Salesforce embodies its Ohana throughout its San Francisco headquarters upon opening up its Salesforce Tower to the community.
It started off as an idea while at Dreamforce – the world’s largest software event, created by Salesforce. CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, was left feeling inspired by the buzz that reverberated throughout this 4-day conference.
This is what our real estate should feel like, this is what we need to create in our buildings.
-Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce
The idea was to create a memorable and experiential environment for everyone that steps foot in Salesforce HQ, just as it did at Dreamforce. In order for this to be successfully executed, the brand experience and environment needed to be realigned. The key was to create a space that celebrates culture and unite everyone’s ‘Ohana’ – meaning family in Hawaiian.
All existing Salesforce headquarters, from all parts of the world, were analyzed to find the Ohana that lied within it. The result? With inspiration from Burberry’s creative team, “Mock floors” helped bring Salesforce’s vision to life. Wellness rooms, dedicated social lounges, and warm collaborative spaces were created within the ‘mock floors’. From “mock floors” to “mock building”, Salesforce East opened with “Ohana” floors sitting at the top for non-profit events, volunteer activities, tours, and much more.
From what started as a traditional enterprise turned into a design standard that promoted collaboration, fun, sustainability, and employee wellness. Today, along with the official grand opening of its Salesforce Tower in May 2019, Salesforce San Francisco is now a home for not only its employees, but its customers, partners, and community.
How did you come up with the “Ohana” concept and is there a story behind the selection of the Hawaiian term for “family”?
We look at our real estate as more than just buildings, they are tangible expressions of our culture and values. Ohana means family in Hawaiian and equality is the idea behind our Ohana Floors, as these floors will be open to all — our employees, customers, partners, and members of the community.
What were the main criteria for your selection of the design team? Did you have an end result (concept) in mind that informed the RFP for design services or did you look to have the design team help craft the overreaching concept for your new workplaces?
Our real estate is much more than architecture and design. It’s about creating a place that has a lasting positive impact on our employees, partners, customers, communities and the environment around us. To deliver the best possible design, we partnered with Mark Cavagnero Associates, a world-class architecture firm, and The Wiseman Group, award-winning residential interior designers, to help transform our offices and manifest the best of Salesforce in a physical space, globally.
With this team, we defined the look and feel we were aiming for. More startup than traditional enterprise company, a design standard that promoted collaboration, fun, sustainability, and employee wellness. To bring this to life, we honed in on core principles that felt warm and collaborative. This included clear sightlines, open flow on each floor to allow employees access to the best sunlight and views, inspiration from nature, sustainable materials, dedicated social lounges for collaboration and events, mindfulness areas on every floor for recharging, mother’s rooms for nursing parents, reflection rooms for prayer or a quiet moment, and residential-inspired finishes. We worked with our design partners to bring this vision to life and continue to iterate.
A lot of company’s shy away from doing extensive mock-up due to time, cost, and issues around gathering employee feedback. From one of the articles we looked at, it seemed you went all-in on a mock-up. What you think were the main benefits of going to the time, trouble and cost to do this?
We connected with Burberry’s creative team to dive into their design philosophy and how their stores are brought to life, and they recommended building a physical mock-up. We built conference rooms, laid down the carpet options, tested lighting, tables, desks, chairs, fabrics and every nuance of the evolving design. Throughout the entire conceptualization process, Marc Benioff visited the mock floor numerous times and focused his feedback on how to make the space feel warmer and residential. For us, the mock-up was a worthwhile investment because it allowed us to see our vision come to life in real-time, and innovate on the design standard as the process evolved.
What design elements do you use to differentiate the offices in different geographies? How much do you take into account local cultural traditions? How does this change or make you adapt the design, yet keep unity overall for your corporate office footprint?
At Dreamforce 2015, our co-CEO Marc Benioff and our leadership team stood in the middle of the Dreamforce Plaza and felt inspired by the energy and experience that felt authentically Salesforce. Marc observed, “This is what our real estate should feel like, this is what we need to create in our buildings.” Our real estate journey began right then and there.
