Awesome Tech offices and Why They Matter

Our HWZ team traversed various offices of known tech companies – our collection of office stories spill the beans, be it alluring décor, revolutionary cultures, or just old-school cool. By Team Hardwarezone

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Our HWZ team traversed various offices of known tech companies – our collection of office stories spill the beans, be it alluring décor, revolutionary cultures, or just old-school cool. By Team Hardwarezone

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1. Culture is to recruiting, as product is to marketing:
 the HubSpot code
1. Culture is to recruiting, as product is to marketing: the HubSpot code
2. Deconstructing Airbnb: Every Frame Matters
2. Deconstructing Airbnb: Every Frame Matters
3. Is Google’s new HQ the most amazing office in Singapore?
3. Is Google’s new HQ the most amazing office in Singapore?
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Culture is to
recruiting, as
product is to
marketing: the
HubSpot code
That’s one of the key tenets of HubSpot’s culture code. Yes, the company actually has one, and it takes it very seriously. Step into HubSpot’s newly-opened Singapore office, and it’s clear that this is another one of those slick
tech workplaces for savvy millennials (strange creatures that popular opinion says just work differently from people
born before 1980). But HubSpot isn’t just another run-of-the-mill tech company with a shiny sheen to it. For those wondering about what exactly it is HubSpot does, here’s the lowdown: the company works on its own inbound marketing – a term that encompasses things like content marketing, blogs, SEO and social media – platform to help its clients attract visitors and grow. This is a company that has been mired in its own share of controversy, but that has worked hard to move past it and improve. Avid readers may recognize that this is the same company that former Newsweek journalist Dan Lyons implicated in his book Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we believed that there actually are companies where everyone was perfectly content. If you need another example, just check out The New York Times’ bruising feature on Amazon’s supposedly brutal workplace culture. There were those who wasted no time in denouncing Amazon as an unforgiving place to work at, while others dismissed these claims as mere fiction. The point is that you simply can’t
make everyone happy. We’re not making excuses for HubSpot, but the company’s focus on its unique culture seems particularly appropriate at a time when many are wondering how to find stability and satisfaction in the 21st-century economy. Maybe HubSpot isn’t the place for you, but here’s also why it just may be.
SingSpot, for that local splash of
Alright, call us superficial, but this is a really nice office. Instead of white-washed walls and soul-sucking cubicles, you’re greeted by warm, earthy tones — and plenty of wooden paneling — that somehow manage to convey a sense of dynamism that so many startups prize. But the most compelling thing is probably the effort HubSpot has made to impart some local flavor to the office decor. Singapore has thrived as a maritime port, and the office features booths that have been styled after – you guessed it – shipping containers.
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Anyone can come here to work, collaborate, or just sip a beer poured from the tap in the pantry (yes, really), and it’s a pretty nice touch if we may say so. Local employees even got to name the office. They went with the name SingSpot, which if we’re being honest, isn’t the most creative name. That being said, it does have a certain folksy appeal to it. And that beer tap we mentioned? It’s located right beside a literal candy bar of sorts, where employees can head to satiate any cravings for sweets. Glucose is fuel for the brain after all. There’s even a dedicated game room, complete with an old-school arcade machine and a PlayStation 4 gaming console, for employees to go to unwind. After seeing all that, we weren’t even surprised to learn that everyone gets a standing desk at their workstation. The height is adjustable with a simple push of a button, and we can imagine that this will help a lot with those of you who find yourself struggling to stay awake at your desks after lunch.
Purpose is what brings people
HubSpot claims it’s best for people with plenty of initiative, and who value individual autonomy. We had the opportunity to speak with JD Sherman, President and Chief Operating Officer at HubSpot, who told us about how the company believes in letting employees explore their own ideas. To use his words, there will still be certain “guard rails” up, but workers will otherwise not be constrained by any strict dictates. Referencing HubSpot’s culture code, Sherman also emphasized the fact that purpose is what brings people together now. In the past, employees were motivated by things like a pension, but workers today are more apt to seek out like-minded folks who are working toward a similar goal. It should also come as no surprise that HubSpot is big on allowing its employees a generous degree of flexibility. This is definitely not the place for those who enjoy working within welldefined dictates and are accustomed to conforming to strict hierarchies and instructions. In a sense, HubSpot embodies the
21st-century workplace, where the traditional divides between work and life are melting away. One of the more intriguing aspects of the firm is its unlimited vacation policy. That is exactly what it sounds like, and employees don’t have to bother with things like how to properly distribute their allotted vacation days. What’s more, employees
who have spent five years with the company will be granted a one month sabbatical. At first blush, that probably sounds like a dream, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will thrive under such conditions. HubSpot is extremely resultsoriented, so it requires disciplined and driven individuals who can work on their own to deliver tangible gains.
