Beyond Open Offices: The New Fog Creek Headquarters
Putting employees first is always at the heart of how we create great places to work.
The new Fog Creek Software office is meant for our staff to do their best work and feel comfortable and creative while doing it. With high ceilings, an open floor plan, and a killer view of the Financial District and Bowling Green Park, the new space is not only inspiring and beautiful, but as a nod to our history, it’s also experimental. To understand this better, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
In The Beginning, There Was Joel
We moved into our first real office, dubbed the “Bionic Office”, at 535 8th Avenue in New York City back in 2003. Our co-founder Joel Spolsky worked with architect Roy Leone to design a space where Fog Creek workers could thrive and work alongside their co-workers while still maintaining privacy.
Office space seems to be the one thing that nobody can get right and nobody can do anything about. There’s a ten year lease, and whenever the company moves the last person anybody asks about how to design the space is the manager of the software team, who finds out what his new veal-fattening pens, uh, cubicle farm is going to be like for the first time on the Monday after the move-in.
Well, it’s my own damn company and I can do something about it, so I did.
One of the primary features of this space was ensuring that our developers had private offices with closing doors. According to Joel, these offices were key to improving programmer productivity, were absolutely required, and not up for negotiation.
Not only did we get spacious, windowed private offices, but even the common area workstations (for non-developers) are hidden in clever angular alcoves, so everyone gets their own private space without line of sight to anyone else.
Having an office space that worked for employees was so important to Joel that he took a hands-on role in the office’s overall creation, having a say in office elements like power, wiring, and the common areas to create the ultimate software development environment.
Fog Creek continued growing over the years after that, eventually taking over the entire floor of the original office. But after five years, it was time to find a bigger space. After a grueling search, we found our next office home nearly all the way downtown at 55 Broadway. The new space was such a hit that we were even covered in The New York Times.
New Office, Same Neighborhood
A lot of changes happened during the years at 55 Broadway, but we also kept a few ideas from our original space. Joel still had a hands-on role in both layout and construction, we retained private offices for our developers, and we provided a space large enough for our daily team lunches. To get the best sense of how much detail went into this space, watch the video below and see how it all came together.
One of the biggest changes at Fog Creek was that the number of our remote workers increased to make up two-thirds of our workforce. Also, two of the most successful projects we’ve worked on — Trello and Stack Overflow — grew large enough to become independent companies.
“As they grew and we grew, it got a little cozy,” says Anil Dash, CEO of Fog Creek.
“It was just time for us to stand on our own again. As we refocused on our products, we really thought about what a great headquarters would look like now for a company that is so focused on being great for remote people too.”
We moved office spaces in 2017, but we didn’t go far — our new headquarters at 75 Broad Street is just a half mile away and has picturesque views of Bowling Green Park and The New York Stock Exchange from our lovely 19th floor private terrace.
So what’s different about this new space?
Working on How We Work
“The old space was built when the entire company was based in headquarters,” Anil mentions. “That was sort of a different era. And similarly, back then our founders would talk a lot about programmers and coders and what they needed, which is an office with a door that closes. That’s still part of our ethos, but half the company are not coders.”
With our developers, sales team, and C-level executives working from the same space, taking different work styles into consideration is important. Some of these tasks require intense concentration, while others are more conversational and collaborative with your co-workers. To that end, there are some ideas we kept from previous office spaces.
“I think there was a very strong expectation among the members of our technical staff that coders would have an office with a door that closes. That was always a very big part of our public face of what Fog Creek is to the world. And the research is pretty clear that it is a massive booster of productivity for people in those kinds of technical roles. So we didn’t want to compromise on that at all.”
But the new office also includes a variety of work spaces that accommodate different work modes. Anil mentioned personal offices for standalone work, but they also work well for collaborative work like pair programming. There are workstations for independent or individual co-working, and phone booths for external communication such as sales calls or podcast appearances. There’s also our conference room — known as the “quiet car” — which can be used across a number of different work modes. And true to the nature of our office being flexible and experimental, we are already re-configuring some of these spaces based on how we use them.
“I think we have made [the office] a much more malleable space. We have a lot more plans to sort of shift things around, even so far as being able to entertain here. We’d never really designed our old place to be able to have guests and have people hold events and all that sort of stuff. And all of that is on the road map for us now.”
The Future of Fog Creek
“I think just at a high level, work space really matters. It’s a fundamental part of how you take care of your people, and we have always been leaders on that. When the bar is set that high, you really have to get it right. And so we have always taken this really, really seriously. And at the same time, we have a lot of fun with it.”
And speaking of fun, we can’t forget about our lovely terrace. Once it’s up and running later in the year, we expect it to be a wonderful place for collaborative work. It will also be the centerpiece of our office as we host events, visitors, and other guests.
“There are a lot of companies in New York that have a lot of great ideas, and we are hoping to be able to invite them over, get to know each other, and figure out what we can learn from each other …and also just be good neighbors,” says Anil.
As the company has grown and changed over the years, so has our office space. Joel’s grand visions for what a work environment should do for employees have been part of Fog Creek from the very beginning, and we have tried to honor that legacy. We also have plenty of plans for the future, and look forward to continuing our tradition of incubating new teams and ideas from within our company and beyond.
“I think the fact that there’s so much personality and history in everything we do is really motivating. It’s become a very great space.”