What the World's Most Innovative Media Companies Can Teach You About Office Space
It takes a lot more than open floor seating and foosball tables to attract Millennials these days, especially in the TAMI sector. To spotlight these unique challenges, Bisnow recently spoke with three leading experts—Mashable COO Michael Kriak, BuzzFeed senior director of corporate real estate and facilities Gabrielle Rubin Deveaux and Hearst Corp VP Lou Nowikas—each of whom are helping to redefine America’s traditional workplace landscape. They’ll be on hand at Bisnow’s national full-day Office Leasing, Development and Investment event Dec. 1 at 4 Times Square in NYC. Here’s a sampling of some of the most unique and innovative ways they’ve done it:
Michael Kriak, Mashable
Bisnow: What role does Mashable's company culture play in the space design?
Michael: Mashable’s company culture is built on transparency and collaboration between departments where editorial, marketing, product, operations and video all work together on a daily basis. Our office is constructed to help facilitate that collaboration with an open floor plan, offices with glass walls and doors, studios for a variety of different visual storytelling platforms—like live streaming, Vine and stop-motion animation.
Bisnow: What design attributes help you attract top talent in New York and San Francisco?
Michael: Flexibility and design are both key. Mashable is always experimenting with “what’s next” as a company, so our space needs to be able to accommodate the changing needs of our employees. That ranges from being able to utilize office and studio space for changing video needs—such as vertical, short-form and live streaming video. When talent comes into our offices in New York or San Francisco, yes, they see our iced coffee kegs, snacks and drinks, but I think they’re more impressed with our ability to accommodate new and changing ways of working with a variety of talented people. Also, our beautiful view of Midtown Manhattan doesn’t hurt.
Bisnow: What role does technology play in your space design and what's the most innovative use of technology in these designs?
Michael: Technology is at the core of what Mashable does and that includes having the ability now to allow nearly 50 different video editors to edit 4,000 videos at once. In addition, all of our audio and video capabilities are controlled at one epicenter as we continue to have more and more office-wide events after-hours. In addition, we’re able to allow our employees to work on our communal rooftop by equipping it with WiFi and to share their work with their colleagues at all times by equipping each team desk with TVs to share ideas and presentations.
Bisnow: What are some unique attributes of Mashable's HQ?
Michael: Mashable continuously has the newest technology flowing in and out of the office. It’s not uncommon to see someone zigging around on a Segway or hoverboard, or the newest 3D printer or video game console where not just our editorial team can experiment but everyone from product to marketing to operations and sales. On the other hand, we also like to remember where we came from, keeping amazing work from the years around our space like our wrecking ball from the Mashable House at SXSW in 2014, or the amazing artwork we’ve produced for events like CES or Comic Con highlighting the best of digital culture through the years.
Gabrielle Rubin Deveaux, BuzzFeed
Bisnow: Besides being Buzzfeed and the state-of-the-art technology that your facilities deploy, what are the other major selling points of your two spaces in New York and Los Angeles?
Gabrielle: For New York, we’re moving into a new space in 2016 that will include six floors, a roof deck, production and studio space, a test kitchen, a craft room, a podcast studio and more. We’re still in the build-out so we’re excited for the potential of a space we’ve customized ourselves. We are even holding out on renovations so employees can help provide input to make the spaces unique and their own.
In LA, we actually have five different spaces and counting. In the past year, our studio has grown immensely and we’re now doing over 1.5 billion video views and releasing over 85 videos and 115 pieces of micro content. That means we need lots of production space. In total, we have over 50k SF dedicated to production. Another thing we look at for our LA spaces, which vary greatly from our studio, to our editorial offices, to our sales and branded video teams is keeping threads that tie BuzzFeed in the various spaces while still each having their own flare and personality. We’ve converted everything from an old art gallery to an old Big Lots and customized them to make them ours. Some highlights across each include lots of outdoor space and roof decks, open, collaborative spaces and parking.
