What Airbnb can teach us about workplace design

The facilities management team at Airbnb must find solutions to problems that most of us in the field of workplace design have not even dreamed of yet. When interviewed by Jacob Morgan for the fantastic Future of Work podcast, their in-house Environments Design Lead, Aaron Taylor Harvey shared some insights that I believe can be of benefit to any employer seeking to create an ABW workplace that addresses the needs of both the staff and a rapidly growing business. I've left the information in bullet point for for ease of reading.

  • Themed conference rooms serve to connect philosophy and meaning of business with the physical workplace.
  • Staff sit together at meal times to enhance sense of unity and togetherness.
  • Working from home is not a choice but staff are always working.
  • Everyone eats lunch together, 2/3 eat breakfast and 1/2 eat dinner together.
  • 'Belong anywhere' message is translated into space design.
  • Hiring up to 30 staff per week (2014) which means that staff have to be inculturated very quickly.
  • Staff are approx 70-80% Gen Y.
  • Wants staff to have multiple modes of working without creating walls everywhere.
  • Visual sight lines are important to help with sense of togetherness but privacy is required at times.
  • Portland office is customer experience only (call-centre). All they need to do their job is a MacBook Air and a headset.
  • Staff were asked whether or not they really needed a desk.
  • People want a place to put their things and call home.
  • Shared resources are part of company culture.
  • Every spot in office belongs to everyone equally - belong anywhere.
  • Standing/desk/lounge in equal amounts
  • <100sf pp
  • IDEO researched/insight based approach is used. Every design choice can be traced back to an observation.
  • Also use brainstorming, surveys and 1:1 interviews to establish employee needs
  • Ideal office space focuses on essential requirements to do job.
  • Physical workspace must reflect the corporate culture.
  • People have to live the organization that they want to be.
  • Space should be a living diagram of the org chart.
  • Wireless tech will free up the workspace and make designs less expensive and restrictive.

Alan Hancock, Principal, Workplace Design Consultant, Space at Work

Space at Work are specialists in designing workplaces. We take the time to understand our client's requirements and by asking the right questions and listening to the responses we provide solutions that incorporate best practices, current and emerging trends to create spaces that are agile, adaptive and ready to accept whatever change is around the corner. Please contact us if you'd like to know more.