Are you bumping into coworkers enough?

A few months back I stumbled upon an interesting question and answer session with Tony Hsieh at Samsung’s Blogger Lounge at SXSW. During the 30-minute session, the Zappos CEO touched on a lot of topics, but the one that stood out the most was on what he wanted to do with the company’s new offices in the old Las Vegas city hall.

While the new digs mean more space for the team at Zappos, Hsieh does not want his employees to get lost in this space. So he’s shutting all but one of the entrances to the building and the skyway that links the parking garage to the office. Sure it sounds crazy, but Hseih WANTS his employees to bump into one another as well as people within the downtown Vegas ecosystem.

Known for his culture-first mentality, Hseih feels that by forcing employees to interact with folks across the company when entering and exiting the office, relationships can grow regardless of business function. The same holds true for the community, by interacting with others in the Vegas community, the CEO thinks innovation and rejuvenation can happen. Sounds crazy right? Here are three reasons I think the message has stuck vividly in my head for the past three months.c-l-v_southwest_view_las_vegas_city_hall_1

People matter – company cultures lie within employees. If employees aren’t bought in or constantly immersed into it, the job just becomes another task. Successful companies have employees that are vested in their mission and strive to help the company meet said goals.

Relationships are key – who do you talk to regularly in your office? Is it your team and direct co-workers? How about Bob from accounting? I thought so. Knowing people from across the business not only allows you to build out your own network, but it also allows you to learn more about people and what they do for a living. In the case of Zappos with executives coming and going through the same conduit, it also offers a humanizing aspect and could make execs more reachable to coworkers.

Breaking silos – Have you ever had a project stall because of another faction within your company? We all have. Whether it is working together for the first time or some inherent friction, projects stall all the time because people are forced to think outside of their siloed team structure which is hard. Imagine seeing the same developer or accountant or marketing manager walking in each day. A cordial conversation about last night’s game or a lunch sparked from seeing someone driving in a classic Chevy can help build a connection with a coworker. Seeing them in a work setting can now be a bit more relaxing as you’ve broken bread or griped over traffic. These side conversations and lunches can also lead to work conversations that spark innovation or improve internal processes.

What do you think? Do you bump into your coworkers enough?

Image: time_anchor

2 Responses to Are you bumping into coworkers enough?
  1. AmyVernon
    May 6, 2013 | 9:33 am

    At my first newspaper job, my bureau newsroom was in the same room as the advertising staff. Because they were right there, across the room, our relationship was very different. They understood what we were about much more, and we also understood what they were about. Instead of having an antagonistic relationship, they occasionally passed quality news tips onto us and we listened, because we knew they would accept if we didn’t think it was worth writing about. If we’d had the usual wall and hallway between us, it would have been a totally different relationship.

  2. jeffespo
    May 6, 2013 | 10:52 am

    AmyVernon co-location is key. I think the real reason that this stuck in my craw so much is that I was in the middle of a transition (and still am) to a new role and was realizing how bad silos had hurt communications in the past.