Twitter's Real Estate Chief On How Personalisation And Place Are The Future Of Offices
It started life in Dublin with just one employee working out of his living room. Today Twitter's European headquarters in Dublin is home to 250 staff and is at the cutting edge of how people work.
When it moved to its Cumberland Place office in 2016 it eschewed Dublin's so-called Silicon Docks for an area that is steeped in the city's history.
That is the Twitter way — to be personable, authentic and connected to the place you are located. It sees these trends as dominating the workplace in the future and is proudly showcasing them in their flagship 85K SF European office, which was developed by Hibernia REIT.
Bisnow caught up with EMEA Head of Real Estate Sean Boyle for a tour of the office and to talk about the trends in the way people work which are at the heart of its real estate strategy.
“Personalisation is certainly a trend that will influence future real estate strategies and it can be looked at in two spectrums," Boyle said. "One of them is making it adaptable to people’s needs whether they have certain ergonomic requirements or preferences.
"The other aspect is making them feel like they’re contributing to how the space occupied, whether it’s by allowing them to add things to the space that they value and appreciate. The goal is to make them feel that they belong, make them feel like they have some autonomy over how the space is used."
This idea of ‘personalisation’ is evident throughout the HQ, especially in the lounge area where there is a giant hashtag saying ‘Love where you work’. It was tweeted by a former employee, Lucy Mosley, weeks before she died of cancer in 2013.
“The initiative originated in London, we wanted to memoralise the ethos of that hashtag in a way that felt right and we agreed that this was the way it should be done.”
Behind the coffee dock is a wall of badges with memorable hashtags that can be taken off and worn. It is an element of personalisation that is a reminder that while the office is a nod to Dublin and EMEA, it is still a Twitter office. “Probably one of our most personal executions in the office is our wall of badges, which represent the democratic voice of the office," Boyle said. "These hashtags represent for employees, at a personal level, the most meaningful things about Twitter.”
It is this level of personalisation and engagement that Boyle said is key for Twitter’s real estate strategy in 2018. “Understanding your real estate and how it gets used is extremely important. We will be looking at the analytics of how space is used. The more you understand how space is being used the easier it will be to adapt.”
As well as being personal to the staff, Boyle said that it always looks to create an office with a tangible link to the city where it is located, and looks beyond the superficial to achieve this.
“You try to understand what real Dublin or Paris is, you try to find ways you can execute it in a way that feels authentic, that local people will embrace. That can only be done with close partnerships and by finding the balance of how much ‘Twitter’ or how much ‘Dublin’ that office needs to be.”
Cumberland Place is situated around the corner from Oscar Wilde's house as well as some of Dublin's worst tenements, where many people lost their lives from overcrowding and collapsed buildings. “What makes this office special for us is the whole story. We wanted to regenerate this area, we pushed really hard to make this a world-class sustainable office and we wanted it to feel unique. We didn’t want to do the same execution that most other tech companies do, we wanted something that feels far more attached to the roots of the city.”
Twitter showcased their depth of research in its coffee dock. It is modelled on an old chip shop, called Paragon, where locals posted notes on the noticeboard looking for work or about events going on in the area.
“When we did our research we found the closest thing to Twitter at the time (the 1950s) was this little chip shop, named Paragon. It had only five items on the menu but it had a white board where people would advertise looking for work or would communicate things to other locals. You could say that they used that noticeboard like we would use Twitter today. We found something really special and romantic about that so we wanted to bring that in and honour it here by redesigning our coffee dock with the paragon branding.”
Could this level of real estate personalisation and engagement with their employees help fight the rise of flexible working, working remotely and co-working set- ups?
"One of the biggest things we compete against is working from home. It makes you rethink your strategy because unused real estate is always a deficient strategy. If people are not utilising it to its highest degree, it makes it harder to predict trends and office needs.
"We were extremely transparent about the process and communicated with the people in the office, telling them about the progress and also what we were finding along the way. So, when people walked in they felt fully attached to the building.”
Huge global companies like Twitter, in tech and other sectors, have a dilemma when they expand abroad and set up new office outposts. How to be both global and local, personal and universal. Twitter has walked that fine line, and in way that would be hard to copy but easy to aspire to.
You can hear from Boyle and other major Dublin occupiers at Bisnow's State of the Market in Dublin on 21 March at 7.30am.