While open office culture has existed as a design concept since its inception in1950’s post-war Germany, its effects in the US never seemed quite so prevalent as the latter half of the 2000s. The fast-paced culture of countless tech startups encouraged workspaces that valued speed, flexibility, and collaboration over the more private and potentially isolating cubicle layouts of more traditional businesses. TripAdvisor has embraced the open office concept’s focus on speed and collaboration, especially in regard to its Needham, Massachusetts and Sydney, Australia headquarters. The company’s push to build an “un-corporate headquarters” has resulted in a stylish and progressive collection of home bases that seek to set the standard for collaborative and inspiring workspaces.
The benefits of open office culture often come down to community building. The open layout seeks to put employees on more even ground and helps break down perceived power disparities that can often inhibit productive interaction. Chance encounters, or “culture collisions,” between employees who may not regularly converse are more likely to occur out in open layouts and can lead to new ideas and innovation. More open office environments help foster a sense of community and collaboration for company culture on the whole. TripAdvisor has endeavored to embrace these ideals while also making modern upgrades to a 70 year-old concept.
Boston-based Baker Design Group, the team behind TripAdvisor’s Needham, MA headquarters interior design, says the workspace was designed in order to “create a warm and welcoming ‘modern industrial loft’ working environment.” That meant eschewing the traditional practice of masking the building’s more structural elements. “The open ceilings, exposed structure, lighting, finishes, colors, flooring, furniture, and workstation design have all been selected to work in concert to achieve the company’s goals and ambitions for their new complex,” according BDG. This open concept means nearly 90 percent of employees have access to natural light.
The Needham headquarters was completed in 2015 and its 282,000 square feet features, among other amenities: a restaurant-style employee dining with rotating culinary options; 5000 sq. feet of exercise space where employees can take yoga or other fitness classes; and themed workspace floors based on one of the seven continents, there to remind TripAdvisor employees of the foundation of their work.
A “Forum” located at the center of the new building acts an unconventional space for meetings and collaboration. “This multistory atrium will be a daily beehive of activity that can be instantly transformed into a theater to support their all-hands quarterly meeting broadcast, streamed online to offices around the world” according to BDG. “The Forum can seat 1,100 employees during the quarterly meeting, and is an extension of the café and dining facilities, containing a variety of social venues, fireplace, a modern version of Rome’s Spanish Steps, three-story tall vertical garden walls, and a blue sky ceiling.”
TripAdvisor’s Sydney headquarters, which share residence with tour booking company Viator and restaurant booking site Dimmi, also includes some novel innovations designed with constant collaboration in mind. Stand-up meeting rooms include neither ceilings nor doors. When privacy is necessary, numerous presentation rooms are available for quiet use.
TripAdvisor has also taken great care in designing its workspaces to be highly adaptable. Workstations inspired by functional workbenches are convertible and allow employees to work while sitting or standing. Personalization is intended to allow for multiple monitors or writing surfaces. Unlike most open office environments, TripAdvisor includes one-to-one seating for all employees. While a costly gesture, the move seeks to remind each team member that there is always a literal seat for them at the table.
Both offices also feature comforts designed to both encourage employees to be onsite and to enjoy their work life. With beer on tap in the kitchen, numerous table and video games, and fire pits located on the premises, employees are encouraged to bond and build relationships during and after hours.
BDG says the Needham offices were crafted as a “‘must see and experience” event for TripAdvisor’s present and future employees.” The spaces are seen not only as key in employee retention, but in attraction as well. In an ever-increasingly competitive hiring market, TripAdvisor’s employee-centered and collaborative work spaces are helping convince all of their employees that they’re already on vacation.
IA Interior Architects is honored to serve as TripAdvisor’s global architectural partner. Congratulations to the TripAdvisor team for charting excellence in every way.