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Omaha Magazine

Productive Unproductivity

Dec 08, 2015 10:05AM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman

Walking into Omaha strategy, branding, and design company Grain & Mortar is akin to visiting a friend’s condo.

“We wanted it to feel like home,” says Kristin DeKay, who co-owns Grain & Mortar with her husband, Mike. “We have TVs in here, and a lot of times I’ll come in on weekends and see people playing video games or watching TV. We encourage people to use it like their home.”

The company certainly believes in their work-life combination. Their office is a place where one can lounge in an informal area with a laptop as well as sit at a conference desk. The furniture is all handcrafted or repurposed.


Windows abound in this building, whether near the top of the wall or in the glass garage door on the side of the office.

“Using natural light makes things look professionally lit,” Mike says. “It makes you almost feel like you’re outside. I love the clerestory windows at the top.”

“It’s just a better working environment.” Kristin adds. “Personally, I like being outdoors and in the sun, so a lot of times I’ll bring my laptop over here and work,” she says in motioning to a couch near the kitchen area.

That garage door is also opened to roll out the grill for company barbecues and other events.

Art director Miranda Bouck appreciates having a home away from home.

“It’s great to work with people you consider friends and family, because you spend 40 hours a week here,” Bouck says.

In keeping with the personal-professional merge, the company gives employees free range to determine their own time needs.

“Everyone has a flexible schedule,” Kristin says. “If you need a break you take a break. We give unlimited vacation. We only ask that they get their work done.”


Even when it is time to relax, the office staff often hang out as a group.

“Sometimes we’ll play frisbee together outside. You’ll see people walk around together,” Kristin says.

“There are occasions where we will stop working early, crack open a couple of beers, and hang out for a bit,” Bouck says. “I really enjoy that.”

The company designed individual work spaces for efficiency and good health.

Grain-&-Mortar-4“We have pods with standing desks,” Mike says. “The pods are two desks bumped up next to each other so the two desks make a square. Both people face each other, but the person across from you can’t be seen because the monitors are in the way. It’s an efficient way of using the space.”

“We put a lot of thought into the desks because sitting all day is not good,” Kristin adds.

When people do sit, they often perch near others to let the creative juices flow.

“We have a lot of spaces where you can just sit down and collaborate,” says Kristin. “There’s a lot of so-called unproductivity but we are actually being productive because we are creating as we collaborate.”

“With having pods we can walk in-between each other and shave seconds off of your walk time to have easier collaboration,” Mike says.

No matter where the staff lands to work, the low-key, homey atmosphere helps their employees to be their best.

“This place breeds creativity,” Bouck says.

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