Why this CEO sits in the middle of his office
“If you want me, I’m right in the middle — not in the Ivory Tower somewhere just making decisions on high,” the SquareFoot CEO told Ladders recently.
The corner office was never going to work out for Jonathan Wasserstrum.
The SquareFoot CEO does things a little differently compared to typical CEOs. He doesn’t enjoy the corner office’s idyllic views or gets the presumed privacy, nor does he want to. He likes sitting in the thick of things.
If his employees need him, they know where to find him.
“If you want me, I’m right in the middle — not in the Ivory Tower somewhere just making decisions on high,” Wasserstrum told Ladders recently.
Wasserstrum has always sat in the middle of SquareFoot, a 50-person commercial real estate company founded in 2011 that helps companies find their next office space. He’s situated between multiple departments and benefits from hearing the chatter between the marketing and sales teams. It allows him to be more accessible and closer to the office conversation that he doesn’t feel he would get sitting in a corner, walled-off space.
“The goal of me sitting in the middle is not for me to hear what they’re doing on the weekend,” he said. “There are things for me to pay attention to that I pay attention to. My ears perk up. There have been four examples in the last month that I overheard something in the office that led to an actionable item for me and my leadership team. I wouldn’t have gotten that if I was in an office somewhere or not in the middle.”
Wasserstrum said he doesn’t advise clients to move their desks in the middle of their new offices, but it has become a trend as the traditional cubicle farms have become a thing of the past as the workplace slowly transitions to open-office designs.
“I don’t know how you would want to do it any other way,” he said.
The benefits of sitting in the middle, according to SquareFoot CEO Jonathan Wasserstrum
1. Accessibility: Not every employee takes advantage of it, but being there and being present is the first level. You can’t get to that second level stuff if you’re there. When you’re in the middle, you’re walking the walk, talking the talk.
2. Privacy still exists: Just because there are no walls blocking your space doesn’t mean there isn’t privacy. If you need a private moment, step into a conference room for 10 minutes or pop on some headphones.
3. You’re in the thick of things: You get to hear everything going on around. You’ll learn more about the day-to-day basis than you normally would from your weekly meetings with department heads. Being central keeps me in an information flow.