Forget closed doors and quiet meetings – there are no secrets at TripAdvisor’s new Australian headquarters.
On a floor of the Australia Post building in Sydney’s inner-city Chippendale, meeting rooms have been designed without doors and roofs – partly for cost, partly for logistics, and partly for office morale.
The new offices, at 219 Cleveland Street, see global travel review and bookings site TripAdvisor combined with associated companies, tour booking company Viator and restaurant booking site Dimmi, for the first time in Australia.
TripAdvisor may be the best known of the three, but it’s Viator that makes up the majority of the 190 workers in the office.
Viator’s vice president of engineering Jeff Lewis was responsible for overseeing the design of the Sydney office.
He said the standing meeting rooms – which consist of a table surrounded by dividers – came about from the need to keep in touch with teams working at Viator and TripAdvisor’s American headquarters.
One of the standing meeting rooms in TripAdvisor’s new office. Photo: Viator
The need to communicate with international headquarters during an overlap of office hours necessitates most teams having to video conference as soon as they get into the office each morning.
“We needed a large amount of video conferencing facilities, the head office for Viator is in San Francisco and for TripAdvisor it’s in Needham, Massachusetts. So we needed a lot of dedicated areas for video conferencing, but we also needed it to be cost effective.
”We need to overlap between US and Australian time, but we couldn’t afford 20 full-scale video conferencing rooms. That’s where the stand-up meeting rooms come in,” Mr Lewis said.
The stand-up meeting rooms have no ceilings and no doors, meaning sound travels far and fast. Yet privacy doesn’t seem to be a concern.
“We want people to listen in. The whole idea is about collaboration and knowing what’s going on. That’s the whole concept of scrum, people share knowledge with the wider office.
”They are also cost effective to build because there’s no doors, no glass, no glazing, no cooling,” he said.
Some matters – pay rises, hiring and firing – require a little more discretion.
That’s where presentation rooms – each themed according to different destinations, such as Bondi Beach or one of South America’s great treks – come in.
One of the meeting rooms, each of which is themed according to a different destination. Photo: Viator
Even the corridor walls are themed, to remind staff of the greater goal of what they are doing.
“It’s just to show the staff the stuff we sell around the world. If you’re a junior programmer, for example, you might not have any idea that we sell helicopter tours over the Grand Canyon.”
Before they moved in at the end of August, Viator had been working in a separate office in Surry Hills, Dimmi down the road in Chippendale, while all of TripAdvisor’s Sydney staff had been working from home.
The space, designed and delivered by Unispace over a period of five and half months from inception to completion, takes up the majority of the fifth floor, with designated company areas and a mixture of hot desks and permanent seating, depending on the team.
Inside the TripAdvisor kitchen, which looks out to the Sydney city skyline. Photo: Viator
“We wanted a common workplace for all the TripAdvisor companies that allowed for some separation but shared common areas.
”There’s capacity for 224 now, but with the company rapidly growing, infrastructure has been developed to allow an eventual 268 workers.
”There’s a large common area with video conferencing facilities, where all staff can join in on video conferences beamed around the world.
“My CEO can be video conferencing from San Francisco with 190 people here listening in,” Mr Lewis said.
It’s not all work though.
“We’re in a pretty fun business, and it’s nice to be in a company which really reflects that,” Mr Lewis said.
The new offices are big on encouraging staff to interact and unwind outside of work hours, and during breaks, with each room having a dual purpose.
There’s a mothers’ room, and massages held on a rotating basis in the Bondi room.
The common area features pool and tennis tables. Photo: Viator
The common kitchen area features initiatives such as a Friday lunch for all of the company’s staff, with a different caterer each week.
There’s a pool table and tennis table as well as large terrace areas, with fire pits and barbecues, which surround most of the floor and provide expansive views of the Sydney skyline.
“The table tennis and pool table are really popular,” Mr Lewis said.
On a Friday evening tour of the office, staff can be seen hanging back after hours, playing games or lounging on the outdoor furniture.
There’s talk of using one of the presentation rooms to host movie nights and there’s even a beer tap in the kitchen, providing extra incentive to stick around and bond with work mates.
Who would want to go home when they can have that?