Bisnow: Has the fact that BuzzFeed is one of America’s preeminent online media companies been a help or a hindrance when it comes to attracting the kind of ancillary tenants you desire?
Gabrielle: It’s certainly a help for us. Having built an established brand definitely adds to the appeal of attracting ancillary tenants.
Bisnow: What role does Buzzfeed’s culture play in your selection of outside tenants?
Gabrielle: Culture is the No. 1 component in helping to retain employees.
Bisnow: Design and technology-wise, what are the key differentiators between New York and LA?
Gabrielle: There are actually quite a few similarities, technology-wise for us. We’re all working on laptops, we’re using the same technology systems in our conferences around the globe and tools like slack to communicate across offices and teams. The biggest thing that differentiates for us is the types of spaces we’re in. In New York, we’re in corporate buildings versus L.A., where the majority of our offices are in ground floor, free-standing buildings that are only occupied by BuzzFeed employees.
Bisnow: What is the future of co-working for TAMI (tech, advertising media) tenants?
Gabrielle: For us, we scout out new territories and regions with co-working spaces. Once we have an idea on head count, we definitely want to work to create our own, custom spaces that reflect our culture, values and personality. BuzzFeed has a pretty distinct brand, so we want that consistency throughout our 24 offices around the globe.
Lou Nowikas, Hearst Corp
Bisnow: What role does the fact that not all of Hearst Tower’s occupancy is related to its core publishing business play in the way that the space is currently utilized?
Lou: When Hearst moved into the Tower in May of 2006 Facebook had about 10 million users, YouTube was less than one year old, Twitter was not launched till months later, and the iPhone didn’t arrive for over a year later. It was impossible to predict the extreme impact these developments would have on the media industry and how we work. I am pleased to report, almost 10 years later, that the workplace that was designed by Foster + Partners and Gensler has succeeded the test of time. Certainly if we were to design the space today it may look different, however, the architects heeded Hearst’s desire to create the “workplace of the future.” The future is here. The open plan design with low partitions and access to daylight and views from virtually every seat has proven successful. The furniture plan allowed for potential higher-density seating that has become more “rule” than “exception” for our core publishing/digital media groups in recent years. Our new Digital Media workforce, mostly Millennials, enjoy the denser and highly collaborative environment. Meanwhile, Hearst’s other business units enjoy the space as originally designed. Flexibility in the original design has allowed our myriad of businesses to utilize the space to fit their needs.
Bisnow: Particularly in communal areas such as the building’s gym, how much interaction is there between the magazines?
Lou: Prior to Hearst Tower, our businesses were in 13 different locations in the neighborhood. A driving force for the Hearst Tower was to consolidate all the groups to enable cross-collaboration. Our Cafe57, Gym (The CLUB), and other communal spaces are intended for all Hearst employees to interact. It’s safe to say that the communal spaces have fostered a more collaborative organization on the whole. In an industry where the lines have blurred between traditional publishing, digital media, TV and entertainment, bringing many of our groups together has been a key to our continued success. Information is more easily shared and the business has benefited greatly.
Bisnow: Which part of the building are you the most proud of?
Lou: I am most proud of the sustainable culture we have developed within the Tower Building Operations group. When we achieved LEED Gold for new construction in 2006, most thought that was it—check the box and move on. We have been able to continue our sustainability focus by always asking “What’s Next?" Over the last 10 years we have made significant improvements to the building to make it more efficient, healthy and smart. We have had great support from the executive leadership in our goal to run as sustainable a building as we can. We achieved LEED Platinum for existing buildings in 2012, and are working to achieve this again in 2017. (LEED existing building ratings expire after five years.) Sustainability is not merely a plaque on the wall, it is a culture of continuous improvements. Every member of the team is expected to be tapped into and informed on the latest trends of the industry. There is no “status quo” for the Hearst Tower; even when things are great, there is room to improve.