There are no walls--at least no permanent ones. The large, high-ceilinged workspace, with exposed heating ducts, concrete floors, and an "industrial" aesthetic, creates subdivisions only with sliding doors, curved plywood partial partitions, desks and other furniture, and shower curtains. Given that some 100 people are intently manning computer workstations and collaborating in various sub-groups, the noise level is surprisingly low.
There are no individual desks. People seem to have designated spots, but they're all at common tables shared by six or more co-workers, and people move around a lot, from big low rectangular tables to big high rectangular tables to small round high tables to small round low tables to couches to stools to chairs to Yoga balls.
|The revolution will not be leashed|
If there's any hierarchy, I can't see it. Regional managers, who are pretty close to the top of the Kiva "food chain," sit next to interns, and Fellows, mere volunteers, are allowed to wander at will. The corporate counsel, a tall, bright-faced woman of barely 30, looks more like an elementary school teacher than a lawyer. The CEO, a rail-thin Swiss man of maybe 50, wears sneakers, jeans, and a button-down shirt, and could hardly be more self-effacing or casual.
Dogs are welcome; one cinnamon-pelted husky-heavy mutt wanders the office most days in search of willing Fetch partners or head-scratchers.
|Let my people drink!|
The kitchen would not satisfy a compulsive cleaner, but food is shared and dishes attended to with reasonable alacrity and thoroughness without any apparent supervision. Though lunch becomes a lively social hour, eating at your desk, or in a small working group, is not uncommon.
Dress is very casual: on Monday, the president gave the closest we've come to a formal talk in jeans and a sport shirt, tails untucked. The next day he sat down at lunch with whoever happened to be around.
The closest anything comes to a private room is an enclosure with one glass wall and a sliding door. The only space without a glass wall is the "quiet work area," whose door never closes; looking a lot like an old-fashioned library, it features a life-size statue of Yoda.
|May the force of innovation be with you|
At the far opposite end of the space is a hammock room.
|How's it hangin'?|
|Don't fence me in|
Kiva staffers seem universally peppy, and private conversations have confirmed that while the pay is low, work conditions are commensurately low-key. Nonetheless, I can't believe that all this casualness comes without a price: 40 hours a week in front of a computer screen has a strong taint of drudgery, no matter how you package it, and nonprofits can be just as exploitative, in their own way, as any soulless corporation. Being noise-averse, and working best alone, I might struggle to be productive or happy at Kiva. Still, I wonder, if Kiva can accomplish so much with dogs and beer, why do the rest of us persist with neckties and closed doors? Is it possible for work to be too cozy?
|Rainbow of ideas|