The Workplace is the New Corporate Communications Platform

eBay shows how corporate campuses can be transformed into experiences that immerse employees and visitors alike in a company’s brand story.

A 15-foot touch screen wall and 10-foot LED columns communicate real-time sales data in eBay’s Main Street, the 20,000-square-foot building, created in collaboration with ESI Design. Photo by Erynn Patrick.

When you think of corporate communications, you probably picture traditional channels ranging from public relations, advertising, and social media to staff newsletters, intranets, and similar channels.

Now look around you. Chances are, you’re looking at a powerful communications platform that businesses often overlook: their very own workplace.

Nowadays, when you walk into a store that’s filled with static imagery, it doesn’t feel alive. That’s because sweeping technological advances have created a digital world where we expect well-designed spaces to offer dynamic, interactive experiences that immerse us fully in a brand. Why should our expectations be any different for the workplace?

The same technology that is making it possible — and more affordable than ever before — to make retail environments more immersive can and should be employed by companies to design and create workplaces, offices, and corporate campuses that serve as dynamic communications tools. Physical spaces are woefully underutilized as a means for businesses to share their story; by tapping into their potential, companies can convey their company brand and values to both employees and visitors alike, connecting and engaging with them like never before.

Entrance to eBay’s Main Street, the new 20,000sqft building on its San Jose campus
created in collaboration with ESI Design. © 2016 eBay. All rights reserved.

Look no further than the vibrant new hub created for employees, visitors, and guests on eBay’s Silicon Valley campus. Dubbed Main Street, the 20,000-square-foot building created in collaboration with ESI Design brings the magnitude of eBay’s platform to life through large-scale interactive displays, dynamic media installations, and more. It immerses employees and visitors in the energy and excitement generated by the company’s vast community of users and the enormous volume of products sold through its system each day.

The project came about when eBay spun off from PayPal in 2015 and was looking for a new approach to its brand identity. The online giant engaged ESI Design to create a new experience that would serve as the “front door” for their corporate campus, offering a clear and immediate representation of the company’s culture and brand to all who crossed its threshold.

The result is an airy, welcoming environment filled with natural light and interactive installations that capture the robust pulse of eBay commerce. The ground floor boasts a beautiful outdoor deck, a coffee bar, a small shop, and a 1,000-person-capacity, multi-purpose event and meeting space. The space is dominated by an enormous multi-screen LED display with webcast and presentation capabilities for company-wide town hall meetings. There are also additional conference rooms upstairs.

The stage at Main Street’s 7,150-square-foot Main Hall where large meetings, conferences, events, and company-wide broadcasts take place. Photo by Erynn Patrick.

Main Street’s centerpiece is a 15-foot touchscreen wall with a fluid, animated system of touchable icons that flow together to make mosaics. The mosaics allow users to explore eBay’s most recent online transactions with each icon representing goods in that category.

Other digital installations re-purpose existing data streams or custom generate new ones to present eBay’s immense wellspring of data as digestible stories, such as the site’s ten most popular search terms at a given moment. The global eBay community is showcased in videos about individual eBay users, allowing visitors to explore the company’s people and products in detail.

A 15-foot touchscreen wall where employees and visitors can tap icons representing cars, shoes, handbags, and other goods, then see how many items were sold in the past few hours or days. Photo by Erynn Patrick.

These dynamic experiences not only invite guests to engage with the company’s story; they also help transform the eBay workforce into a connected, empowered community. The digital experiences in Main Street transform numbers into content, statistics into stories, reminding eBay employees that the world’s largest online marketplace isn’t just about numbers, it’s about giving people, real people, what they truly want. It also shows them how people use the tools they build and how the work they do affects real people’s lives. Many businesses overlook the importance of making sure employees have a sense of the corporate big picture. Main Street provides an engaging place where employees can see and experience exactly how their own work fits into a business’s broader mission and goals.

To transform a workplace into a powerful communications tool, here are some tips to get started:

  • Do you have data that can be visualized to bring your brand to life? Main Street taps into eBay’s transactional data to immerse employees and visitors in a rich but comprehensible story about company’s vast community of users and the enormous volume of products sold through its system every day.
  • What do your employees need? Remember to put people first. Design objectives should prioritize those who will use the space. Main Street not only uses digital media and technology to transform the eBay brand into a people-centric experience; it also reinforces the company’s underlying theme of community by providing spaces that foster interaction with others and engaging space for impromptu meetings, from a coffee bar and an outside deck for meeting breaks to an exterior patio for lunches and informal meetings.
  • Are you creating content that you can repurpose? As more and more companies are producing content for digital channels, this content can be pushed into the ambient physical environment so that employees see and hear this company’s culture in their peripheral vision as they go about their day.

The days of the motionless logo in the lobby are fading into the past as corporations and designers recognize that a company’s physical spaces must serve as communications platforms that can immerse visitors and employers alike in their culture and their brand. By capitalizing on new and more affordable technologies and smart design, businesses of all sizes can transform their workplace into a dynamic, experiential environment that transmits their identity in a way that resonates on a much deeper level than a printed memo or a static sign.

 

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