3 women smiling while learning at work

Open Workspaces Are What You Make Them

I can’t lie. I hate office cubicles. The thought of sitting in a closed-off, gray-walled space with little-to-no natural light seems like the best way to die a slow death. So why would I make my employees suffer this daily 9-5 sentence? Short answer: I don’t.

When we moved to our new office location, we were nearly doubling our footprint and the monthly increase was hefty. After agreeing to a very long lease to bring the rent down, I had to find a way to design a space that could grow with us for many years. A quick and easy solution was an open floor plan that could fit more people in less square footage. I was even willing to give up my corner office and, just like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook® fame, “sit with the people.” Sounds good at first glance, until you Google® it and discover how many employees in open workspaces complain about noise and privacy. [1]

But wait. Why do so many people I know go to Starbuck’s® to work or study or write or read? That might be one of the most disruptive environments with people constantly flowing in and out, music just a bit too loud (ok, there are headphones), air conditioning always too cold, bathrooms that sometimes have a code lock, uncomfortable wooden chairs, and overpriced, over-roasted coffee. I decided to decipher what it was about Starbuck’s that made it so appealing when someone wanted to have a meeting or needed to focus. If I could figure out the attraction, then I planned to replicate that in my office space so that concerns about noise and privacy might melt away.

I’ve deduced the Starbuck’s secret sauce is a sense of community. Let’s face it. There’s at least one in every city of 10,000 people or more and the predictability for what you’ll find there offers comfort. But more than that, it offers a sense of community. Sure, if you’re meeting friends for coffee, that’s easy. But even if you are working alone in a city you’ve never been to, you can walk into a Starbuck’s and feel less isolated and, frankly, more connected. How do I know this? I’ve experienced it more than once during work travel.

So amid the open floor plan at JP, I intentionally designed spaces that create a sense of community: a library with couches and books, a lobby bar (coffee in the morning and cocktails in the evening, of course), and a super-sized kitchen with bar-height seating. There are also two small video conferencing rooms so if you need to close a door and create some privacy, you can. As an added bonus, our coffee is free.

Open workspaces may get a bad rap from some, but for us it seems to work. Just please don’t interrupt me when I have my red headphones on.

JANE OLVERA, President


  1. https://formaspace.com/articles/workplace-bulletin/happy-working-open-workspace/