lots of stuff, would be interesting. It would also make weekend practical jokes much more interesting. Imagine coming in Monday morning and having no idea where you desk, with all your stuff, might have moved.

Steve Jones


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