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A Detroit company is reinventing the “open office”—by making it actually open to the public

Vickie Elmer
How open is your office?
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

You’ve heard the case against the open office. They are noisy and distracting and more likely to share flu germs. But what if offices were really open, as in, to everyone?

dPop, an interior design studio in downtown Detroit is redefining the term “open office” by inviting in strangers, customers, and friends to work in its eclectic office. Its name, appropriately enough, stands for People, Office and Places.

About once a month, anyone can bring a laptop or tablet into its 13,385-square foot quarters shared with a handful of other companies. Besides space, dPop provides coffee and internet. Guests may even get a chance to work in the vault, formerly a bank vault, or share some beers from dPop’s stash.

“It brings a great energy to the space,” says CEO Melissa Price. “More people, more energy.”

Another goal: Show off the quirky design of its offices, complete with an astronaut suit, a full-size horse statue, saddles on sawhorses as short-term seating, plenty of hot pink pillows and more.

Most visitors are strangers who have heard about dPop and want to see it. “Many of our stranger guests have actually become clients—or we’ve become their clients—due to connections made during a Workeasy,” as the experiment is known, says Andrew Lemanek, who chose the dPop title of “cosmic lint guardian.” (He works in graphic design and social media, among other areas.)

The idea for open offices started last fall during the four-day Detroit Design Festival where clients and media and others needed a place to “squat for a day” or two, Price said.

The company is part of the Quicken Loans family of businesses, and one of the entities in its space is the Quicken’s facilities staff, which Price also heads.

So how many show up? On the snowiest of days, dPop hosted about five people, and in brighter better weather, it brought in 30 guests. The offer to join the office is advertised on FacebookTwitter or from friends who work there.

dPop is among a small cadre of companies that sees power in opening itself up. Some co-working spaces hold open office hours, including DropLabs, which matches guests with mentors and experts.

MongoDB, a document database company, holds open office hours in Dublin, London, Palo Alto, and elsewhere so its engineers can answer users questions in person. Some Google offices also stage community office hours to help nonprofits and small businesses while promoting its own products.

Very few, though, bring people in for an entire day without screening or careful limits. Isn’t there a fear of letting in just anyone? dPop has never had a security issue. Says Lemanek: “We’ve got a locked door that only opens when guests state the password, and we’ve got security cameras etcetera all over the place.”

In February, Ryan O’Hara, owner of Sphinx Technology Solutions and a friend of a dPop staffer, came in to work for a change of pace. Between the coffee, the decor, and the music, says O’Hara, “I probably got a lot more done that day than a typical day” working from home.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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