Culture by Design: Datadog HQ
It's no secret that design has an impact on the way people use and feel about space. In today's modern workplace, a thriving company culture is vital to the health and wellbeing of the company as a whole, and office design has a huge impact in crafting that culture: for better, or for worse!
SquareFoot recently reviewed a space designed with its home company's needs in mind: the cafeteria at Datadog’s new headquarters on the 45th floor in the New York Times building.
We sat down with Pascal Schaary, Director of Operations, to hear how their dream space came together.
What was the most important feature that you were looking for in your new office?
Our previous offices in Flatiron were on multiple floors, and we could never get the entire company together in one room. I knew that we would need a space that was large enough to hold the whole team, for all-hands meetings and catered lunches, which are crucial for company culture, and so I wanted to design an area that would serve that purpose.
What made you decide to take on the kitchen design on your own?
I didn’t want to take the risk that the architects would design a space that wouldn’t meet our needs as a company, and so I was very involved in the planning and executing of the overall design. I visited several offices with 100+ employees, such as Squarespace, Namely, and SeatGeek, and took copious notes and drawings about the design and flow of their kitchens and cafeteria spaces.
What was the most important takeaway from your research and how did it influence the kitchen design at Datadog?
Efficiency and ease of flow is key when thinking about design and spacing. Can there be someone in line for food at the island and someone at the counter buttering their toast simultaneously, or is the space too tight? In my research, I noticed that bottlenecks in the kitchen happened around water and coffee, and so at Datadog, we built two complete options that have a mirrored setup on both sides of the kitchen: each side has two fridges stocked with the same snacks and drinks, two coffee machines, and two water machines. I even timed various water filters to see which brand could fill up a 20 oz bottle of water the quickest, to ensure there would be no long lines!
What is the hardest thing about managing an office of 100+ employees and how did you let the design and flow help you optimize for that amount of people?
Feeding 100+ people is tricky, and I didn’t want my team to have to come in waves and eat at different times. We have three identical food lines set up; one on either side of the main island and one around the smaller island so that multiple people can be served at once. From my research at the other large companies, I noticed that the biggest problem with serving food was the garbage. There was not enough space; either not enough actual bins or the bins were too small and filled up too quickly. I also realized that the flaps that typical garbage cans have get gross instantly. I designed our garbage to be on both sides of the main island and have open holes and no flaps, to help mitigate those problems.
What is your favorite part about this space?
It’s all about community: I wanted long tables where a lot of people could sit at once. And the great part is, people never sit at the same table! So there's a lot of mixing happening between the various sectors of our company. In addition, the cafeteria is easily converted to a meeting space with rows of chairs. The tables, from ERG International, have features such as casters and a top that can be flipped up so the tables can be rolled and tucked away for easy storage. It's definitely a multi-functional space!
Did you think at all about placement of the kitchen and cafeteria with regards to the floor plan?
The original space had a small kitchen in relatively the same location, which is the south-facing side of the building. We knew we wanted to have our kitchen and cafeteria in that same location, as you get beautiful light throughout the whole day.
And lastly…what’s with the black and yellow chairs?
We needed chairs in our old office and I knew I wanted a pop of color, so I ordered one yellow chair for every three black ones. Since then, it has become a standard feature and I’ve done this with the chairs in the conference rooms and our offices in Boston. Unfortunately, when I placed the order for this office, they sent three yellow chairs for every one black chair! So I will have to keep ordering exclusively black chairs from now on until the ratio is back to normal!