Slack’s head of workplace design thinks open floor plans “suuuck”

Slack’s Dublin offices. [Photo: Slack]

Slack’s Dublin offices. [Photo: Slack]

Slack is the ubiquitous digital tool that’s making our workplaces virtual. Thanks to its hyper-efficient chat room software, telecommuting has never been easier. Which is why it may come as a surprise that Slack is paying particular attention to its physical office design, too. Kristy Tillman is Slack’s head of workplace experience design, and she is thinking about how people at Slack work beyond the Slack window itself.

Tillman is also a judge for our 2019 Innovation by Design Awards (get in your entries by May 10!). And so we sat down with her to talk about her career, her role at Slack, and what it’s like to use Slack at Slack.

Kristy Tillman  [Photo: courtesy Kristy Tillman]

Kristy Tillman [Photo: courtesy Kristy Tillman]

Fast Company: So you spent some time at Ideo, you build a millennial investment brandwith Mass Mutual. Then you wind up at Slack. You started in their communications department, but quickly landed this gig around the workplace. So . . . what do you do? What questions are you asking at Slack?

Kristy Tillman: Right now I think about a couple of things: How do we build standards around buildings and offices? What experiments have we tried in architectural phases to tweak and make offices better for our employees? How do we service our guests and our employees from a design-thinking perspective? That’s been really, very challenging for me.

We have a big workplace vision we’ll be able to start to make and understand how our employees are really using our spaces and operations. One of the big things I’ll do in the next quarter is our first workplace foundational study where we’ll survey the entire global workforce and get a system of analysis . . . what new phases we need to build? What new services we need to offer as we scale?

FC: There’s a certain irony of being at Slack, this digital business company, and focusing on built environments, no?

KT: It would be a lost opportunity if we didn’t–if we said we’d change the way people worked digitally, it would be a lost opportunity to not be interrogating ourselves internally! It’s my opinion, and I think lots of people’s opinion, that one of the best ways to sell Slack will obviously be having an internal culture that is a shining example. And I think that one of our advantages will be we use Slack [as an example], here’s how it affected us, here are the processes we put in place, workflows we have, innovations we use, to make operations more efficient, handle security, or triage medical emergencies. [I want to] be the best example of a culture when people come to visit us.

FC: Is it a tough sell doing this work inside Slack?

KT: Honestly, things that the Workplace team works on have the best ability to leave an indelible mark on Slack. The workplace teams in most companies are not tasked with this type of work. They’re more like facilities, make sure the lights are on, we have lunch. So any way you can contribute to operational efficiency is [hugely important].