As children, we're often inspired by the adventures that could await us with the discovery of a hidden room. Fantasy worlds exist behind secret doors (Harry Potter's Diagon Alley, and the Hogwarts Express through a hidden platform entrance, and The Chronicles of Narnia, to name two), just waiting to whisk us away from the mundane, the uneventful, or even the awful. So it's no wonder that even as adults, we have an affinity for secret spaces. They're beginning to take hold in the working world, too, and every employee who knows about it loves to be in on the secret.

Secrets Bring a Sense of Adventure

Perhaps the rise of the open office makes a secret room that much more attractive. Many employees report the increased feeling of being watched in an open office plan than in a space where physical boundaries give people their own domain. In an open office that is largely transparent--café-style seating, collaboration-focused furniture arrangements, glass walled conference rooms, and big, sweeping atriums--a hidden room can feel like an escape from too much scrutiny or exposure to the hustle and bustle of a busy company.

Some might say in a time when space is an expensive commodity, a hidden room isn't the wisest use of square footage, or they're simply a stroke to the ego of the C-suite who might keep the existence of such space exclusively for themselves. But companies now are using hidden rooms for all manner of purposes and they're sharing the key (or the right book to pull to release the hidden catch) with their employees.

Hidden Space with Focus

Hidden rooms are being set up for that much needed quiet place many open office employees so desperately need. Secret rooms can become meditation rooms, lactation rooms, a game room or reading room, a place to make private phone calls and more.

Capital One's San Francisco-based Digital Lab put a staff-only hidden room behind a bookcase for a unique place to hold meetings, to find quiet time, or any other kind of oasis employees might need.

For Sonos, wireless speakers are their bread and butter, so it makes complete sense that their Boston offices would sport a secret state-of-the-art listening room hidden behind a bookcase.

Inspire With a Little Bit of Whimsy

For employers looking to give their workers a little inspiration or a taste of fresh discovery, a hidden room can be a fantastic recruiting tool. Secret rooms are a little playful, an acknowledgement that sometimes the best work doesn't happen in a static office environment, and a way of imparting a company's gratitude to hard working employees and the clients who do business with them.

Sometimes, celebration is in order. That's the point of the hidden speakeasy in Czarnowski & Jones Commercial Interiors' Plano, Texas offices. The design marketing firm knew they wanted to transport employees and clients alike from the studied, focused environment of the office into a softer, more relaxed place where conversation flows easier, the space is more intimate, and employees and visitors are given their own secret cubby away from the frenetic pace of office life. They even gave their secret speakeasy its own name: Club Czar, where everything is branded specifically to distinguish it from the rest of the office space. Czarnowski & Jones begins of every new client relationship with a celebration in Club Czar to commemorate the onset of the new business journey they'll embark on together.

For investment management company Makuria in London, they didn't bother putting a specific purpose on their hidden room, located behind a bookcase in the kitchen. It is simply a secret hideout, where employees can go for a few minutes of quiet time in an otherwise hectic day, or to concentrate when distractions in the rest of the office abound. 

Not Just For Executives Anymore

In the past, these secret hideouts of posh, luxurious space were the well-kept purview of only the VIPs of the company, and were often hidden bars, restaurants, or even private bathrooms. 

LinkedIn's New York City office is located on the 28th floor of the Empire State Building. When they worked with Interior Architects to design the space, they specifically asked for an "amenity floor" that includes a speakeasy hidden behind a wall on which 133 old rotary phones are displayed. (It has to be seen to be believed.) Employees who know the right phone handset to lift and replace are granted access to a room that seems a step back in time to a slower pace, and is more relaxed than the sales offices, which are closest. While the speakeasy is just part of a floor they call the "club level" that boasts billiards tables and a screening room, its super-secret entrance makes the hidden room feel like a private oasis available to all employees. At least, those who know which telephone receiver to lift, knowledge that is passed from coworker to coworker by word-of-mouth.

Hidden rooms in the office don't have to be a well-kept secret to be an adventure and make employees feel like they're in on the secret. It can boost employee morale to know they're trusted with these rooms that were once jealously guarded by only the upper echelon of the company. By opening these secret doors to every employee, companies are reconnecting their people to that sense of adventure we had as children, where anything is possible.

Published on: Sep 13, 2019
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