Open floor plans and coworking spaces killing productivity for San Francisco startups

It is becoming common for startups to ditch their own private office and gravitate towards a space with a shared open floor plan. However, many of these same companies see a reduction in productivity and end up folding within two years time. With San Francisco being the mecca of tech startups, coworking spaces are seeing a rise in tenants, while many spaces inside office buildings are being left vacant for 11+ months.

Working in the startup world, many find themselves bootstrapping it day in and day out. Eating noodles for meals, and living the life of luxury drinking La Croix throughout the day. Another part of the startup world which they might be familiar with is big, open and shared workspaces. Spaces with desks as far as the eye can see. Many early stage startups tend to open their first office location at these types of co-working spaces, as it give them a flexible work environment at an affordable rate.

However, many recent studies have found that open office spaces decrease production.(1)  Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, has said that “YC is strongly opposed to startups it backs moving in with others in co-working spaces or resident programs. He also added, “The main reason we are against that is that the data shows pretty strongly that most of the really big companies started with their own door. It’s so important for startups to get their culture right at the start. They need to feel unique and that they are on their own important mission in the world. It’s difficult to do that in a space with a lot of other startups.It’s hugely distracting.” (2)

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Employees tend to spend more time networking with other startups, spending more time around the coffee bar, and even helping solve other company problems. There has been much discussion on whether open office encourages or hinders productivity. Many argue open office spaces increases interaction and creativity, while others say it cripples company productivity and increases anxiety.  

As a startup we all make mistakes but your own private offices doesn’t have to be one of them. Open offices might sound like a great idea but the distractions of other companies can cripple your startups productivity and hurt your culture. At Birdnest, we we are here to help you start your company right the first time. Whether you are a company of 4 looking for your next office or company of 10, we have the the right space for your first HQ.


  1. Study Confirms Open Workspaces Decreases Collaboration
  2. Knock on coworking