Do I need my own desk? – Tieto Sweden HQ

Hi Kalle (and Jeff),

Time to talk some more about Do I need my own desk?, this time with real life examples from the company I work at! (Oooh, exciting!)

I had an example of a web agency I read about that had no set work stations for their employees and lockers for personal belongings.

Turns out that I didn’t need to go far to find this thinking in action – the Tieto Sweden HQ in Stockholm is using this concept live!

Here are two clips explaining the concept from Struktur, the company that helped Tieto with this. Yes, there is some marketing happytalk in there, but try looking past that. ūüôā

I will visit the HQ in September and will make sure to talk to some people about how this REALLY works in practice, will keep you posted. By the way, the Luleå office is not using this in any shape or form Рhere we are talking standard offices, fixed desks and sitting 2-3 in each room with standard telephone rooms and conference room. However, it would be interesting to find the lowest hanging fruit from activity-based workspaces, and try bringing that into the Luleå office as well.

House of Win-Win in Gothenburg seems like another example, care to fill in the details there Kalle?

This all feels very Peopleware, time to go back and reread that book methinks.

Miss you guys, take care!



No bosses, no juniors – working at Valve

Hi Kalle,

if you haven’t already, it’s now time for you to go and read what might be the most interesting publication in company and workplace culture this year:

The “leaked” Valve handbook for new employees.

There is just too much interesting stuff in here to discuss in one blog post so I’ll probably break this down to a few posts (or we discuss it on the podcast), but here are some highlights:

  • No management – people work on the projects where they feel they can be of most use and move their desks to form groups accordingly.
  • No juniors – only hire extremely competent and driven people at the height of their careers. No costly bringing up of juniors, they have enough attraction as an employer that they don’t need to “grow their own” – they can attract the best within the business.
  • Compensation based on peer review¬†– salaries are based on stack ranking by your co-workers. You make what the guy sitting next to you think you should make based on your contributions.
  • “T-shaped” employees – hire people with a broad range of skills that are also one of the best in their field within a narrow discipline (sounds a bit like The “Jack of all trades” department put into practice!).

Valve also lists what they think they could improve on (mentoring, predicting more than a few months away etc) which is very self-aware of them, could be interesting to discuss as well.

But what are you waiting for –¬†let me know when you read it, can’t wait to discuss it with you (and Jeff)!

And may all your TF2 hats be awesome,


Are you working on a train or on a plane?

Tomorrow I will take the train from Gothenburg to Stockholm with the rest of my department to visit our company HQ.

We ride by train primarily because it is cheaper than flying, but people often say that they like trains because you just get on the thing, find your seat and five minutes later you are on your way. It’s a calm environment (you can even ask to get placed in a silent carriage), you have access to phone, wi-fi internet and power outlets, and more space to stretch out than on a plane. And no disrupting co-workers either. In some ways, it is better than working in your office.

Why don’t people like working on planes then?

Well, for starters you have to get on the damn thing. Travel to an airport that can’t be placed in the middle of the city (unless of course, you fly from Gibraltar – the runway actually intersects the city center and you have to cross it to get from one part to the other, trust me – I’ve been there). Then you wait in line to check in and / or drop your bags, take of your shoes as you go through security (and you have to wait in line for that joyful experience), wait until the staff decides you waited long enough and lets you board the plane, wait in the tunnel to the aircraft since everyone wants to get on at the same time, wait while the guy in front of you struggles for ages stashing his enormous coat and hefty carry-on luggage (which he obviously bribed someone to get onboard, since that thing is massive) in the overhead compartment, only to squeeze into a seat that is slightly too small for comfort.

And then, finally, you get to open your laptop and get to wo…

“Sorry sir, no computers during landing or take-off”.

Ok, pick up your iPhone and…

“Sorry sir, no phones either. You have to turn it off.”

“But I have flight-mode on so it’s not connecte…”

“Doesn’t matter.”

Now sit through a safety demonstration demonstrating things you already know since you heard them a thousand times before – information that you probably never will have use for and if you do you certainly won’t remember to kick off your high heels before you jump down into the inflatable slide since the plane is now on fire and what shoes you are wearing is the least of your concerns right now (and yes, I always fly in high heels).

Takeoff! Now wait for the sign with the seatbelt to switch off. That is your sign that you can now start working. No seatbelt = work. Obviously.

