Video game

Glassdoor SF’s new headquarters features a speakeasy and arcade. Will this be enough to attract teleworkers?

There’s a secret room in Glassdoor’s new headquarters in San Francisco, on the 17th floor of 300 Mission St.

Push a button and a nondescript wall mechanically opens to reveal an old-style speakeasy with moody lamp, navy blue vinyl-style booths and an attractive display of various whiskey, gin and other bottles of hues and shapes varied.

But that’s not where the big cats come to do business behind the scenes, it’s one of the cheeky treats for employees in the company’s revamped office. The company soft-opened the space last month after the pandemic delayed the move of its former Marin County headquarters for more than two years.

In addition to sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay, the two-story office suite features a fully soundproofed arcade and Darth Vader bust, art installations that pay homage to company values ​​such as “grit” and a constellation of settings for people to work alone, in groups or with remote colleagues.

This meant that the originally planned rows of desks, of which there are still a few left, gave way to a more open space that the company hopes will foster spontaneous break-ins and a collaborative atmosphere. The space makes it easy to hang out and talk, while offering separate phone booths and desks where employees can slip away to work or take a call.

It’s all meant to cater to the emerging hybrid work style, while keeping employees happy and attracting new ones.

The library is one of the coworking spaces in Glassdoor’s new office in San Francisco.

Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

But despite the colorful wallpaper, upbeat music playing in workspaces and conference rooms with names like “Krusty Krab” (a nod to the cartoon Spongebob), CEO Christian Sutherland-Wong says the office alone, as comfortable and convenient as it is, may not be enough to attract the kind of people the company, which allows employees to rate their employers, needs to continue to grow.

“I think the majority of people we hire today are outside of one of our traditional offices,” which include spaces in Chicago and Ohio in the United States, Sutherland-Wong said.

And he expects that trend to continue.

It’s one of the ways Glassdoor’s “Work Where You Want” policy has been a boon to the company, he said. Their old headquarters in Marin County and the routes there made it harder to get people on board.

“We started to overtake Marin,” he said. “We wanted to get in touch with talents who often wouldn’t want to travel.”

With tech talent less concentrated in San Francisco and the Bay Area than before the pandemic, Sutherland-Wong said being able to hire people anywhere has made it easier to compete with other companies for the great hire and has opened up more ways to bring people from diverse backgrounds into the fold.

The increasingly cramped confines of Marin’s office were a big reason the company originally leased four floors in the downtown San Francisco building, with a move in March 2020. After the pandemic redefined where many people work, Glassdoor decided it only needed two of the four floors.

He eventually sublet one floor to eBay and is looking for another taker for the other.

Employees mingle in a coworking space at Glassdoor's new office in San Francisco.  The space was designed to encourage collaboration in favor of traditional designs with rows of desks.

Employees mingle in a coworking space at Glassdoor’s new office in San Francisco. The space was designed to encourage collaboration in favor of traditional designs with rows of desks.

Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

The company had also planned to hire around 300 people to increase its pre-pandemic workforce by around 1,000, but was forced, like many companies during the pandemic, to lay off 300 people instead.

Glassdoor has about 750 total employees these days, many of whom aren’t in the Bay Area, further reducing the need for more space. Sutherland-Wong said the company was growing at a higher rate than before the pandemic, but had no specific hiring target.

The company was founded in Novato in 2007 before moving to Sausalito and then back to Mill Valley in 2014. Glassdoor’s website allows employees to anonymously review their companies and provide salary and other information. The site also serves as a job board and recruiting resource for businesses.

While the new space offers an assortment of work environments — comfortable two-chair and screen setups for small Zoom gatherings, restaurant-style seating for meals or meetings, and floor-to-ceiling whiteboards in some places for spontaneous ideation – only about 30 or 40 people showed up most days, with the exception of the general meeting on Tuesday which drew larger crowds.

That’s about 240 employees who live in the Greater Bay Area and could be in the office on any given day.

Glassdoor's new office in San Francisco has conference rooms designed for small groups to use for Zoom sessions.

Glassdoor’s new office in San Francisco has conference rooms designed for small groups to use for Zoom sessions.

Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

The space had to be partially redesigned in the summer of 2020 to cater for a collaborative work environment, where “most people come to the office to interact with others,” instead of working headlong, said the director of Glassdoor Human Resources, Carina. Cortez.

While the clip of remote hiring is set to continue, Sutherland-Wong said work flexibility itself is an increasingly powerful recruiting tool, perhaps even overtaking the lure of bars and clubs. games rooms stocked.

A survey of more than 600 employees last month found that 58% plan to work remotely full-time in the future, while the rest plan to spend time in person.

A study by Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom found that employees were much less likely to quit if they were allowed to work remotely two or three days a week, instead of being onsite for a full work week. of five days.

The desire for long-term flexibility is clear, Sutherland-Wong said. “We’re hiring in a very tight labor market, so it’s crazy to try to buck that trend.”

This flexibility is part of what prompted Emily Sung, a recruiting operations manager, to join us last year. “Being able to continue to feel that team environment without always being physically together,” along with the focus on diversity goals, made the choice easier, she said.

Sung said she commutes from Fremont three days a week, avoiding Mondays and Fridays, even though most of her team is in Chicago. She said she gets her energy from connecting with people in person, especially after so much time working from home.

She toured most of the various workspaces in the office, but said her favorite corner was one called “The Birdcage,” which features an open design and views of the Ferry Building.

Sutherland-Wong said the future is always open to change – depending on how space is used. He discussed ideas like opening smaller satellite offices for remote workers, and didn’t rule out subletting more space and having fewer offices if they weren’t needed. .

Glassdoor CEO Christian Sutherland-Wong, left, chats with an employee in the kitchen of the company's new office in San Francisco.

Glassdoor CEO Christian Sutherland-Wong, left, chats with an employee in the kitchen of the company’s new office in San Francisco.

Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Collecting this data on how things are and aren’t being used includes conducting employee surveys, but also tracking people in the office through software built by Envoy, as well as sensors in conference rooms. and elsewhere that detect heat signatures and can tell how long and how many people were in a space.

“I don’t think we’ve reached a steady state yet,” when it comes to understanding the use of space and how best to create those chance encounters with colleagues, Sutherland-Wong said, adding that he is still deciding the right time frame to enter as CEO.

“I’m still figuring out what I want to do in terms of how many days I want to come,” he said, adding that he was still wondering if three days a week was the right mix of time. office and time at home. .

“I need to kind of have a bigger data set to figure out the value of those serendipitous moments, and those connection points versus the ride and all the other things I might have done at home. “, did he declare.

One thing is for sure, the speakeasy will always be open for business whether they show up or not.

Chase DiFeliciantonio is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @ChaseDiFelice