A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Mar 14, 2018

Is It Instagrammable? Why Offices Are Being Redesigned With 'Selfie Spots'

In a war for talent, especially younger techies with artificial intelligence skills, providing an 'Instagrammable' opportunity to broadcast the fun and share it with potential recruits is becoming as de rigueur as foosball tables used to be. JL


Maria LaMagna reports in the Wall Street Journal:

In pursuit of younger workers, companies have added craft beer on tap or a pool table. Now they want to make sure people outside the office know about all the fun. More companies—particularly image-conscious digital brands—are designing their offices with art that employees and clients can photograph and post on social media to make their brand look hip to job seekers and liven up their image. Another reason for adding interactive art is to persuade employees to come into the office instead of telecommuting
Here’s a new question for office designers: Is it Instagrammable?
In pursuit of younger workers, companies have spent the past decade adding perks like craft beer on tap or a pool table that employees can lounge around. Now they want to make sure people outside the office know about all the fun.
So, more companies—particularly image-conscious digital brands—are designing their offices with playful art that employees and clients can photograph and post on social media. The idea: to make their brand look hip to job seekers and generally liven up their image, as well as try to spark enthusiasm and creativity among employees.
In a redesign of its San Jose, Calif., headquarters about a year ago, Adobe Systems Inc. ADBE -0.53% added a number of interactive art spaces, including a room built to look like an upside-down office where employees and visitors can pose, in an effort to show off the company’s culture.
It also has an artwork with an image of a pig jumping out of a frame—created with the company’s Photoshop software—and some of its rooms are decorated as “time capsules” to represent milestone years for the program. For example, the 1990 room has a working 1990 version of Photoshop on a computer and “1990” written with cassette tape on the wall.
Eric Kline, director of global workplace experience at Adobe, ends tours of the company in the upside-down room. “Some people will do handstands, some will do a meditation pose,” he says. “And we say, ‘Hey, if you had a really great time, hashtag ‘adobelife.’ ” When people see those kinds of photos on social media, they’re “talking about Adobe as a company, but also about Adobe internally and our culture and what it’s about.”
He adds, “We believe that employees do their best work when they feel inspired, creative and comfortable. This environment encourages innovation and collaboration, which leads to better business results.”
BuzzFeed, meanwhile, includes “selfie spots” in its offices that have a sticker on the floor, showing people where to take a photo. In the New York office, the backdrop might be a wall covered in yellow bubbles that say things like “LOL.” In the London office, there is an illustration of the London Bridge and London Eye. Each office also has its own hashtag, like #BuzzFeedUK, and the company has an Instagram account dedicated to its new offices called BuzzFeed Builds.
“Nothing is private anymore. Everybody knows about everybody. So let us utilize that passion for people to share what they’re doing, to be excited they’re coming to BuzzFeed and let everybody know they got here and saw cool stuff,” says Julia Goldberg, VP of facilities, office services, real estate, security and studio operations.

She says that BuzzFeed isn’t courting young workers specifically with its office design, but many people say that photos and visits have influenced their desire to work at the company or to partner with it.
LinkedIn’s phoenix-wings wall has a camera at the ready for employees to take photos for sharing. Designers at WeWork, a co-working company with 230 office spaces world-wide, think about what will be “shareable” when designing its offices, says Jeremiah Britton, the firm’s creative director of art and graphics.
The designs make each WeWork location look different and reflect its city and neighborhood, Mr. Britton says. That attention to detail leads to a lot of Instagrams, he says.
Neon signs in particular have become popular social-media posts, such as one that says, “It’s Colombia, not Columbia,” in a Bogotá space. Other signs reflecting entrepreneurial spirit, such as “You got this,” are also popular. Do those flourishes increase business? Mr. Britton says he can’t comment on that. But, he says, “what we do know is that our members respond to our design and art-driven spaces and view it as an essential part of the WeWork experience.”
Another reason for adding interactive art is that companies want to persuade employees to come into the office instead of telecommuting, by making the experience fun and exciting, says Kurt Vander Schuur, global brand director for the design firm Haworth.
“Putting in a conference table and eight chairs, as much as I would like to say it works, that is not going to motivate me to go to an office,” he says.
When LinkedIn was designing its Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters, which opened in mid-2017, the company wanted to showcase its values with more than slogans or the company’s logos, says Cherish Rosas, an environmental graphic design project manager. “We want our employees to have fun and engage,” she says.
In came the interactive wall art. There is a “Wheel of Dream Jobs” on one wall, where employees can spin a “Wheel of Fortune”-like wheel until they land on a career and a dream location to do it in. (It can be fictional as well as real, such as a travel writer in outer space.)
There’s also a lively mural decorated with images that represent countries all over the world; it comes with a jacket employees can throw on to blend in with the wall.
Some of the art—like phoenix wings painted on a wall that employees can stand in front of—comes with a Polaroid camera that employees can use to take photos for sharing. Several new hires at LinkedIn have mentioned that they looked through Google Images and Instagram to learn more about the company’s culture before accepting an offer, and the art the company has installed helps, says Ms. Rosas. “That’s a major help as far as talent retention and getting people excited,” she says.
Influenster, a website and app that connect social-media influencers with products they review, installed Instagram-friendly elements before opening its current New York office in 2017.
In went a specially lighted “selfie mirror,” for influencers in the beauty world when they visited the office. The office also features a mural by artist James Goldcrown.
“We knew if we created a space that was Instagrammable and beautiful, that we would also get more clients coming to our office,” says Elizabeth Scherle, co-founder of Influenster. But even noninfluencers appreciate it, she says. “If you want to attract a younger workforce, people are attracted to those things.”

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