The goal with our global Salesforce Design Standard is to align everyone with consistent brand experience and environment any time they enter a Salesforce office, anywhere in the world. This design celebrates the culture we know and love and creates one look and feel across Salesforce offices worldwide. We utilize certain local traditions and elements into the design within the tile backsplash design in our social lounges, in our culture galleries (team photos on the walls of our buildings captured at company events, volunteer activities and more), amongst other geographical touches.
Now that you have opened the Ohana floor in SF – what kind of reaction do you get from visitors? What is the most positive thing that has happened or that reinforced your decision to offer this space for community/shared use beyond your employee’s workspace?
To date, events held on our Ohana Floors have raised over $5.6M for charity globally. We’re really proud of that, and it’s a great reminder of why we open up our Ohana Floors for nonprofits and community groups – because we believe that the business of business is to improve the state of the world. We’ve also opened up the Ohana Floor of Salesforce Tower San Francisco for free monthly community tours, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For the first time, residents and tourists alike are able to gaze down on both of San Francisco’s world-famous bridges and enjoy the Bay Area vistas from a never seen before vantage point.
Can you elaborate on your commitment to sustainable design?
Because offices are a physical expression of our values, Salesforce is committed to integrating green building practices into our design, construction, and operations. In addition to working toward 100% renewable energy, we build our workspaces to leading green building standards like LEED, BREEAM, and Green Mark.
We’re proud that we have achieved or are actively pursuing green building certification in 64 percent of global office spaces and LEED Platinum certification, the highest possible achievement, for three buildings in our San Francisco headquarters. Additionally, we have achieved net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as a company, 33 years ahead of our original commitment. Additional points that highlight this commitment:
- Our global headquarters, Salesforce Tower San Francisco, features the largest on-site water recycling system in a commercial high-rise building in the United States.
- Salesforce Tower Chicago will be one of our most sustainable buildings to date, pursuing LEED v4 Commercial Interiors Platinum certification and ILFI Net Zero Carbon Certification.
- Salesforce Tower Dublin will be an all-electric building and will source 100% renewable energy – including onsite solar panels with a cutting-edge integrated battery storage system.
- Salesforce Tower Sydney will be one of the most sustainable office campuses in the city. The building has achieved Sydney’s first-ever WELL core and Shell Platinum pre-certification and is pursuing 6 Star Green Star Design and As-Built rating, representing world excellence in sustainable design.
Thinking about your overall portfolio, what are the three or four most innovative spaces you have created?
In addition to our Ohana Floors, here are three other innovative spaces we’ve created:
- Mindfulness Zones: Mindfulness zones are included on all employee floors that feature our design standard and are a dedicated place for employees to find peace and recharge.
- Interactive Lobbies: We’ve built out interactive lobbies in Salesforce Towers worldwide, which feature LED video walls, Salesforce mascots, music and more. When you step into a dedicated Salesforce lobby, you’re immediately immersed in our brand experience.
- Flex Rooms: Before a team moves into a space built out in our design standard, we partner with them on customizing the flex room on their floor. This enclosed space is designed based on that team’s needs and is truly one-of-a-kind. Whether it’s a living room set up with a U-shape couch, a game room, boardroom and more, these areas are personalized to reflect the team that calls the floor home.
What kind of ideas have your employees suggested that you have incorporated into your workplace design initiatives?
The design process is never-ending and is iterative. Our Salesforce Design Standard is optimized for employee engagement, collaboration, well-being, and productivity. That includes open views and natural light; a residential environment that feels more home than office; social spaces; calm environments with biophilic design elements, natural materials, and neutral colors; mindfulness zones; and culture galleries. Recently, we unveiled a quiet zone pilot that functions similar to a “silent library” concept where employees can do heads down, focus work. The work doesn’t stop here.
After employees move into a new floor (and/or building) as well as throughout the year, we conduct surveys to better understand what’s working and what’s not. From what we’ve heard from our employees, we’ve bumped up our conference room ratios, added quiet zones, created more personalization options, introduced new collaboration spaces, and more. This nimbleness has allowed us to take this feedback and act on it quickly to enable our employees to do the best work of their lives.
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