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Airbnb: Every
Frame Matters
The local Airbnb compound isn’t a tiny Cecil Street service office filled with customer service experts – it actually
compromises three generous levels that are connected via a central staircase. Every level houses different departments that keep the app fully operational in a local context, but its employees enjoy flex space; your average Airbnb staff is not expected to be strictly housed within their department’s seating space. Each employee gets a personal locker to store their valuables, and they are free to pick any seat within the office. All three levels also have their own sprawling pantries stocked with food and drinks. The main cafeteria is incorporated into its reception area, and it greets visitors and employees alike. The outdoor patio hosts community BBQ nights with Singapore-based Airbnb hosts, as well as companybonding karaoke nights where the employees would break out their karaoke machine to croon until the stars are out.
A Hosting Habit
The office décor was done by FARM, and the interior designers adopted a series of local flavors that helped to blend into the firm’s core values. Like Twitter’s enclave, you can find HDBstyled elements that make up most of
the office’s mood – the central staircase blends with its stylized ventilation blocks, and the flights of stairs uses a bright Ebisu (an Airbnb-made neon orange shade) with railings you would see in older HDB estates and public
spaces. By and large, the Airbnb office expounds their beliefs that drive the accommodations booking app’s work ethos. “Every frame matters” to them, and this is seen from how they value each employee, as well as the local
Airbnb host community who lists their stylish apartments on their app (hence the BBQ nights). You’ll find Airbnb’s habits within their walls, such as the photo frame storyboard that depicts the journey of an Airbnb guest juxtaposed against the progression of a host’s. Every other wall has a portrait of notable hosts from various countries. Each portrait tells a story, and it features a wide range of people – elderly parents with an empty yet hospitable room left behind by their adult children, a single mother, and even a father that makes all guests spend an hour with his toddler daughter to broaden her horizons.
Driving the staff with spirit animals
For the employees of Airbnb, they get a mixture of shared and personal spaces with different table layouts and plenty of private booths for conversations or work, on top of 15 meeting rooms available for booking. Each department is assigned a spirit animal that best showcases the values they want to exude. For example, the customer experience team gets a giraffe, which pays homage to the tale of the Ritz- Carlton giraffe where the hotel’s staff pampers a guest’s misplaced toy giraffe,
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before returning to its rightful owner. The local Airbnb team had full creative control on how their meeting rooms should look like, and its employees opted for them to emulate the most popular Airbnb listings around the world. For instance, the Bangkok meeting room is a spiritual clone of a modern listing that featured a colorful bookshelf with an Astro Boy figurine, while the Colombo meeting room uses the same Sri Lankan furniture found in the listing it took after. On that note, Auckland meeting room has a fire place peppered with fairy lights, and Cappadocia features rock walls and wooden floors. Not only is every meeting room unique, each room is carefully done by the hands of the Airbnb staff themselves. There are another two non-bookable meeting rooms for brainstorming (aptly called the Left Brain and Right Brain), and a secret library that hides itself using a revolving bookshelf entrance.
Not your average workplace
Chances are, you’ll also find other like-minded people working here, as Airbnb accommodates folks with shared interests. In their Social Corner, workers can align themselves to the interest clubs they have. To promote bonding between fellow workers, one of the three pantries is fully equipped to encourage people to have their breakfast together too – the food is supplied by local businesses, so they don’t need to agonize over what to eat while socializing. Like their office and app culture, Airbnb hires passionate collaborators who love meeting new people. Their interviews are no stranger to personality typecasting, since Airbnb believes that a balanced mix of personalities is what helps the app cater to an equally wide gamut of guests and hosts. Also, it takes large doses of passion to layout and decorate your office’s meeting rooms while getting your duties done – something that the average white-collar wouldn’t get to do.
