Google Inc. is famous for its free food and more, featured over the summer in the film The Internship. But tech companies that have been around much longer are evolving as they compete with newer, seemingly hipper, companies for talent.
Since Conan OBrien did a bit on Intels gray cubes and gray walls in 2007, says Gail Dundas, a communications manager with the 45-year-old Santa Clara, Calif., chipmaker, there has been a sea change at the company that includes getting rid of cubicles and infusing color into the workplace.
Cisco Systems Inc., another longtime Silicon Valley company, is also transforming its workspaces. Some departments are getting rid of assigned workspaces, tapping Ciscos own networking technology that enables employees to become more mobile. Elsewhere on the campus, some of the 56 buildings at the companys San Jose, Calif., headquarters are at various stages of a remodel, with new features including lounge areas with comfy couches, pool tables and cocoon-shaped chairs.
We want people to come out for a minute, think outside the box, said Allan McGinty, director of workplace design and development. As this newspaper toured Ciscos San Jose campus recently, McGinty spoke from Raleigh, N.C., using WebEx, the companys videoconferencing system.
Showing that its efforts are apparently paying off with young workers, Ciscos interns praise its culture.
Eric Pomeroy, a 21-year-old from the University of Michigan, recently finished his second straight summer internship at the company.
The managers respect our input and ideas, he said.
The mobile app he worked on last summer is now used by employees who need help navigating around Ciscos huge campus.
But even as the more established companies try to make their workspaces and culture more inviting, theyre still grappling with challenges that cant help but affect morale. Cisco announced recently that it is laying off 4,000 people, about 5 percent of its global workforce. Intel Corp., too, is trying to expand its horizons amid a slump in its bread-and-butter PC business
While companies like Cisco and Intel are trying to catch up to newer firms like Google, theres a new wave of companies that are taking workplace culture in new directions.
As a startup, its probably no surprise that Square, the San Francisco payments company founded in 2009, has never had cubicles or offices, according to spokeswoman Lindsay Wiese. Square executives often work at stand-up tables, she said.
So even though the companys office is in an old-school building that houses an old-school product (the San Francisco Chronicle, although Square is moving a few blocks away into its new headquarters in the fall), its workplace was conceived in the age of open and collaborative offices.
And some tech workers are looking for newer companies than even Facebook or Google. And smaller.
Some people get tired of the large-company feel, said Domingo Guerra, co-founder of startup Appthority.
The 2-year-old provider of mobile-application security management has about 20 staffers, with half coming from larger companies.
How did Guerra and his team attract workers? Theyre well aware of the allure of San Francisco, so they put their headquarters there. Appthority also offers catered meals a couple of times a week. And the office doesnt have cubicles.
We all hated it at the big companies, Guerra said. We dont have offices, either. We all sit together.
Not only do they sit together at the office, some of them also sit together at baseball games. The company bought a few Giants season tickets that its workers share.
But not only new companies are flocking to San Francisco. Having an office there is also a plus for Adobe Systems Inc., the San Jose software company that in December celebrated its 30th anniversary.
But dont call the company old.
We may be an established company, said Donna Morris, senior vice president, but were in an emerging area in terms of products and solutions.
The transformation in its products is seeping into the culture. Earlier this year, executives moved to one open floor in San Jose. It has no offices, not even for CEO Shantanu Narayen. Adobes 11,500 employees around the world enjoy perks such as gyms, oil changes on site, game rooms. Theres a rock-climbing wall at its Utah offices.