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Zendesk: Building A Local Campus By Supporting Community

Zendesk director of workplace experience Tamar Draper spoke about her company’s growth, commitment to San Francisco's Mid-Market, and the power of hygge (Danish for cozy) at Bisnow's event this week at the Argonaut Hotel.


Here's Tamar, right, speaking with CRI’s Tom DiRenzo at the event.

The customer service software company made its home in the district in August 2011 after renting office space at 989 Market. Zendesk was one of the first companies to take advantage of the city’s special tax incentives designed to lure firms to the long-neglected Mid-Market neighborhood. The company expanded its presence in 2013 by leasing the Eastern Outfitting Co building at 1019 Market St. In total, Zendesk works across about 110k SF in San Francisco in what the firm calls a growing urban campus within Mid-Market.


In a conversation with Paladino western regional director Dina Belon, Tamar told the audience the company has a deep commitment to the local community. Zendesk contributes to local outreach and charity organizations such as St. Anthony’s soup kitchen. Half of the company’s catering comes from local shops and the company has a minimum annual food commitment of $50k to Mid-Market businesses. Workers are encouraged to eat lunch at local shops and restaurants. In exchange for locating and investing in the area, the city exempts companies such as Zendesk from paying taxes on payroll and stock options as part of a community benefits agreement.

Tamar added another key pillar of Zendesk’s culture was a Danish world called hygge, meaning "cozy." The company hopes to create a sense of warmth in its properties across its many global offices. “[Zendesk] avoids design by shopping. We design from spirit,” she said. A commitment to the community and attractive offices have a positive impact on employee wellness and retention, she added.