With it’s new London office opening last month, Skype has broken the mold of traditional tech workplaces.
You know the stereotype – a giant romper room with toys and gizmos, the kind of place you’d happily drop off your child on the way to work. But No2 Waterhouse Square in Holborn is different. It’s an innovative, meticulously designed workplace that reminds you of a handmade, precision-built Swiss watch – except that the rooms, not the people, are the cogs around the curved glass atrium. In this watch, the jewels are the people and the building revolves around them.
This office has been designed specifically for Skype and even has the Skype experience built in. Over three floors, in a landmark neo-gothic building, the spaces cluster around a series of hubs. The first and most central of these is called the Chill, where everyone can meet, eat, and reinvent the wheel. The giant screens there allow everyone in the building to share a Skype call with people in Skype offices across the globe.
To ease collaboration, there are “scrum areas” for group brainstorming with offices as far flung as Estonia, the Czech Republic, the USA, and Singapore. Virtually every room, whether it’s for conferences, training, or a personal phone booth, is fitted with dedicated Skype cams and screens. And the entire office is lit appropriately and acoustically rendered to make video and voice calls look and sound fantastic.
The new London office is home to coders, engineers, marketers, analysts, management and admin, who come from all corners of the globe. We met employees from Moscow, Greece, and Kazakhstan, as well as locals, who work in groups that are subdivided into start-up sized units.
Engineer Ahmed Zaman, age 22, said: “It makes you feel so calm, but able to cope with a tough workload. People said Skype would be all corporate, but the way we work, it feels like a start-up.”
Executive Mark Gillett, who co-commissioned the project, explained that the building houses up to 20 such “start-up” groups. He noted that Skype’s presence in London started as a marketing center. But as the company grows in the mobile space, the British capital is also helping to answer its need for more engineers.
London is becoming an increasingly important hub for Skype’s business as it grows from East to West. And as London straddles the world’s time-zones, it’s the best location to keep East and West in touch.
The new offices represent Skype’s commitment to make communication with the people you care about easy and convenient, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Take a look: