Aug. 2, 2017 | InBrief

5 benefits of an all-inclusive open-office seating plan

5 benefits of an all-inclusive open-office seating plan

My internship with West Monroe's Technology team is approaching the end. As I reflect, I must say I have enjoyed every moment of it. West Monroe has always pitched themselves to potential interns and new hires as a company with a truly unique culture. As someone who has interacted with the company from within and without, I am very confident when I say the hype surrounding this company is real. And with this blog post I want to highlight one important aspect of the culture that I found to be unique and engaging: the seating plan. At West Monroe, there is no assigned office space. That means every seat is available on a first-come, first-served basis. From my perspective, this arrangement has five benefits, in no particular order:

Co-locates project teams

Since there are no assigned seats, there is a certain fluidity to the way consultants group themselves when working on a common project. One moment a team can be spread throughout the department, the next they are clustered together collaborating on a problem. I remember one day turning my chair around and smiling to myself as I observed several of my project teammates had regrouped so that they were sitting next to each other to work. Seeing this reminded me of the software engineering group project I worked on this past semester with several classmates in college. When our team at school needed to get a large chunk of code written, we would find an empty classroom, plunk down our laptops, and get to work trading questions about problems we were dealing with and the occasional joke: it was great fun. I greatly appreciate West Monroe’s ability to emulate this flexibility and freedom while working in a professional setting.

Reduces personal workspace clutter

This point may be more subjective, but I strongly believe it is worth mentioning. When you are not assigned an office/seat at work, you are not going to let your personal belongings accumulate at your workspace since you need to remove them by the end of the day because the next day someone else may sit where you are currently sitting! As a bit of a neatness freak, I absolutely love having all my tools for work fit into a backpack. During a given college semester, my desk at home—I lived with my parents and commuted to school—would gather an ever-increasing stack of papers and books as the semester progressed. Though I would try to put off cleaning it until the end of the semester, there were times I felt as if I could hardly focus with all this clutter lying around me and I would have to make a patchwork attempt at cleaning it up. Again, going back to the college analogy, the office is reminiscent of a classroom: a place where we go for intense sessions of learning/work yet leave the place just as pristine as when we arrived. In short, the seating arrangement at West Monroe forces consultants to keep the clutter kraken in check.

Builds colleague relationships

West Monroe is a place with many smart people working in a multitude of various industry solution lines. In addition, employees are actively encouraged to schedule coffee or lunch with anyone in the firm. However, if there is someone in the firm whose work you admire, there is nothing stopping you from grabbing a seat next to them so that you can learn from them up front and personal. While at a company outing, I was talking to some colleagues who were officially part of the Technology team but was staffed on a  M&A deal. Since they didn’t have any assigned desk, they could simply pack up their laptops, relocate to where the people in M&A sat, which enhanced collaboration and productivity.

Gives people a change of pace

We all have days when we are more acutely aware of the fact that everyday life is often very repetitive. An open office seating plan could be just the cure for your malaise. Having the opportunity to move to a different seat is just one subtle way a company can help its employees keep things fresh at work. If it happens to be a sunny day, West Monroe has plenty of window seats for taking in all of its offices. Even if you are not feeling a bit of ennui, perhaps you need to be in the office but have a particularly busy schedule ahead of you. Simply grab a seat on the periphery of the department and bring some headphones so that you can focus on your work.

Powerfully demonstrates meritocracy

This point is my personal favorite so I saved it for last. Many companies—including West Monroe—claim to be meritocracies; however, West Monroe strongly underscores that claim with their open office seating plan. If you recall this post’s title, I used the adjective “all-inclusive” when describing the seating arrangement. When I walked into the office for my first day of work, I grabbed a seat next to one of the directors within the Technology team who greeted me good morning. That made an impact on me: here I was barely a week into my internship and getting to sit near directors of the practice and even listen to their conversations as they discussed their work amongst colleagues. However, that is not abnormal at West Monroe, it is a norm. I tip my hat to the founders of the company for their foresight in building a company that truly puts people first!

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