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September 24, 2019
Kate Marshall

Startup showdown, part one: office layouts & PTO

Vision, values, practices, and people are the backbone of company culture, but every day types of office culture like office layout and paid time off lend a significant hand in building a great culture.

So, we're exploring two common office cultures that can impact the values and behaviors of people in the workplace: office layout and PTO benefits. 

Types of office culture: Open versus closed office layouts

There's no doubt that the office floor plan impacts productivity and collaboration among employees. But when it comes to a closed-office environment vs an open environment, the pros and cons are obvious.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing between an open versus closed office setting for your growing company.

Open office layout

1. Promotes collaboration 

Open office spaces give employees permission to collaborate freely. (Stop, collaborate and listen.) 🕺

In fact, people are 12% more likely to report being happy with their job when they have freedom and autonomy within their work environment.

An open office setting can lead to spontaneous brainstorm sessions and informal group discussions, enabling employees to establish real relationships with each other and create an atmosphere of teamwork, fulfillment, and overall happiness.

2. Cost-effective 

Fewer walls in your office layout means fewer cubicle partitions, clunky desks, and office machines to buy up-front. Plus, an open floor plan can allow more employees to work in one space, and (performs square-foot-per-workspace-per-person math in head), that can instantly help lower the cost of the rent.

This way, companies can invest more money into their business and employee perks instead of office construction and resources.

3. Flexible

With an open office plan, you don't have to stick to a single layout. Zen garden in the corner? A spiral slide right in the middle of the office? Just some suggestions.

Open workspaces are designed to maximize flexibility and creativity. Whatever your vision, an open setting is the best way to execute your unique style.

This is also an excellent layout for growing companies. In a closed design, expansion can only happen by way of moving entirely, knocking down walls, or renting more floors. But with an open setting, you can start small and rearrange the layout as the company grows.

4. Evens the playing field

Having an open office space takes the hierarchical setting out of the office and eliminates the barriers between managers and their teams. Because, let’s face it, when a boss or a supervisor isn’t behind a huge office door, they are much easier to approach. (Phew!)

Although an open setting sounds (and often is) amazing, there are a few negatives about open spaces that can be avoided by choosing a closed office space. Here are a few.

Closed office layout

1. Fewer distractions

Unfortunately, an open office space can come with a lot of distractions.

With the lack of barriers and a view of the entire office, it can be challenging to focus on work—especially when your coworkers are enjoying happy hour or watching the game. Since it can take as long as 23 minutes for employees to get back on task, closed office layouts seem like a smart option to boost levels of concentration and focus.

2. Healthier for employees 

Have you ever watched your co-worker sniffling and coughing from afar—and then you immediately grabbed your Clorox wipes? 😷

Thankfully, in a closed office space, employees are much less likely to be exposed to whatever the latest, trendiest virus is that’s floating around.

Also, a closed office setting can be better for your team’s emotional wellbeing. In an open environment, there can be an added pressure for employees to be in a constant state of productivity. Closed office spaces make it easier for a little bit of downtime, ultimately resulting in increased productivity.

3. More privacy & security 

Some people prefer a closed office space because, obviously, open space doesn't offer nearly as much privacy. In a closed office setting, employees have the privacy to make phone calls or talk to their supervisors about important matters without feeling like everyone is listening in. 🗣

4. Motivates growth 

If a hierarchical team structure is your jam, closed office settings help to set this order and they offer a clear view of growth within the company.

Private office settings can motivate employees to work harder at achieving company goals and create an incentive (hello, corner office) to grow within their role.

When it comes to office layout, employee preference will still be the main KPI for the success of your office's layout. While some employees thrive in open offices, some can work better in a closed space.

As for us, our team agrees that the best solution is to create an office that has open and closed spaces—the best of both worlds if you will. This can help employees find the ideal environment for their working and creative style, and strike the perfect balance between productivity and collaboration.

Types of office culture: Unlimited PTO versus Traditional PTO

When it comes to starting a new job or creating a benefits plan for your employees, a big question on everyone's mind is, what's the PTO policy like?

While there are pros and cons to both traditional PTO and unlimited PTO, going the unlimited route seems to be a growing trend. So, we decided to duel it out between the two policies complete with all the facts. 

Benefits of unlimited PTO policies

1. Increased employee happiness 

One major pro of offering unlimited PTO to your team is the chance for them to have a more flexible work schedule.

With unlimited PTO, days off aren't commonly being watched like a hawk. This gives employees the flexibility to go home early when they've finished their work or take the afternoon off to pick their kids up from school.

This kind of freedom offers better work-life balance which, as we know, leads to happier employees.

2. Attract top candidates 

Attracting talent in today's savvy candidate climate is getting more competitive by the minute. A unique perk like unlimited PTO can help keep top talent interested in your company.

Don’t just take our word for i—in a recent PTO survey, 51% of participants indicated they would take a job for 10% less pay (as long as it’s fair and equal, of course) if unlimited PTO was available.

Sounds like unlimited PTO is dreamy to everyone—even those highly coveted top candidates. 😏

3. Cost-efficient

With a traditional PTO policy, employees accrue unused days. Eventually, at the end of the year or if the employee leaves the company, the company will have to pay out the remaining vacation days.

4. Employees feel more trusted 

The freedom to take PTO whenever you need (within reason) gives an incredibly empowering feeling to employees.

It shows that you respect their time—and simply, that you trust them—and that’s far more important than some would think. Statistics from 2017 show that only half of the employees had confidence in their company’s senior leaders, and just 59% of employees trusted the people on their team. Choosing an unlimited PTO policy will help to prove the trust you have in your employees, and in return, they’ll have trust in you.

Quid pro quo, am I right?

After all that, it may seem like traditional PTO is, more or less, the uncool old neighbor, but in many cases, it might be the right choice depending on your specific company culture. 

Benefits of traditional PTO policies

1. PTO can be used as a reward 

Rewarding senior employees with more PTO days for their hard work and dedication to the company is a great way to show them how much they’re valued.

Salesforce has a great example of a traditional policy. “As a part of Salesforce’s vacation package, new employees report they can get 15 days of PTO along with four floating holidays and seven paid volunteering days. After two years, employees say they can get a month of PTO.”

This example uses a traditional policy that rewards employees for tenure and encourages them to stay with their company. In some cases, depending on the vision of your culture and how you want your company to scale, this might be the best way to go.  

2. Employees are more likely to actually take time off 

A traditional PTO policy, of course, has a set amount of set vacation days. It’s because of this that, in most cases, the set time actually encourages employees to take that time away from the office.

The flip side of this is that when given unlimited PTO—since there isn't a clear amount of time you’re giving them to take off—employees can have a hard time defining an appropriate amount for themselves which can lead to them feeling guilty. (Cue: burnout.)

Our solution is setting a minimum of 15 days of vacation, with at least five of those days needing to be taken consecutively. Plus, we help to hold each other accountable to it.

3. The guidelines are clear

With unlimited PTO, the big concern is that the policy will be abused—although that’s hardly the case—and the rules can get a little murky. One of the great things about a traditional PTO program is that the rules of your policy are crystal clear, making it easy for all employees to follow a set approach.

When all is said and done, a PTO policy works best when employers and employees keep each other in mind. Employees shouldn’t feel like they’re surrendering their personal life, and employers shouldn’t feel like they’re being taken advantage of.‍

Choose a PTO policy that helps build the company culture of your dreams and encourages both an excellent work environment and employee health & happiness. With those two things in mind, you can’t go wrong.

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