Your Office Is for Your Employees—Give Them an Experience Worthy of Art
At Artsy, the Experience team’s mission is to envision, build, and maintain the physical and operational infrastructure as an extension and manifestation of our online brand and product. Some might ask why investing resources into creating a high quality Experience matters. My general answer is that creating impactful environments is always worthwhile as an art form, because it moves people, creates the opportunity for shared experience, and helps galvanize community.
Creating artful, innovative, and positive Experience at Artsy matters because it’s essential to achieving our mission. In order to “make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an internet connection,” Artsy must become a powerful and positive force in the art world, which is no small feat in a highly competitive and critical landscape. The art, design, and hospitality worlds are closely aligned and constantly collaborating, so by demonstrating that we’re thinking and actively contributing to a creative discourse in all aspects of our brand, and not just our online presence, we will build trust and credibility within the world we hope to work and collaborate within.
Our company values state that that we value “Quality Worthy of Art,” we believe that “People are Paramount,” and we strive to embody “Openness” and “Positive Energy.” We’re also constantly exploring the nexus of “Art x Science.” I believe that our physical spaces can embody these values, in much the same way our products, organizational structure, and communication style should. Intentional spatial and aesthetic decisions made with a strong point of view can provide the literal, concrete example of what our company strives to achieve in the digital world. In the past, Artsy hasn’t prioritized these elements, which makes sense. As a startup we’ve had to prioritize and allocate resources and time to where they most mattered—into our core products. But as we grow in size and visibility, our actions across diverse parts of the company will increasingly inform our social capital, and therefore our success.
To align the Experience of visiting or working at Artsy with our aesthetically and functionally mature online platform, our team is adopting an art- and hospitality-focused approach to Experience. We’ve partnered with design furniture company Hem to bring modern, fresh, and relevant design to our offices. We’ve begun designing and implementing a wellness-focused Food and Beverage program because we want to be part of a global dialog around healthy, ethical sustenance. And we’ve begun to add depth and variety to our internal events programming, so that we’re able to better create spaces and experiences that speak to the growing diversity of our team.
We decided on the above approach by first reflecting on the state of our affairs of operations and Experience at Artsy. We asked ourselves hard questions; what we were doing well, what could we do better, and where were we failing? We knew that Experience at Artsy wasn’t measuring up to the products we were putting out into the world, but we needed to tease out why. Our brainstorming yielded some big potential opportunities for improvement, so we built and ran a team-wide survey (with an 87% engagement rate), which helped us determine whether teammates agreed with our hypothesis and ultimately guided our priority setting process:
- Optimization of systems, spaces, vendors, and information
- Infrastructural improvements and interior design and curation
- Diversifying our social event planning and execution
- Building a wellness and ethically-focused Food & Beverage program
1. Optimization of systems, spaces, vendors, and information
Pick low-hanging fruit
Our survey results showed that first and foremost, we needed to tighten our ship. Our small team (4) was barely staying above water managing the huge array of company-wide support responsibilities—from onboarding logistics, to company-wide procurement of supplies and IT resources, to managing facilities, to food and beverage sourcing and programming. So we divided and conquered the challenges we faced, systematically addressing the failures in communication or process that were costing us time and money and keeping us from more effectively supporting the team at large.
Clean out your closets
Throwing away unnecessary baggage can really help reboot an Operations team. Our closets were literally full of broken furniture and forgotten projects, because no one felt empowered to ditch them. So we did, and then we bought nice storage shelves and a ton of labeling tape. Now we have room to store supplies, which has allowed us to shift our buying habits to be more efficient and cost-effective. Figuratively, our team was also storing some skeletons of projects and proposals that hadn’t come to fruition, so there was a hint of “can’t do” instead of “let’s try it” in the air. We ditched our hangups, and reset expectations that any good idea is worth exploring and pitching to each other and leadership.
Optimize systems, then go vendor shopping
We were constantly running out of office and food supplies. After we solved the storage issue, we built inventory and ordering systems. We trimmed the variety of things we buy, and created pars (standardized consumption data) based on observation of consumption over a period of weeks. Now that we’ve reached a steady state, meaning the basics are covered week after week, we’ve begun shopping for better vendors who will offer us wholesale relationships. This will help us simplify ordering and allow us to provide better amenities at the same cost. We no longer feel beholden to vendors who don’t want to work with us on pricing, because we now have the bandwidth to shop around. For example, we were working with a startup cleaning company with a cool interface that “spoke” our language. But our floors were filthy, so we traded them in for a more traditional company, with good results and great cost savings.
Get cozy with Finance
We spend the money, and Finance pays the bills, so it seems natural that we would constantly be in communication. But we weren’t, so important bills (like our internet!) weren’t getting paid. A little digging revealed that transitions on both our teams had put us at a distance, and we needed to reestablish clear processes by which to communicate effectively to ensure we were fulfilling our responsibilities. Now that we’ve repaired the broken communication, we’ve naturally begun collaborating on creating reporting tools to help us make smart budgeting and decisions, which is especially important given the volume of transactions that flow through our team.
Listen to your team, and get creative with solutions
One of the most notable results from our first survey was that team members felt unhappy about the lack of color and art in our office. We brainstormed an exciting long-term project called “Art at Artsy” with our Special Projects team. We’ve begun planning, but in the meantime we wanted to show immediate results. So we went out and bought plants. A ton of plants. A jungle. Overnight we went from a white box to a tropical haven. Everyday my team gets thanked for bringing color to the office. Never underestimate the power of affordable but impactful purchases.
We’ve taken our first steps on a long path to transform Experience at Artsy. We hope it will become something extraordinary that parallels the journey you might take in an amazing restaurant, or at an incredible art installation. It’s an approach that is challenging yet actually pretty simple; shift your team away from a reactive, need-filling mentality to an intuiting, experience-creating mindset. Cover the basic needs and automate them whenever possible, so you can spend more time creating impactful experiences that move beyond the everyday and push your team to engage in a collaborative discourse with other parts of the company and the creative disciplines.
Sean leads the Experience (aka Operations) Team at Artsy. He and his team create impactful experiences at work through curation and management of our office spaces, production of internal team-building events, and by providing services for the team. Sean joined Artsy 5 months ago, after 8 years of managing bars and restaurants in New York and San Francisco. He also operates an experimental art residency and airbnb hotel space called ZEZE Hotel.