Slack Is Transforming The Way We Work. This Is What It Wants From Its Office Space
If workspace isn't cool, then it isn't working.
That is the motto for the latest generation of Dublin tech occupiers. But how cool is cool, and what effect is it having on the way workspace is occupied?
Ahead of the Dublin Workspace of the Future event on 21 June, Bisnow spoke to Slack Regional Workplace Manager Ciaran Chaney about the ways floorspace can promote the best work of our lives.
“I was in the lift in our building the other day, and there’s a bank above us, and two girls got in the lift to go up, and as they passed our floor I heard them saying ‘Wow, it’s amazing, if we had an office like that’d we’d want to come in every day’ and I was like thank you. Because it’s all about creating workspace that encourages collaboration and productivity.”
So says Slack's Chaney about the 29K SF Slack Dublin HQ at One Park Place, a workplace dedicated to nothing less than “creating a meaningful space in which people can do the best work of their lives”.
Two years into the five year lease on their Hatch Street space, the fast growing business is beginning to think about what comes next. They already have a clear idea of their priorities.
Asked what Slack needs, Chaney replies: “It’s not about what we need, it’s about what we can give to our employees because the aim is to find the best way to attract people to work for us.”
Office floorspace is not just a place to do business, it is a marketing tool, said Chaney, who explains that their location and fit-out must all contribute to the main aim: to employ the best people.
“We want our offices to be a place to be proud of in a very competitive city for talent. The competition is pretty fierce.”
The result is a strong preference to the amenities of central Dublin — the food, the drink, the fun and the public transport — and a definite bias against the big regional business parks. (“Not something we want to do,” Chaney said.)
Flexible leases are a must. “We’re a four-year-old business and it’s a bit daunting when a landlord comes after you with a 25-year lease,” Chaney said. “As well as flexible leases we need space we can be flexible with so that we can design and create a meaningful place so people can do the best work of their lives.”
That fit-out can be strikingly colourful — the Toronto office is a primary-coloured case in point — but in Dublin they have gone for a quieter look. Turner & Townsend presided over an adult-friendly mid-century inflected fit-out that is more Mad Men than Mister Men. “We’ve got a mix of mature tones — we haven’t gone for the massive orange walls. But what we do have is a lot of planting. It creates a much nicer environment, it's good for the air quality, and it's calming.”
The 90-strong Dublin team is not only exemplifying the way workspace is changing. They are also promoting out.
“There’s no doubt the way people work has changed. We don’t have big monitors on big desks any more. Today it’s 15-inch laptops, or just your phone, and that change in office equipment means an entirely different environment,” Chaney said.
“Slack as a tool is transforming the way people work. It’s all about collaboration, often global collaboration using Slack, which is a phenomenal shift in working patterns. Nobody is tied to a desk, and in our office the effect is that every bit of space is used, and that helps break down silos. Today the finance guys can talk to the marketing guys.”
Of course not everyone is happy about the workplace transformations that platforms like Slack have inspired. Some complain that the right to switch off — at weekends or at night — has now been abolished as work and life merge (to work's benefit and life's loss).
The property industry has also had to work hard to adapt. Does it understand the needs of high growth businesses like Slack? Chaney confesses it hasn’t always been easy to understand the property needs of a business that might change dramatically every six months. But he senses that the industry has changed for the better.
“They are much better at coping with the fact that businesses like ours might need one floor today, but three floors in six months' time,” he said.
The lesson from Slack is that if you want to be cool, stay flexible, and that requires leadership. “For us this is about encouraging collaboration and productivity, that is what our workplace is all about. But to get there requires leadership from above because if the culture isn’t there, then it just won’t work.”
Join the conversation by registering for the 21 June Dublin Workspace of the Future event here.
CORRECTION, May 29, 9:20 A.M. ET: The photo captions in this story previously said Turner & Townsend undertook the fit-out for the Slack Dublin office. ODOS architects designed the office and oversaw its development and delivery. Turner Townsend were project managers and cost consultants.