One of the first things visitors to the Atomic Object office may notice is a lack of walls. This has come to be known as the “Atomic Brain Trust” — an open environment that encourages ideas to flow as freely as the coffee that sparks them.
It’s hard to think of what I saw there as an office — it had more in common with a grad school lab than an IT department. I thought it was awesome.
The open office environment has benefited Atomic Object and its clients in a variety of ways.
Much like our stand up meetings, the open office — wherein desks are arranged into groups with everyone facing into the center — promotes spontaneous brain storming. Employees working on radically different projects can share their collective wisdom and past experiences, to the benefit of other employees and ultimately AO’s clients as well.
The open office environment holds employees accountable to each other for their daily productivity. Everyone can see what you’re working on, so it makes it much more difficult to slip in a quick game of Bejeweled or a lengthy email to your favorite aunt.
Rather than sequestering individuals behind walls to limit their interaction, employees are encouraged to interact. Employees all sit facing each other in clusters, which encourages dialogue, while at the same time allowing employees to remain at their desks and continue working while doing so. In a traditional office environment, employees must interrupt their work and leave their cubicles for any interaction.
When visitors walk into the Atomic Object office, they are often times greeted by a big friendly dog — one of several you might find around the office on any given day. If no dogs are present, visitors will at least be greeted by actual faces, instead of a wall of generically carpeted cubicles. Right away, visitors see developers hard at work, actively engaged in client projects.
There it is in a nutshell. The open environment is social, spontaneous and productive. It’s not just Atomic Object that is discovering this phenomenon. Agile enthusiast Elisabeth Hendrickson over at Quality Tree Software, Inc. is in the process of creating an open office environment after visiting Atomic Object and several others, where she quickly realized the benefits of our way of thinking. On Hendrickson’s blog “Test Obsessed”, she cites Atomic Object, among others, as a source of inspiration for her forthcoming open environment office space, hoping others with find similar inspiration and follow suit. We hope you do too.