What do horizontal workplaces look like?

In horizontal workplaces, everyone’s involved in making decisions. There’s no clear chain of command from top to bottom; responsibility is shared across the workplace, and everyone’s got an equal say. Because everyone’s got the same amount of influence, they’re usually also expected to contribute an equal amount of time, energy, and dedication.

An economy of horizontal workplaces is more about democratising power and influence than it is about assessing the optimum way of matching skill to output. One structure would be a workers’ cooperative: the only people who can own and manage an organisation are the workers themselves, and everyone’s got an equal say. A slightly more flexible option is a member’s cooperative, where you don’t have to be an employee to be a member, but most employees generally are. Again, every member’s got equal decision-making power.

A collective is a slightly different story: each member is self-employed, but the organisation is there to facilitate a skillshare or collaboration towards a certain shared goal - almost like a shared workplace for people with common interests and aspirations.

Instead of a single organisation, a non-hierarchical workplace could also be a flat network - basically a group of individuals or organisations who work towards a certain shared goal, none of whom have decision-making power over the other but by virtue of being in the network are committed to sharing resources, values, and processes.

The same way that the culture of a hierarchical workplace reflects the structure of power in the company, horizontal workplaces often try and reflect the culture of their day to day as well. Office spaces might be open-plan, there’s often be less formality around things like the way members address each other or present themselves, and people often work with consensus-based decision making, where groups work towards a decision that everyone is happy with rather than favouring a majority over a minority.