Flip open your laptop, eager to get to work. Discover that you have no wi-fi, you forgot to charge your laptop so it has a whopping 8% power left (and you can’t plug in anywhere since all electricity is obviously used to keep the plane airborne) and you can’t call anyone (or even see if they called you). Now take out your pad and pencil and try to remember what you were supposed to work on, and struggle to remember facts that you could easily find the answer for in your inbox or by Googling if you only had internet access.

Then by divine intervention, mysteriously get into the groove and actually enter a state of flow where you are coming up with some of your best ideas ever (probably because of your retreat-like experience of media isolation on this airplane) – only to be interrupted by a stewardess asking if you want to have some bad coffee or some equally bad tea. Get your cup of useless coffee, look down on your notes trying to gather your thoughts again while chewing on your pencil, give up after five minutes and close your notebook in disgust.

Now, as a thought experiment:

Imagine that the plane is actually your office that is more than an hour away from your home,

the security check is all the times you need to swipe your card or show your tag to get inside,

all the waiting time is the friendly banter with co-workers that takes up half an hour at the beginning of each day,

the safety demonstration is the useless cross-department morning meeting that you have to attend each morning,

your undersized flight seat is your crappy office chair that hasn’t been adjusted to fit your work posture and should really have been replaced three years ago but the company was going through a rough patch that year so the chair budget was scrapped (and then management forgot to put it back in every single year after that),

the rule of no devices during take-off or landing is your company’s outdated IT policy that prevents you from using your iPad at work,

the lack of wi-fi is the routine update that your IT department performed last night that killed your internet access and won’t be solved until 4pm today

and the stewardess is that hypersocial girl from sales that ask everyone if they want to have coffee at 2:15pm each day and you feel obligated to drop everything and get in on the gossip to not get left behind.

So, are you working on a train or a plane?



PS. Next blog post: Snakes on a plane – how to survive in a hostile workplace… ūüėČ

Ambivalence, confusion, work and culture

Hi Matte,

Being my first post I can’t quite decide how to move forward in this very interesting open letter concept we have going here. I think I’ll response to one of your posts.

Finding your¬†Do I need my own desk? very interesting I would like share my view on the subject. I see the question boiling down to two parts: The level of creativity required by the work and the culture you and your¬†organization¬†want to foster.¬†Mixing things up, like people,¬†surroundings¬†and even¬†routine¬†might be¬†beneficial¬†for creative worker. For the less or none creative worker these things might be nothing but distractions and impediments. Further more, everybody is different, this is where the culture part comes in. If you want “free spirits” and people being creative all over the place (with everything), perhaps none personalized open spaces is the way to go. If you on the other hand want to deliver on time, on budget and according to the client’s¬†detailed specification, there is less value in people being be creative all over the place and maybe a more traditional approach will work better. Maybe.

Personally I like mixing things up, working from different locations, with different people, during different hours, following different processes and so forth. I think this has done good for me and my work (on smaller, more or less creative projects) the last 6-8 months. Working with you lately I’ve got more of a traditional office experience, in shorter bursts. This felt like the right working conditions for the job and I would not want to change it. Most working conditions seems to have their rightful place. Worth mentioning might be that I am not in a team and most people can probably not work like I do, but more probably could…

I feel like I’m rambling and my brain keeps reaching to the same conclusion over and over: “it depends” and everyone should do whatever they like, as long as they like it …If they don’t like it they should try something different and if they do like it …they should try something different.

Over and out,


Do I need my own desk?

Hi Kalle,

posting from Starbucks at 9pm while sipping on some green tea and waiting for the bus.

I know that the norm of the average office is that each employee gets assigned a desk when they start where they do most of their work until the day that they either leave or die (usually leave in most companies I hope).

However, since you are a globetrotter when it comes to working from everywhere (open offices, clients, cafes etc), I am beginning to question this practice, since it seems to be working well for you.

I read a really interesting article in Monocle a few months ago about a web agency that had open seating in their office for all their staff (think weird lounge areas, 6-tops, 8-tops, single desks etc) and only provided the staff with a personal locker to store their things safely in. I kinda wonder what the average employee would think about that practice (we, of course, are not average so our opinions don’t count). Don’t people wanna personalize their space? Isn’t there calm in the monotony of working from the same place every day but with different tasks? A solid foundation in a stormy world?

Second guessing someone else is always tough (I think I’ve argued against this practice on multiple occasions), so I have to step back to myself I guess. I think my initial reaction would be “cool! someone has really done some thinking about the space issue here” and I’d happily try it for a period of time. In the long run though – well, the jury is out on that one.

Freedom or confusion? Or just not that relevant? I don’t know – I just know I just made a good rant post.

Enjoy your weekend,