As founder and CEO of an early stage tech startup, I get to decide exactly what our office is like. From the SOMA location within a short stroll of some of San Francisco's best restaurants to the color of the walls (neon green, bright blue, and stark white), I get to help design the space where we work and play and grow. It's a luxury most people will never have, one that I don't take for granted. As any HGTV enthusiast could tell you, the process of designing a workspace from scratch is exciting, but as a founder I know it's more than that. This is the home base that will take TaskRabbit to the next level, a place that will see successes and struggles, frustration and triumph, and new bonds formed between members of a rapidly growing team. The right environment lifts teams up and helps them thrive, it's way more than fancy paint and ping-pong tables.
When I first set out to help forge the TaskRabbit culture, I identified three primary objectives:
1. Develop prime conditions to attract amazing talent and help them thrive.
2. Encourage a symbiotic relationship between culture and brand.
3. Create the kind of office I want to come to every single day.
So how do we go about satisfying these objectives at TaskRabbit? Sure, we have our ping-pong tables, Nerf guns, and video games, but that's just the start. There are a myriad of constantly evolving factors that contribute to our office culture. One of the most central? Food. When we were a smaller team, we made sure everyone cleared their schedules for a family-style lunch. These days, it's not always possible for our 50+ team members to eat together, but we've added plenty of communal tables so smaller groups can dine together. Our two kitchens are always stocked with tasty things (from seaweed snacks to string cheese, and yes -- the obligatory baby carrots), Philz coffee (an office favorite), and plenty of booze. Many small business owners fear the effects of alcohol in the office (a belief which usually leads directly to some really out-of-control holiday parties), but we know better. We're a tight-knit team that works long hours, and we cherish our happy hours so much that we installed a kegerator.
We also make sure to bring in catered lunches often. This is easy, since our product makes delivery from any place in San Francisco reliable, quick, and painless. The menu reflects the very best food in the city -- Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Japanese, Italian, Thai, and beyond. How are we able to find increasingly more impressive meals for a foodie team? Our office manager is also a pastry chef, and totally tapped into the local food scene. Not a bad combination. In addition to setting the stage for various inter-departmental groups to break bread, lunches are also the backdrop to our weekly Learnch sessions. In these sessions, any member of the team can conduct a skill-sharing class for everyone else. These run the gamut from startup issues (like coding, finding and engaging with investors, or networking) to things totally unrelated to work like recycling, taking amazing travel photos, and playing the musical saw.
With employees working such long hours, it's also important to develop an atmosphere of health in the office. We do this by making sure everyone has top-of-the-line ergonomic chairs and bouncy balls to sit on, but also by offering yoga classes twice a week, running clubs, and Dance Central competitions. To help minimize unnecessary stress, team members get free access to TaskRabbits to help out with personal stuff like grocery shopping, house cleaning, and laundry. We also have a pets policy that makes every day bring-your-dog-to-work day. This makes things easier for dog owners and, according to some new research, increases productivity. An open schedule policy also lets employees take respites when they need them, and build their workdays in a way that promotes optimal work-life integration. We pride ourselves in being a results-oriented environment -- we hire people who are amazing at what they do and then we give them the space they need to do it.
Our friends over at ModCloth (who have an awesome office culture) are hip to the same idea. I asked their head recruiter, Scott Hernandez, about their most important employee benefit. Here's what he told me: "One of the most powerful benefits we offer is our open PTO policy... This philosophy empowers employees to work when they are most productive, take time off when they need to recharge, and most of all, come in to work with a sense of ownership and gratitude for the level of trust."
As for the TaskRabbit office itself, it represents the collaborative nature of our product, our team, and our brand. It's a huge open space (we knocked down a lot of walls to get it that way) that encourages people to work together on problems. There are individual brainstorming rooms for when more privacy is needed, and plenty of couches, bean bag chairs, and standing desks for those hoods up / heads down times. Team members also get together for non-work events in the office like movie night, clothing swaps, and cocktail club, and routinely bond over off-site events like attending Giants games and white-water rafting. We also show up to support each other's speaking engagements, Skillshares, and personal accomplishments. Our office is more than a place to work, it's a home that has helped turn the TaskRabbit team into one big family. That's easy (and a little cheesy) to say about any team, but when your company culture makes it true, well, that's just awesome.
Follow Leah Busque on Twitter: www.twitter.com/labusque