Return-to-Office Series: Our Conversation with Allbirds
coDesign recently spoke with Dylan Chase, Workplace Manager at Allbirds, a fast-growing, sustainable footwear and apparel brand. What did we learn? That the company has opted for a “mandatory hybrid return,” one where employees will be required to come into the office 2-3 days/week, when it’s safe to do so.
When we spoke with Dylan about this hybrid model, he shared, “Our office…is essential to our operations, who we are as a culture, and our identity… at the end of the day, we’re a product company and there’s a large, physical, tangible aspect to our essential functions. We need people in the room verifying samples, looking at product together, getting their hands on things, and really having that engagement that we need and value…”
For Allbirds, implementing a mandatory hybrid return makes sense, as this model guarantees in-office collaboration, while still providing employees with desired flexibility.
To support its new work model, Allbirds has made major changes to its workplace. In fact, the company is calling its return-to-office its “return-to-better,” a concept that really resonated with coDesign. What exactly does it mean? That Dylan and his team have built out Allbirds’ workplace in service to the company’s business needs, culture, and employee requests, a major undertaking, as the company signed a lease for an additional 2 floors (14,000 sq. ft.) of space in its building just before the pandemic began.
COVID pushed Allbirds to view its expansion as an opportunity to reimagine its space for the future of work. The workplace team created a variety of conference rooms (some with traditional desks and others with soft seating) and created a range of space types to support various ways of working. Allbirds also added a host of new amenities. “We added amenities to draw people in. We’re wanting to pull people into our office. We’re not pushing people in, but rather, we’re trying to make our office a really exciting, eventful space...We added a gym… and also common social areas, with shuffleboard, and ping pong, and things of that nature,” shared Dylan. Allbirds also took advantage of its rooftop by building a beautiful deck and bar, which it uses for its Thursday evening happy hours. The company has truly gone all out to create a unique space that any employee would be thrilled to use!
What was coDesign’s take-away from this conversation? That companies shouldn’t follow return-to-office trends, but rather, take the time to evaluate their specific needs and make return-to-office plans that best suit their business, culture, and teams. It’s exciting to see that Allbirds has done just that!