How Shopify’s office Layouts drive productivity

When I arrive at Shopify’s Waterloo offices, my initial thought is that I have to be in the wrong location. “There it is,” my driver says, pointing in a monstrous, yellow brick building with rickety shutters and bleak penitentiary vibes. This can not be right. Are not tech firms supposed to have ultra modern offices with flamboyant architecture and fun slides? And is not this Shopify — the crown jewel of Canadian technician? I had heard about their glorious Ottawa and Toronto offices, together with log cabin assembly rooms and transport container-inspired walls, respectively, but faced with this warm yellow facade I wonder if Waterloo is the runt of the litter.

The moment I walk through the doorway, however, my jaw drops. In an homage to its former life as a Seagram whisky distillery, the office’s amber wood atrium is piled with antique barrels all of the way up to the five-storey-high rafters, and communal tables extend out across the monastic-mess-hall-meets-royal-cellar-esque space. It’s breathtaking. I can not help myself, I pull out my phone and start snapping pictures like a shamelessnbsp;tourist.

Even in a technology space populated by innovative businesses and playground-like insides, Shopify’s approach to office design sets it apart from the crowd. The company isn’t interested in creating fancy-looking surroundings for the sake of aesthetics. Its principal aim is to engineer distances that truly support the people working innbsp;them.

Shopify’s Waterloo office, which opened in June 2016 and is currently undergoing an expansion, is the newest of the organization’s five places. And despite being a non-client-facing outpost at a tech-y college town, it is arguably its most impressive speech. Situated in a 19th-century distillery, this building is where Shopify Plus, the division that serves high-growth, high-volume clients (believe Nestle, General Electric and Red Bull, in addition to viral millennial brands like Drake’s OVO and Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Makeup), is based. The 40,000-square-foot area is home to 250 workers, which by conventional office standards, means there’s a good deal of unoptimized, unoccupied space. By Shopify criteria, however, it is cramped. “We have really outgrown this space,” says Loren Padelford, vice president and general manager of Shopify Plus. “We’ve got another building under construction right now 70 metresnbsp;off.”

Each Shopify office has the same basic structure: large open spaces and communal spaces with meeting rooms and team pods branching out from there. I am taken on a tour of the Waterloo office, beginning at the town hall area (the epic barrel cellar that greeted me on arrival), which is where corporate statements are made, panel discussions take place and where folks sit down for lunch. (Lunch, incidentally, is catered daily at no cost to workers.) Down the hallway is a cozy cafe, fully stocked with premium coffee and bottomless snacks. The bar upstairs has beer on tap, video game consoles and ping-pong tables.

Halfway through the tour I spot a 20-something man in a plaid shirt and thick-rimmed glasses kicking back on a couch using a stickered-up notebook and a bag of Doritos. This might not be what most companies would state a productive worker looks like, but for Padleford it is proof that the distance is working. “What we’re attempting to do is create an environment that inspires people to do their very best work,” he says. “But not everybody’s the same. I enjoy my standing desk, but not everybody likes standing desks. Or sitting desks. Not everybody likes desks! Some people today wish to work in lounge chairs. Some people today want to work on sofas. Some individuals like to work in a pub. What we’re doing is allowing people to move about and work where they feel mostnbsp;successful.”

The open spaces also encourage the type of work culture Shopify supports. Notably one where collaboration, collaboration and creativity can ignite in unexpected ways between the most unlikely men and women. “The office space only serves to amplify what Shopify is all about with respect to the cross-functional talking that is always going on,” state Praneethi Komat-Reddy, a retailer success manager that has been with the firm since April 2016. “Open spaces actually help open up your own mindset. Not one of the pods have doors, so just metaphorically, it is like, never close your mind to anything. I know I can just walk into any pod and say, ‘Hey guys, I have an idea I need to run past you,’ and we will have a spontaneous assembly rightnbsp;there.”

Another advantage of open work environments is the motivation derived from viewing others working towards the same aim. “It is not like in a more conventional office with cubicles in which you do not know a job is even happening until it is completed,” says Komat-Reddy. “People write on walls {}, they write on windows, you see sales men running around all of the time, like sprinting. Everyone’s moving all of the time and I think that sort of fuels that your energy, and compels you to hustle a little bit more{}”

That kind of transparency, collaboration and motivation does not occur by accident. “I feel an office area is a manifestation of the corporation’s concerns and values,” says Jonathan Sabine, co-founder of MSDS Studio, a Toronto-based design company, whose clients include developer TAS DesignBuild, publisher House of Anansi, creative agency Common Good, technician startup TWG, along with the Toronto office of Shopify. “A thoughtfully designed area can help cultivate company values, and indicate certain behaviors, attitudes and interactions betweennbsp;workers.”

Shopify’s Toronto area is well known for its intentionally maze-like floor plan. “We love the thought of an environment with a sense of exploration and discovery,” says Jessica Nakanishi, co-founder of MSDS. “It’s really about incorporating elements of pleasure, sparking curiosity and creating moments that I believe, consciously or unconsciously, become very important to the creativenbsp;procedure.”

The relationship between productivity and office space might be hard to quantify but it’s tough to imagine a space a individual spends all day in does not prime him or her for better or for worse. 1 thing which may be quantified, however, is happiness. “There are people here all the time,” states Padleford. “I will come in on a Saturday because I forgot something, and there’ll be folks here just hanging out. You know you are doing something right when folks appear on weekends to hang out in thenbsp;workplace.”

This is no small accomplishment considering how aggressive tech recruitment is in the market today. “There is an arms race in the tech industry at the moment for keeping the best talent, and the physical space is a massive part of this,” says Sabine. “We have actually had a couple businesses tell us that they have to get better workers, but they are having difficulty taking them away in the areas like Shopify.”

And this is exactly the point. “If, as a business, you are not thinking about workplace design and intentionally giving individuals spaces that are conducive to their working style, they are gonna depart and we can not afford this,” says Padleford. “I think the basic thing that separates us from other companies is that we see the individuals who work here as people, they are not only line items. If you are going to optimize for line items, yeah cubicle heaven, man. But if you are going optimize for how people do their very best work, there’s absolutely not any othernbsp;alternative.”

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Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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