Scott Hazard, Atlassian’s global head of real estate and workplace experience, recently roller skated through the company’s San Francisco office.
“It’s very awkward to see,” he joked of his skating — but it wasn’t awkward to transform the workplace’s dining area into a rink. It took half an hour.
“All of this ... is very flexible and movable,” he explained of the office furnishings. But he could just as easily have been talking about Atlassian’s collaboration-oriented software.
“The best software teams ship early and often,” proclaims the website for Jira, the company’s flagship project management software. Atlassian lives up to its own assertion (and uses Jira internally to do so). Developers at the global, Sydney-based company constantly update their products to fit customer needs.
Hazard and his team bring this same iterative approach to the office. They routinely hold focus groups for employees, in which they ask two main questions: What do you need that you don’t have, and what do you have that you don’t need?
This has led to some additions to the San Francisco space — like monitors for long-term work in the library, the office’s “uber-silent zone” — and some subtractions, like personal desks. Employees who prefer to work in communal spaces, like the library or one of the (hotly contested) booths in the dining area, often end up sharing a desk.
“We’re trying to right-size it,” Hazard said. We toured Atlassian’s San Francisco office to find out more.
Atlassian’s current office space opened this past November in the Financial District.
“There’s no right or wrong place to be in such a small city as San Francisco,” explained Hazard, but the company appreciates this location’s proximity to enterprise partners and public transit. It’s about two blocks from the Montgomery MUNI and BART stations, and Hazard said that the majority of Atlassian employees either take transit, bike or walk to work.
Atlassian San Francisco has 550 employees and counting, spanning 10 functions. These include finance, legal, HR, communications, engineering, marketing and more. In terms of teams, it’s the company’s most diverse office, Hazard said, which makes it an ideal site for cross-functional experimentation.
Atlassian’s five-story space — which will expand to seven stories this summer— is a miniature San Francisco, with a different local theme on each floor. The Financial District floor is home to the finance department; the Fillmore-themed floor’s mini-kitchen (above) features mustard curtains and stage lights that evoke the historic theater.
Meanwhile, the Golden Gate Park floor — the same floor that briefly became a roller rink — features plenty of communal space and spiky, geometric light fixtures meant to echo the real park’s foliage.
There’s a logic behind the whimsy. Atlassian is a global company, with offices in six countries — half of Hazard’s team works in Sydney — and the designers aimed to “help people from other areas, or geos, get some familiarity of the city,” Hazard said.
“Golden Gate Park means nothing to somebody from Amsterdam,” he elaborated. “So we kind of localize it through an Atlassian lens.”
That means an office that is part guidebook to the harried work traveler, part sunny home base for locals, who can enjoy the San Francisco sun (when it comes out) thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor workspaces. Here are some highlights of our tour of Atlassian San Francisco.
The gourmet food — including fresh persimmons
Atlassian doesn’t have a cafeteria so much as what Hazard calls a “family room,” a high-ceilinged space with two hot bars, a salad bar, a snack station and a variety of seating.
When we visited around lunchtime, the hot bar featured cerveza- and habanero-roasted pork loin and shallots with caramelized onions. (Though the salad bar offers the same fixings every day, the hot bar offerings rotate.) The snack station, meanwhile, boasted goldfish crackers, cashews and fresh fruit including kiwis and persimmons.
Even when it’s not mealtime, though, people often work from the booths by the family room windows, basking in the sunlight. “This is like our Starbucks,” Hazard said.
The multimedia mural that encourages collaboration
Fittingly, the stairwell that connects three floors of the office features a mural celebrating interconnectedness. In a work context, that means teamwork, collaboration and the merging of ideas — concepts that shine through in the installation’s mixed media and mesh-like string mosaic.
“I could stare at that for hours,” Hazard said of the string components.
The mural was actually a product of collaboration too. Like all the art in Atlassian offices, it was made by local artists — two of them, to be exact. Muralist and sculptor Strider Patton worked on the twisting, painted portion, and Knits for Life wove the string elements.
“We don’t ... tell them what to do,” Hazard said. Instead, Atlassian shared its values with the artists, who “surprised us.”
The dueling balconies
Two balconies bracket the family room to the north and south. One is sunny, the other shady — on hot days, people often bounce between the two, running to the shady one whenever they overheat. (For anyone who forgets their shades, a bucket of blue plastic sunglasses sits near the sunnier balcony.)
The open bar
Tucked behind the cafeteria, the Atlassian office has an open bar with beer, wine and kombucha on tap. Starting around 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon, employees congregate here to sip drinks and play games of shuffleboard and pool.
The mood is festive, but rarely rowdy. “We have a culture that self-manages,” Hazard explained.
Don’t call Atlassian’s wellness area a gym. It hosts daily fitness classes and features a rack of kettlebells and weights, but “you won’t find a leg press,” Hazard said. “We’re not going to give every bell and whistle — we’re going to give people the foundation to make it what they want it to be.”
In other words, Atlassian offers employees workout essentials — including slick stall-style showers and company blowdryers for cleaning up after. Then the company encourages people to make the “platform” their own.
The values that touch everything — even the bar decor
The entire office space reflects Atlassian’s five core values — especially “open company, no bullshit,” visible in the plentiful communal spaces and the absence of executive offices. On our tour, we spotted Atlassian president Jay Simons at work alongside everyone else.
Every value, though, shines through in the space, even in the flags that flutter above the bar.
A stricken-through cow signifies “no bullshit,” and the back of a jersey signifies teamwork. Hazard describes these as “easter eggs” — “only the in-tune eye would notice those flags in that way” — but they contribute to the sense that Atlassian’s values, its space and its core products mesh together. Sort of like a string mosaic.