This piece is the third in a series the Cap Times is rolling out on “Cool Workspaces” around town. Check out a gallery of other featured workspaces at captimes.com and stay tuned for future profiles that are sure to inspire office envy.
Zendesk, a software development company with an office off the Capitol Square in Madison, has a rather magnificent moss wall in its lobby. The lush, living wall décor is about 13 feet wide and 4 feet tall. Moss design experts flew in from California to install it. And it requires watering by spray bottle every two weeks.
The moss wall is a striking bit of color in an office that’s mostly white, gray and minimalist. Jilian Elliot, the office manager, attributes what she calls a “simple” layout to Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane’s Danish roots. The look is spare and modern.
Zendesk, which provides cloud-based IT help desk software to about 45,000 clients, filed for an IPO last April. It has offices in Madison, San Francisco and several other locations worldwide. The Madison office, which clocks in at 14,000 square feet, houses about 70 full-time employees.
The company moved into its current space last July, vacating a nearby office now inhabited by another “cool workspace,” Murfie. The July move was particularly exciting to many in the Madison tech community because Zendesk was poised to leave Madison and relocate employees to its San Francisco office. But when CEO Svane got acquainted with Madison, he decided not only to keep the company’s Midwestern ties, but to expand here.
The Zendesk office features an open floor plan with large windows overlooking Lake Monona on one side and Mendota on the other. Desks convert from sitting to standing, and wandering about the office in search of alternative working locales is encouraged, Elliot said.
Employees might choose to move to one of the small lounge areas set up with comfortable chairs or one of the office conference rooms, which have felt walls to absorb sound and are named after teas.
One conference room is called, “Panda droppings,” which has been reported as “the world’s most expensive tea.”
Though “panda droppings” may not exactly whet employees’ appetites, there are plenty of delights awaiting them in Zendesk’s expansive kitchen and lounge area.
“It’s basically where all the perks are,” Elliot said.
Those perks include a fridge stocked with bottled soda, tea and beer, two panini makers, blenders, an espresso machine and two beer taps. The beer on tap was Spotted Cow and Bells Two Hearted during a recent visit.
Employees don’t drink during office hours, but imbibe after 6 p.m., she said. Occasionally, themed happy hours from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. will feature drinks like hot chocolate martinis or other seasonally inspired treats, like green beer for St. Patrick’s Day.
Just beyond the beer taps there’s a wall of snacks: packs of gum are arrayed under bags of pretzels, granola bars and just about any grab-and-go snack imaginable. Near the snacks are board games like Yahtzee and Settlers of Catan. The board games come in handy when the ping pong table is in use.
Plans to install a shuffleboard court in the office are in the works, Elliott said.
Also in the works: the potential addition of art from 100 state artists on the walls. Zendesk may have some European flair (and a Californian-installed moss wall), but it’s putting down solid Midwestern roots.
The Zendesk office features an open floor plan with large windows overlooking Lake Monona on one side and Mendota on the other.