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Is Google’s new HQ the
most amazing office in
Google moved their Singapore HQ from Asia Square 1 to Mapletree Business City II, and it’s a big upgrade. The Asia- Pacific headquarters spans the entirety of blocks 60 to 70, from the third to eighth floors, and now employs approximately 1,000 people. I had a sneak preview of their new office just a couple of weeks after they moved in, and it is stupendous. What you’re about to see next may very well be the most amazing office in Singapore. Just to note, I visited the week of Deepavali, so there were rangoli (floor decoration) displays around the office. I was told that the staff would regularly put up holiday-appropriate decorations during the year. Google has a giant assembly of screens, making it the first thing you see as you pass reception. Its large atrium actually connects blocks 60 and 70, and the open spaces were designed to encourage serendipitous encounters between staff. Canteens and cafes are also centrally located, so everyone will come to the spacious middle to mingle. Google’s corporate colors are sprinkled throughout the design of the building. The blue, red and orange glass panels here reveal meeting rooms inside; the ability to see inside them repeat the atrium’s sense of openness and transparency. The top floor also opens out to natural sunlight, not only opening up but also brightening the space. You can work anywhere at
Google – if you feel like working right beside reception today, you can simply claim that chair and work from there.
The smart LED lights in their corridor can be programmed to say anything Google wants, like a warm “Welcome”
message for VIP guests. Thinking about smart offices, I asked if any of the rooms here were hooked up to a Google Home device, and the answer was a surprising “no.” As for why, I was simply told that Home, Google’s voice-activated smart home assistant, isn’t officially available in Singapore yet. Google treats you like an adult Google’s office has an in-house gym, which is open 24/7 and completely free for its employees. You can spend your office hours working out, no questions
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asked. When I jokingly asked how HR tracks which employees are spending their entire days here, I was told that nobody gets tracked for anything. To be sure, Google does measure employee performance (as revealed by Google’s SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock), but it’s refreshing to hear that the legends are true: Google treats its employees like adults; they don’t care how you spend your time, as long as you get your work done.
How Google uses psychology to help
you eat healthy
I also had the chance to visit the smaller of the two canteens in the new HQ. Breakfast and lunch are provided free of charge to Googlers, with a lot of healthy options. I was too early to catch lunch, alas, or you’d be getting a Google food review. Google has unhealthy snacks too, but they’re hidden. It’s part of how Google uses psychology to help its staff eat healthily: Put the good stuff front and center so you’re more likely to grab them, hide the bad stuff so they’re out of sight and out of mind. They use the same tactic in the canteens as they do at the pantries.
Local flavors are everywhere
I have to hand it to whoever designed the Google interiors; there’s a lot of respect here for local traditions. There
are splashes of character here and there, and tasteful nods to Singapore culture. The Google HQ is divided into major kampongs (villages). My guide’s offices are in the Bugis kampong. Meeting rooms are named after local languages, MRT stations and local phrases (I’m told there’s a “Steady Pom Pi Pi” meeting room). It’s not just local area names that are being used in the new HQ. You can also catch familiar locations from around the region, like Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, etc., which reflect the Asia Pacific HQ’s multinational influences. Over at the central atrium, there are actual work desk for Googlers. I was told that it was up to individual departments if they wanted to do free-seating or dedicated desks for their staff; neither is mandatory, adults get to choose. The
big cocoons in the middle are enclosed seats for Googlers who need a quiet spot to focus on their work. Every floor in the new office has a special meeting room, also called an ‘immersion room.’ Each room is uniquely decorated, to encourage Googlers to think differently during meetings. ‘Junk Shop’ has a distinctly retro/vintage/junky vibe to it, with mood lighting to boot. I especially love that long wooden table at the end with the funky metal legs. Those TVs on the wall can be used to conduct video Hangouts, which I’m told is a major way to communicate inside Google.
Tired Googlers can make their way to resting rooms for a quick nap. The beds are a little short, but who’s complaining - definitely not the guy without a bed in the office. There’s a nice big massage chair in here too, but I wouldn’t waste my time with it because you can book your own massage sessions, inside Google HQ, on the company’s dime, and even on the company’s time. So this is the kind of office you can get, if you’re an international multi-billion tech conglomerate.