A knowledge worker's cubicle is his (or her) castle. Unfortunately, most cubicles make for pretty drab castles.
When Xperts Inc., a fast-growing it consulting outfit, moved to new digs just outside Richmond, Virginia in June 1999, a team of employees proposed something new: They should be allowed to decorate their work spaces to suit their own tastes. So they were each given stipends of up to $1,500 to cover the cost of paint, furniture, materials, and, if necessary, the advice of an interior decorator.
"My dad owns a big company down the road," says William Tyler, 38, Xperts's founder. "It's an expensive setup, antiques everywhere. And it leaves you cold, because it's not yours."
Tyler's own office has a certain "men's club" appeal, what with the oriental rugs on the floor and the stuffed dead animals on the walls. (Tyler is, after all, the great-grandson of John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States; the man has standards to uphold.) But just down the corridor, Kendall Tyler (no relation), director of sales, technical staffing, has gone for an ethereal, underwater motif, replete with mermaid statuettes and brightly sponge-painted walls accented with glitter. Across the hall, Ellen von Reiser, director of systems and operations, who once studied classical art, has filled her office with Greek busts and swag curtains accented with clusters of grapes.
William Tyler believes that allowing workers to create their own space has made them more loyal. It's been nine months, in fact, since anyone has left the 120-person outfit. The generous decorating policy at Xperts is a small part of a larger point: Companies do best when they recognize that employees are real people, with identities and lives outside of work. "When you're allowed to make something yours," says sales supervisor Kay Larkin, "it makes you feel more part of the company."
Learn more about Xperts on the Web (www.xperts.com).
A version of this article appeared in the September 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.