Tour the Clever, Multi-Purpose Office Designed for This Growing Moving Startup
In moving to a new space, Updater put its own ideas about moving to the test.
Updater knows moving. This technology startup builds software to manage the moving process, helping people organize everything from logistics to transitioning between utility companies.
But in January 2017, the Manhattan-based company moved itself. Its 55-person team had outgrown its 2,300-square-foot-office and settled into one four times its size.
Of course, moves always have their challenges. Before it moved, Updater wanted to design a space that would grow with the young startup. The company wanted to maintain the family feel it had in its cozier space, even with 55 staffers (and 10 of those remote). It also wanted a multi-functional space that would offer flexibility as the company grew further.
To that end, Updater enlisted TPG Architecture, the brains behind Spotify’s New York office, to design a multi-purpose, collaborative office filled with enough personalized touches that every visitor could feel welcome.
It was a good plan. In less than a year, the still growing company has already reached its second phase of renovations and is making room for its latest crop of new hires.
Click through to see how Updater keeps itself moving.
Move on in
Upon stepping into Updater’s space, visitors face no barriers between the front desk and the rest of Updater’s open office -- and that’s by design. Updater wants its clients to feel welcome and encourages clients to drop in unannounced. The company also feels this design decision underscores its commitment to transparency.
Pack it upThese wooden steps offer both hidden storage for company swag and a place for employees or clients to sit and watch presentations (a screen pulls out from the ceiling in the foreground). The steps can also connect remote teams (there’s a camera in the ceiling).
Pull the shadesThe windows have both blackout curtains and translucent curtains. The blackout curtains are used to darken the room when the projector is running, and to help block the sun from shining right in people’s eyes.
Original artworkThe star of the space is one of two original murals drawn by illustrator Greg Kletsel. The artpiece spans several walls and features a number of unique details about the company sent to the artist by Updater’s marketing director, Jenna Weinerman, including employees’ love of dogs and CEO David Greenberg’s fear of spiders. Of course, the theme of moving appears throughout the piece, from a horse-drawn wagon that’s a nod to the history of moving to houses with wings that represent “the lighter side of moving.”
This ping-pong table transforms
For ultimate functionality, this special ping-pong table doubles as a conference room table (just add chairs). Its surface slides apart, revealing more hidden storage -- perfect for meeting supplies or ping-pong paddles.
Incentive to exploreBecause Updater regularly opens its doors for tech meetups, recruiting events and gatherings for its clients, the ability to transition from office to party spot is important. This cooler is one of a few strategically placed away from the kitchen to give candidates a reason to explore the entire party -- and the entire office.
Going greenBefore moving to its new space, Updater surveyed employees for their requests. Some asks were fun, such as a candy bar, and others were less than practical, such as a ball pit or a double rainbow machine. (None of these made the cut.) One doable request was for plants. The company worked with a consultant, The Sill, to select office-friendly plants such as snakeplants, philodendron, dracaena and calathea that would flourish indoors with low light for the conference area and key hangout zones. The Sill also handles caretaking for the plants, coming every Monday so that the Updater employees can focus on working, not watering.
One desk, one team
Each Updater employee gets a sit-to-stand desk that transitions at the push of a button. Updater avoids creating a hierarchy with its seating chart, so each employee gets the same desk, from the CEO to the intern. (The CEO even sits next to the intern.)
Before each employee’s first day, Ashley Lunsford, People Experience Manager, sends along a survey asking for each individual’s likes and dislikes. Questions include, "What's your favorite color?", "What's your favorite animal?" and "If someone was going to get you a birthday treat (pie, cake, cupcake, etc) what would it be?"
When they arrive, they receive a personal letter from Lunsford, their favorite candy or snack and necessities for the first day, such as paper and pencil for notes, and Updater swag, such as this red tumbler.
Work family funThis custom-branded corn hole game is mobile, creating a fun, backyard feel for parties in the space.
Room to focusDespite the open floorplan, the company needed more private areas to meet with clients and train them, as well as spots to focus, explains Lindsey Dole, Updater’s VP of People.
The glass doors on each of these rooms are also dry-erase compatible for spur-of-the-moment brainstorming sessions. Glass underscores the company’s dedication to transparency -- everyone at Updater can see who anyone else is meeting with. Mounted tablets outside each room display room booking schedules and visitor identities.
