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First Update: Why Salesforce's Social Experiment Works

San Francisco Office

We got a rare look behind the scenes at Salesforce last week from real estate SVP Ford Fish at WorkTECH West Coast. About a month ago, on the first floor of Rincon Center, a Salesforce cafe adjacent to the food court popped up. There were no advertisements for the cafe, just word of mouth. Caffeine's aplenty but there's no food. Would anyone come? The first day 400 coffees were poured (now it's about 600 a day). Users from more than 40 Salesforce cities visit the space, and employees bring in some 50 clients and vendors a day.

Ford calls these spectacular numbers, like a flash mob. Salesforce developers one floor up are attracted to the fact it's not attached to the workplace (but it is still a workspace). Ford finds himself walking three blocks there, not for free lattes, but simply because it's a cool hangout to see colleagues work differently. People feel like they are in control, he says. The cafe is likely packed this week with Dreamforce conference goers. These days, says Ford, the workplace is not a 9-to-5 but rather a 24/7 environment. 

Ford is finding people need a sense of community to get the best out of their jobs. That also means partnering with the city; in S.F. this year, employees have spent 27,000 hours on philanthropic activities. (His team builds houses to combat homelessness.) He grew up here and says some things haven't changed. S.F. has always been an open and accepting city, welcome to new ideas. What's different is it's gotten more dynamic (he wouldn't dare go South of Market decades ago). Above, Market Street was flooded earlier this year with a Salesforce concert (last night Bruno Mars was the star of the Dreamforce gala).