Walk into Shopify’s office in the heart of downtown Toronto, and you’re greeted by a physical version of one of their many online, merchant stores. As you walk through the space, you’ll find lounges, game rooms, a rooftop patio, ping pong tables, catered lunches and a very well stocked snack wall. Employees can take advantage of on-site massages and even enjoy at-home cleaning services. With such a wow factor, it’s easy to overlook the real reason that Shopify’s office features these amenities and services. Growing from an online snowboard store to a billion dollar e-commerce giant – Shopify has held on to their startup feel to achieve wild success. Empowering and enabling employees to do their best work has been core to this.
We went inside Shopify’s Toronto office and spoke with Culture Specialist, Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh to find out more about the space and it’s function.
To understand the workplace, you have to first understand the office culture at Shopify. As a start-up that has scaled quickly, Shopify places an emphasis on not losing the core culture and values that have made it so successful. Their office plays a role in nurturing that culture. “We encourage employees to take chances and try new things, whether it’s through our Hack Days, Town Halls or sharing ideas on The Vault, our internal wiki” says Shavonne. Their office features a large number of collaborative spaces that makes innovation possible through bringing people from different teams together.
Bringing Culture to Life
Shavonne works to ensure that the policies and culture on paper, match design. Additionally, she works to ensure that employees actually take advantage of the office amenities offered. Coordinating with the Facilities team as well as employees, Shavonne has the ability to shape the space in unique ways. For example, programs are run to take advantage of a unique flex space referred to as Suite 201 (Shavonne’s Favourite Space in the office), such as yoga classes, small meetups, design sprints, etc. The company also encourages employees to get the most use out of their benefits by highlighting them through in-house programming such as monthly on-site massages.
Choice and Wellness
Employee wellbeing is important to Shopify and they have found ways to encourage employees to step away from their desks to work collaboratively. With no shortage of options employees can choose to work from the rooftop patio, multiple quiet areas, a variety of boardrooms (including the Fortress of Solitude), the Lounge, or even decompress completely in the ‘calm room’. Multiple stand-up desks are scattered throughout the space to accommodate those who prefer to not sit or may not be able to for health related reasons. Bike racks, lockers, and a shower encourage employees to consider taking active modes of transportation to work. When the racks fill up, as they often do, employees can keep their bikes in the open office space as well.
The uniqueness of individuals is celebrated and employees are encouraged to be themselves. They have the choice to pick an environment that works best for them. To balance the large open areas within the office, private areas are featured prominently on the 3rd floor.
Data Driven Decisions: Employee Feedback
Data informed decisions are king at Shopify. When it comes to their spaces, Shopify’s Facilities and Culture teams understand the value that data can add to help guide their decisions. Boardroom booking numbers are tracked to look at employee preferences and usage patterns. Additionally, employee surveys are conducted for further feedback. This usage and preference data can then be used when building out additional office space in that particular city. Shavonne notes that the space is as dynamic as their employees. As the culture slightly shifts with every new person that starts at Shopify, the physical space needs to be equally reflective of that level of fluidity. The office is designed to have spaces that are usable for both introverted and extroverted employees alike.
The 4th floor at Shopify’s current office was built first. It employs an open feel, functionally necessary to accommodate: large town halls for the over 150 employees, event space for the many external meetups hosted there weekly, and enables its employees to come together in a social way. When the 3rd floor was being built out – employee feedback was used to create a space that feels different. Built to model shipping containers, the third floor features more nooks & crannies and enclosed spaces.
Workspaces throughout the office are also designed with specific functions in mind. For example – paired programming rooms were created to allow their engineering and design teams to have space that is conducive to the work that they need to.
Expansion and Empowerment
Shopify is currently preparing to expand their Toronto office. With a temporary, secondary space across the street for now and to a new consolidated space within the next couple of years. As the process unfolds, the Culture team will work with Facilities to ensure that team leads are consulted so spaces can be designed to meet the function and specific needs of their teams. “Getting feedback is so important because our leads know better than anyone else about how their teams work and what physical elements are required to enable their teams to thrive and do their best work. We can help provide them with what they need, but only if we’re able to get that understanding from them of what it is” she notes. In addition to specific team feedback, employees are invited to provide input to the finer details of the space.
For example, employees came up with the boardroom themes, (evil lairs and hero hideouts), named them through an up-voting process, and designed the associated decals. This could be seen as a token involvement, but because Shopify takes care of the larger cultural elements to ensure that employees truly have a voice and feedback loop, these small touches go far.
Shavonne explains that this employee involvement is what creates a unique vibe from office to office where nuances of the specific city and office culture are reflected. There are some standard functional features like paired programming rooms that can be found in each of Shopify’s spaces, but the finer details such as artwork can be tailored to the staff and their personalities.