What We Learned Opening a Second Office in Our Hometown
It was a simple proposition: just move some people to a new office to accommodate a growing staff. Except that it was more than just a few people. And they were leaving a creatively adorned office, so the new space had a lot to live up to. And those people had become very intertwined in recent years, so there would be lots of considerations about who moves and when and—OK, maybe it wasn’t a simple proposition at all.
“The way that MailChimp started building our product fundamentally changed,” VP of Customer Support Jon Smith explains. “So we needed more space for those collaborative environments.”
Support is the largest department at MailChimp. It’s big in size, it’s essential to how our company works, and the team is self-sufficient in a way that no other is at MailChimp. Since there’s always someone in Support working around the clock, they’re accustomed to creating unique processes and innovating on the fly without help from the rest of the company. For a team as unique as that, giving them their own space just made sense.
It was July 2016 when serious discussions started, and by October, the final plans were set in motion. With Support as the chosen group, MailChimp’s Facilities team could get to work. Fortunately, we’d held onto some previous real estate from our original Means Street headquarters when we moved to Atlanta’s Ponce City Market (PCM) in early 2015. MailChimp’s Facilities team planned to repurpose and renovate the space, then start moving people over in shifts.
“It’s very challenging because people’s lives are being affected by this,” Jon explains. “They want to know, ‘How is this going to affect me from day to day? My connections here at this building, culturally, to the greater company—how am I going to stay connected?’”
MailChimp’s overnight crew (ONC) was chosen as the first group to make the move. They’re extremely autonomous, creative, and entrepreneurial when it comes to finding solutions—qualities that made the ONC team a perfect choice to brave this brand new office space world.
“They were good pioneers for us, gave us a lot of feedback, went through a lot of final touches of construction while they were over there, and they were the ones that really helped us make the rest of the moves very smooth,” Jon says. “Big kudos to them.”
The Facilities team decided that they’d renovate the 2nd-floor space in 2 different phases in order to allow ONC to move as soon as possible. By April 2017, Facilities had also managed to lease an additional floor for Support and began plans to completely redesign the 3rd floor of the building. With both floors, all of Support would now be able to reside together again.
For the architectural design, it was necessary to find a creative take that was compatible with MailChimp’s unique culture, so they turned to a firm called NELSON. After the company got a feel for MailChimp, they came up with a design aesthetic that incorporated a vampire theme for one floor and a classic rock ‘n’ roll theme for the other. The support teams loved the ideas, and NELSON got to work.
The result included a coffin coffee table, custom leather sofas, a guitar table, a “Count Freddie” vampire portrait (painted by a MailChimp employee’s mother-in-law, no less), and all sorts of other quirky amenities that make it a fun place to work every day. Senior Customer Support Manager Candace Hightower says that “no detail was overlooked when this space was built out. There are warm and inviting places like the library, meeting booths, and little seating nooks that are welcoming—and let’s not forget about the many oh-so-comfortable bean bag chairs.”
“With the pool table and ping pong table in the same room as the video console, our team can often be found spending their lunch breaks together playing games to refresh and relax to make sure they are always on their A-game when helping our customers,” Candace says.
To top it all off, NELSON’s design for the Means Street 2nd floor space won a “Best of the Best” award from the International Interior Design Association in early 2018.
MailChimp Facilities Operation Manager Lance Simmons says his team had learned a lot during the 2015 buildout and move process to PCM, and those lessons were very useful for the Means Street project. There was a lot more than the usual ones like, say, “construction takes a lot of time.” Organizational stuff like setting expectations and communicating clearly, for instance, are critical, but there were also some new takeaways from Means Street about the company’s office space needs in general: sound masking with white noise, using light to make a room feel larger and more pleasant, and figuring out the right meeting room sizes. It’s the kind of stuff that Lance and his team have brought back to MailChimp’s main space in Ponce City Market where they’re rethinking some things, including meeting rooms.
“We immediately saw how much people used the smaller rooms at the new space, so we’re currently building eight of them at Ponce City Market,” Lance says. “We’re not the geniuses behind the spaces, we’ve just learned to ask the right questions and interpret the needs of our employees.”
About a year into the new space, our Support team is back to business as usual, taking care of customers and making the space its own. Now that her team has really settled in, Candace says that their new office feels like a home away from home.
“We were always a pretty close team, but the space has allowed us to become even closer,” she says. “It’s built stronger bonds of trust and collaboration and created some amazing memories for our team.”
As for staying connected to the rest of the company, Jon’s proud to say that we’re figuring that part out, too.
“We’ve been hosting folks from different departments for ‘A Day in the Life of Support’ and Support office hours every week at Means Street,” he says. “Other departments hold meetings at Means Street from time to time. Employees often reserve desks between locations when they need to collaborate on projects. The most important thing is that we make sure our employees stay connected to the company’s mission and shared values. That’s what keeps MailChimp’s culture intact, whether we’re in Atlanta or anywhere else in the world.”