Editor’s note: The Gates Foundation says the opening of an earlier version of this article, based on a New York Times article, incorrectly stated that the philanthropy had instituted a ban on whispering in its offices. For more on the Times‘ response, see reporting by the Puget Sound Business Journal. The Chronicle has revised the headline and opening to reflect the information provided by the Gates Foundation official, Chris Williams, who says “Gates Foundation employees are free to speak as softly or as loudly as they’d like in our office space.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation finds that its new $500-million Seattle headquarters is often too quiet, The New York Times reports.
That is one of the challenges in finding the right mix of both open and closed spaces for employees at the new headquarters, the newspaper said in a special report examining the 21st-century work space. The new 12-acre Gates campus seeks to balance both open spaces that encourage lively collaboration and private little nooks for quieter individual work and contemplation.
Critics question whether a foundation should spend hundreds of millions of dollars on such posh digs, but some employees say the new surroundings are helping inspire more productive ways of working.
“You hear people talking about something, and you realize it’s relevant to you,” Siri Oswald, a senior program officer at the foundation, says in the article. “And then you just seamlessly integrate into it without having to schedule a meeting.”
Alan White, a deputy director for Gates’s programs in the United States says the unusual space “changes your perspective of what’s possible.”
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