An open-plan office seems like a no-brainer for a company that makes software designed to increase transparency and collaboration between teams. But they come with some serious trade-offs. When it came time to design Atlassian’s new office space in San Francisco, we got brutally honest with ourselves and had to face facts: the standard approach just doesn’t work.

If you work in an open-plan office that includes members of the C-suite as well as engineers, analysts, HR, accountants, and marketers (just to name a few), then you already know the ideal work environment varies not just by team, but by individual. No wonder open offices are such a polarizing topic! Nonetheless, open workspaces are here to stay. So can they actually, y’know…work?

Yes. They can – with a few hacks. We looked at the established norms of office design, including perimeter offices for executives, cubicle culture, massive open layouts, and conference rooms. We conducted internal and external research. We asked if open offices are even worth it. Then we turned it up, turned it up, turned it upside-down. The result? An office that is open and true to our company values without forcing openness on anyone.

This is what the future of open office spaces looks like.

Democratizing the Corner Office

Even in our highly connected and mobile world, most people still like to have a desk to call home base. But who gets the prime real estate by the windows? While many companies would automatically reserve that space for senior executives, we did the opposite. Instead of pushing staff seating to the core of the building, we brought it out to the window line and interspersed soft seating areas and sound-proof “phone booth” pods amongst groups of sit-stand desks.

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