Today, we’ll be taking the next step in our journey as a Virtual First company: opening Dropbox Studios. These unique spaces will bring a reimagined office experience to our employees.
While remote work is now the primary mode for day-to-day interactions at Dropbox, we recognized that human connection can’t be fully recreated virtually. “It’s something our employees have really missed the past year and a half working remotely,” says Melanie Collins, Chief People Officer. That need presented a unique opportunity to completely rethink the purpose of our offices, so we spent the past few months redesigning them into collaborative spaces called Studios. Studios are meant for in-person teamwork and strengthening connections with colleagues, as empathy is such a valued part of our company culture.
With our Virtual First approach, we’re not only rethinking the physical spaces we work in, but also our work culture as a whole. We’ve made workweeks more flexible to individual needs by implementing core collaboration hours—blocks of time set aside for meetings that allow employees to build the rest of their schedule around their lives. And we’re also taking a closer look at the technology we use so that it better supports our employees and, by extension, our customers.
“Our company mission is to design a more enlightened way of working and being Virtual First is an example of how we’re living that out: a distributed team building products for distributed teams,” says Collins.
By creating more flexibility with where and when employees work, we also believe they can make key decisions about caregiving, mental health, and other personal matters in a more purposeful way.
“The lines between work and personal lives are forever blurred for employees, so it’s more important than ever they feel purpose in both,” says Alastair Simpson, VP of Design. “This is why we’re shifting the focus of the work they do from productivity to impact.”
Inside Dropbox Studios
With Studios, we’re reimagining how we use our offices and the types of experiences we want people to have in them. We already had a great space for collaboration, but we wanted to optimize the flow and format to support connectivity, creativity, and community-building.
“It’s important to come together as human beings to build trust as a company,” says Simpson. “Since we’re seeing each other less in person, these moments need to feel special.”
To deliver on that, we were very intentional in reorganizing spaces and building more physical flexibility, as we expect the needs of teams and our business will continue to evolve.
Every site that was previously aligned to an office (SF, Seattle, and Austin, for example) will have access to a Dropbox Studio, and we anticipate adding more locations as we become an increasingly distributed workforce over time.
Since Studios are for all types of collaboration, we’ve built larger conference rooms with versatile layouts that can accommodate team meetings just as easily as larger off-sites. For development courses and trainings, classrooms feature flexible wall systems and movable furniture that can adapt to group needs. And to provide a visually clean setting that supports creative work, we kept the finishes neutral and allowed for plenty of natural light.
We also recognized that Dropbox employees need somewhere to touch down between meetings or connect with co-workers and clients. That’s where community spaces, like our coffee shop, pictured above, come in—the type of environment that works for catching up on e-mail or a more casual meeting.
Virtual First Toolkit 2.0
With the opening of our Studios, we’ve also updated our Virtual First Toolkit. A follow-up to the guides we published last Fall, they offer practices to help our employees be as successful as possible while working remotely, regardless of personal circumstances. This resource is also meant to bring the Virtual First approach to life for other companies navigating distributed work.
Based on principles we’ve discovered in our experience so far, the new toolkit features actionable, virtual-friendly exercises to help teams thrive remotely—everything from prioritizing tasks and sharpening communication to setting better boundaries and tending to the well-being of yourself and teammates.
You can find the full Virtual First Toolkit and additional information here.
A learning mindset
Being a Virtual First company is a dramatic shift in how we work, and it certainly isn’t a simple one. In the process, we’ll adopt the same philosophy we use to develop our products: build, learn, and adapt.
As part of the initial opening for many of our Studios, we’ll be implementing certain COVID-19 safety measures to keep employees’ health our top priority. We’ll also rely on internal feedback to better understand how these spaces are being used and what we can improve.
We hope others can learn and benefit from our experiences—successes and failures—as we embark on this next phase of our journey and welcome Dropbox employees back in person!