Workspace: Inside Acquia’s new digs, no one has an office

The lobby is dominated by a two-floor wall of video monitors that can be configured to display different images.  (Globe Staff Photo/Jim Davis)
The lobby is dominated by a two-floor wall of video monitors that can be configured to display different images. (Globe Staff Photo/Jim Davis)

When the Web software company Acquia moved to downtown Boston from its former home in Burlington, chief executive Tom Erickson’s interest in the look and feel of the new headquarters didn’t stop at his own office.

In fact, Erickson doesn’t even have an office. Like just about everyone else, he’s got a desk out in the open, along the banks of windows at Acquia’s two-floor headquarters in the Exchange Place building on State Street.

“That’s despite many attempts by people who said, `I need an office because I deal with blah blah blah,’” Erickson noted with a smile.

 

Instead of coveted closed-door executive enclaves, Acquia’s new office makes lots of room for collaboration. That means plenty of touches that might seem more at home in a trendy apartment or corner coffee shop: couches and chairs covered with bright fabric, executive meeting rooms with low tables and relaxed seats, and cushioned nooks cut into the walls where workers can plop down with a laptop.

Erickson said ideas from Japanese and European office design helped influence Acquia’s new space, which houses about half of its roughly 650 worldwide employees. That includes the focus on collaborative workspaces and the emphasis on desks near the office’s windows, increasing employees’ exposure to natural light.

“That isn’t something that we talk about a lot in the US, but when you travel around Europe and other places it’s found,” he said.

There are some high-tech touches too, befitting Acquia’s role as a provider of website software for publishers, e-commerce companies, and government agencies.

The office’s lobby is dominated by a two-floor wall of video monitors that can be configured to show an abstract design or a series of individual images. Lighting in the elevator foyer has a nightclub feel and constantly changes colors — it might be orange one moment, and blue the next.

A conference room tucked just behind that video wall has one of the most startling features: Its “smart glass” walls, which look a bit foggy at first, become completely opaque, white-frosted barriers with the flick of a switch.

“We wanted to create a wow factor,” Erickson said. “You should come in and say, ‘This is not a normal company.’”

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