Room to meetTo ensure maximum efficiency, glass partitions between some adjacent rooms can be pulled aside to accommodate larger groups. Each conference room has a dry-erase board, as well cameras for remote meetings to make collaborating with folks outside of the office easy.
Just add ideasThis doorless brainstorming space was designed for engineers. It's flanked by whiteboards, stocked with dry-erase markers and ready at all times for when ideas strike.
Art that 'moves'
Moving-themed song lyrics double as bold, inexpensive wall art at Updater. The team pulled from songs such as the '94 hit "I Like to Move It Move It" and Beyonc?'s "Irreplaceable" (2006), with "Everything you own in a box to the left."
Says Weinerman, "Believe it or not, there are not that many songs about moving -- but we found them."
Make them move
This wall art doesn’t just reinforce the company’s brand -- it stresses an important work maxim that could help any Updater employee.
The open plan
The open floorplan helps foster a “family feel” among employees and when Updater hosts clients and the tech community.
“As you scale, as you add more people, inevitably, individual teams start to grow, and there are little nucleuses that form, or micro-cultures, as I like to call them,” Weinerman says. “But having an open office space really keeps it feeling like one team, because you’re basically all in one room.”
Rock out -- or not
Six zones are programmed into the Sonos sound system, allowing employees who want to listen to music as a group to do so and those who’ve downloaded the Sonos app to play DJ. Those who need to focus can choose to work in a quiet zone. And thanks to a company-wide rule, those wearing headphones are left alone, since that’s an established sign someone needs to focus.
A movable feastThese high-top tables, with pastel legs painted to reflect Updater’s branding, host team and candidate lunches. Each table is wheeled, and they can be moved to accommodate special events or meetings. “We’re a moving company,” Weinerman says. “We have to be mobile.”
What's on tap?Like many startups, Updater has beer on tap. The kegs are elegantly concealed with custom cabinetry that slides outward, an idea which TPG Architecture contributed in designing the space. Updater engineers work with the tap company to select the beers and manage this perk for the office.
What's in the fridge?Updater provides soda, seasonal beers and cold brew in the fridge as well as multiple flavors of La Croix, thanks to an internal Slack messaging debate over which is the best.
Put it on the list
Updater has a grocery Slack channel so employees can add FreshDirect links for items they want the company to purchase. Eggs are often available in the fridge for use in this hard-boiled egg maker, which one employee requested. Avocados are also on hand, and many employees make avocado toast.“We have our kitchen appliances, so it truly feels like home,” Dole says. “We cook and eat together.”
Updater employees like salty snacks over sweet ones -- a fact the company discovered only after over-ordering Oreos. That said, they do share a love of gummy candy such as Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish.
A love of dogs has led to a special nickname for the company: Pupdater. Employees take turns bringing their dogs to work, with each pooch coming in about once every two weeks. A total of eight dogs cycle through (they're featured on the "Meet the team" page of Updater's website), and on rare occasions, two dogs are in the space at one time. Here dog Rocky enjoys a break at the humans' water cooler where a dog-friendly water bowl also sits.
Time for surprises
This second Kletsel mural, located in the back of the office in a nook that contains a foosball table, features even more inside jokes and easter eggs. A marching band illustration (center, above the globe surrounded by blue arrows) symbolizes the day a marching band walked through the office to mark a special milestone: That month, Updater reached 10 percent market share for the first time. In other words, the company passed the point of assisting 10 percent of all U.S. movers, referred by its real estate partners.
A birthday surprise
Surprises are an important part of the culture at Updater. Weinerman hired the marching band to play “I like to move it, move it” (see video below), and the musicians started playing in the back of the office and marched toward the front area where the staff was congregated for a meeting. Then, throughout the next 10 days, the surprise-filled celebration continued. Employees received massages, a smoothie bar, a whiskey tasting and new team backpacks.
“Some of the small things we do for employees, we keep as surprises,” Dole says. “If it’s a fun surprise, the reaction is so much better.”
In 2016, Updater landed at number three on the Crain’s New York Best Places to Work list. During the ceremony, Crain’s gave each company has a superlative, and Updater’s was, “Fun and full of surprises.”
A post shared by MB Cook (@o_hey_guys) on Mar 31, 2017 at 8:14am PDT