By Meghan Hall
PayPal began showing off its revamped North San Jose headquarters last summer, after several years of careful planning and more than a year involved in the actual renovation process. With employee productivity at the forefront of the design, however, the office continues to evolve in real time as both PayPal and HGA Architects continue to make adjustments based on employee use and feedback.
“PayPal has a deep connection to their culture and their brand personality—that’s very important to them,” explained HGA Senior Project Manager and Associate Vice President Perry Stephney. “They wanted to make sure their spaces reflected who they are and create those environments for their teams to be productive, flexible and inclusive.”
PayPal’s headquarters are currently home to more than 4,000 employees. Building 15, which totals 102,000 square feet, houses PayPal’s finance department. According to the project team, the buildings hadn’t been updated in nearly two decades.
“At the time of our separation from eBay, PayPal really wanted to find its own identity, its own corporate culture and put a signature on our spaces,” explained Tim Ritz, PayPal’s vice president of Global Real Estate. “Now, we really have a vision of renovating our workspaces and reinventing them as tools for our employees to help democratize financial services and be at the forefront of connecting our brand and our workspace.”
The programming and layout of the L-shaped building was driven by different “work modes” that employees might engage in throughout the day. More socially-oriented spaces were placed at the ends of the building, while open view corridors would allow employees to see through the entire space. “Neighborhoods” composed of different seating arrangements and work stations, were designed to encourage connection amidst teams without necessarily disturbing others around them. Each neighborhood would have a similar programmatic element to tie it together.
“What we did was really anchored the ends and the center with social programs, so that there was a vibe and an energy in those places that would pull you through the building,” stated HGA Principal and Project Manager Melissa Pesci.
Talk rooms, open meeting spaces with hanging cork and white boards, as well as lightweight, easily moveable furniture and infrastructure were key components to the space.
“One of the things we build into the design…was empowering employees to create the best space for themselves to be effective and thrive,” continued Pesci. “Pretty much everything in the space is set up for them to use in the way that they need to.”
The flexibility of the space is further enhanced by an overall neutral materials palette of concrete and wood. Pops of color that were part of the PayPal brand family punctuated the space via lighting, graphics, art and wayfinding.
“It makes the space feel as if you could be in different parts of the building and experience something different, but yet know where you are,” said Stephney.
Stephney added, stating, “I think the collaboration spaces are very useful and very interesting because I think we tend to use the word ‘collaboration’ as a catch-all…What I see in the industry is that we create collaborative spaces that always have a conference table. Well, not every collaborative space needs a conference table. Sometimes, soft seating goes a long way. It’s a little bit more informal and a little bit more playful.”
PayPal and HGA are still working on the functionality of its spaces—even today. Since the project’s completion, PayPal and HGA have conducted multiple post-occupancy surveys. Because so much of the project revolved around making the space productive for employees, the results of the surveys have been used to further modify Building 15’s office space. One survey closely looked at employee’s project maps—where they did most of their work and meetings, and why—and plotted that space usage against stress levels. HGA was then able to modify certain aspects of the design to make certain spaces more rejuvenating, or relaxing.
Those initiatives have been become more important in recent months as companies evaluate how to bring employees back into the office safely in the coming year or two. Before the initial renovation, PayPal was averaging 200 square feet per person. After, a ratio of 152 square feet per person—a 24 percent reduction—was achieved. How that ratio, and the office’s overall design, will be altered in the coming months, HGA could not immediately say.
“I will say this much: they are taking a very serious [look] at things and making sure they have the right environment,” said Stephney. “They’re looking at it for immediate needs and future needs.”
On a more general note, Pesci said that a hybrid format of both in-office and work from home will likely become a new norm as employees need more breathing room and companies such as PayPal may need to increase square footage allocations for employees.
“The majority of our clients plan to have some component of work from home going forward,” said Pesci. “Obviously, it varies between client types, but I think everyone’s realized work from home makes sense. Building that into their toolkit is something we’re seeing as more normal.”