Rooftop decks. Mindfulness zones. Sports bars.
This year’s finalists for the Geekiest Office Space in the GeekWire Awards have it all. These unique spaces create a powerful environment where workers feel comfortable to design new products that customers love.
Public voting is currently under way in all 14 categories in the GeekWire Awards, as GeekWire readers decide the winners from finalists selected by our panel of judges, after an open call for nominations from the community. This marks the final category in the Awards, so make sure to go here to cast your ballot in each of the 14 categories. Voting will conclude this Friday.
All of the winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — on May 4 at the Museum of Pop Culture. Tickets are selling fast, and we do expect to sell out, so go here to grab yours.
Make sure to cast your ballot for Geekiest Office Space — presented by Knoll — in the poll below. A big thanks to the team at Knoll, which spent the past few weeks touring our nominated companies, helping to come with with the five finalists below.
Here’s a look at the five finalists, with descriptions from Chelsea LaBelle of Knoll:
Chef: Massages, yoga sessions, self-defense classes, chiropractors, biometric scans, on-site flu shots… All in a day’s work, right? Not for most of us, but if it’s busy season at Chef’s Pioneer Square office, it just might be.
With unlimited paid time off, employees may be tempted to take some personal time every once in a while. On the flip side, Chef has gone to above-and-beyond measures to make their office feel like home.
With the goal of creating an “un-office,” they managed to create a professional space that felt more comfortable and casual than a traditional, buttoned-up working environment. Maximum transparency is a core value, evident through the executive team’s immersion into the open office environment and CEO Barry Crist’s fireside chats.
Connection is key to the way the office functions; collaborative spaces, hoteling stations, catered group lunches, and white board walls for idea-sharing are manifestations of their spirit of family. While remote employees use Slack and Zoom video technology to stay engaged, even Seattle employees will often videoconference so all employees feel equal, a quirk they’ve dubbed the “Brady Bunch feeling.”
Remote employees even receive a stipend to create their home offices to support how they work best, meaning the geekiness of Chef’s space knows no bounds.
Facebook: Since the opening of its Seattle engineering outpost on Seattle’s Dexter Ave. North, the Frank Gehry-designed location has been well-liked by the masses.
In the spirit of connectedness, open collaboration spaces are a big focus and design element throughout the space, down to all eight rooftop decks overlooking downtown Seattle and Lake Union. Substantial staircases act as both a design feature and means of increasing flow throughout the office and have been nicknamed the “Harry Potter Stairs,” because frankly, the resemblance is uncanny. Natural materials, exposed ductwork, and lots of greenery make for an environment that feels connected to the outside world.
One contextual element that only Facebook can get away with: the Facebook wall. Unlike users’ personal Facebook walls, this one is a real, writable wall, where employees share their thoughts. It’s a gimmick too good not to play up… Much like their cafeteria, “Like Place Market.”
Payscale: If you happen upon Payscale on a Friday afternoon, which is more than likely given its proximity to both Safeco and CenturyLink fields, you will likely be greeted by the dogs of Fido Friday and a cold Manny’s. You may be tempted to stick around the entry, where beer taps and shuffleboard may distract you. Keep going.
Though Payscale’s roots are in Pioneer Square, they’ve just recently taken on their whole new office space in 2016. With teams situated on several floors, you’d expect some degrees of separation. Between the massive, transformable communal space in the entry and the unique elements of each floor, Payscale has ensured that is not the case.
Traveling between floors you’ll notice that each floor has different luxury coffees available and a different type of community-focused game, encouraging employees to move and talk to one another through the day. The character of each floor was apparent; while one had remnants of Halloween’s Harry Potter decor (“our Halloweens have taken on a life of their own”), another featured a desk half-devoted to an extensive liquor collection. Different still, the entire first floor sits under a series of flags, each representing employee’s alma maters.
The resounding themes: transparency, openness, and connectedness. Payscale celebrates its employees, their work, and from just across the street, every Seattle sports victory.
Salesforce: One would be hard pressed to find an office better suited for its employees than Salesforce’s Bellevue hub. At first glance, it’s undeniably a beautiful place to work; it’s a bright and welcoming environment with views of Bellevue from every vantage point. Not a hard sell.
A closer look, however, revealed an endless slew of amenities that made it clear that Salesforce does not take employee wellness lightly.
The resounding theme of “Ohana” comes from CEO and Founder Marc Benioff’s love for Hawaii, where he incidentally was first inspired to create Salesforce. Ohana, meaning family, is deep at the root of the whole workplace plan, which incorporates everything from on-site tech support to a full-time, professional coffee bar to ensure employees are never left wanting. It’s difficult to walk 20 feet without spotting a large monitor where team members can connect with other locations, and to drive home the sense of community and equality, every employee sits in the bullpen-style open office, no matter their rank.
While the open office was designed in such a way to encourage collaboration, Salesforce established “no meeting Thursday” to ensure that employees aren’t getting too bogged down by meetings and interruptions. From a wellness angle, no offering was off the table.
Mindfulness rooms were accessible from every floor, and employees use the app “Comfy” to input their temperature preferences based on their location. To keep employees inspired and engaged, “Paid Time On” was also implemented, encouraging employees to work on side projects while at work to spark creativity. There is no doubt that Salesforce takes care of its Ohana. More on Salesforce’s office here: Inside Salesforce’s new 70K square-foot Bellevue office: Mindfulness zones, social spaces, and more
Vicis: Vicis turns the classical idea of what is geeky on its head, using technology to reinvent a different kind of headgear: the football helmet.
Being in Vicis’ lower Queen Anne office feels slightly surreal. 3D printers and testing equipment stand in stark contrast to the clean white interior, somewhat reminiscent of a sci-fi film, but with all the energy and character of a tech startup.
Having emerged from backgrounds in sporting goods and medical technology, their team tackles the dire need for advancement in football helmet technology by looking at the issue from all sides. Their open office creates opportunity for team members working on different elements of the same product to engage; only about 80 feet and a sea of helmets separates a Product Developer from “Doctor Scientist” (pictured) in the 3D Proto Lab, allowing the team to bring new parts to life instantaneously.
If you’re ever in the neighborhood, you’ll notice a sign near the outside door stating that the office is, “protected by Brinks, video surveillance, crazy loud alarms, sneaky silent alarms, and the powers of math, science and deductive reasoning.”
Whether their geekiness is a certifiable power of protection or not, Vicis’ passion for elevating the game makes their office feel like an exhibit of their work, in a way. You heard it here first: football is officially geeky.