Months after moving into deluxe new office, Seattle startup Zipwhip extends remote work a year

Zipwhip took over the fifth floor and part of the fourth in the Elliott Bay Office Park in Seattle, with sweeping views to the west of the water. (Zipwhip Photo)

Last fall, Zipwhip employees were settling into a sprawling new office space with sunset views of the Seattle waterfront and Olympic Mountains. The 75,000-square-foot space provided the startup a chance to spread out and build in the amenities that make workers excited to come into the office.

This week, Zipwhip announced at an all-hands meeting that it is extending a coronavirus-induced work-from-home policy through July 2021. It’s the latest tech company (Amazon, Google, Zillow) to face the realization that workers need prolonged flexibility during the ongoing pandemic.

“When we moved into our new office in October 2019, it was a big deal for us because we put a lot of time and effort into developing this amazing space of our own that fit Zipwhip’s culture and needs,” said John Lauer, co-founder and CEO of Zipwhip. “So to close it five months later, just as we were getting settled, definitely hurt.”

A Zipwhip employee buzzes past on a scooter in November 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The 13-year-old startup, which enables hundreds of millions of business landlines to receive and send text messages, currently has more than 250 employees and almost all of them are working from home. The office is open to a limited number of employees — a maximum of 25 at a time — whose WFH situation was not conducive to working for a variety of reasons.

Zipwhip gave everyone $500 toward making remote work easier and employees bought such things as desks, monitors, and even air conditioning units. The company’s strategy for how it will return to the office has been pushed back by the new July date, but in regular surveys of employees, Zipwhip has found that 80% of employees indicated that they would prefer to work remotely a few days a week to start.

“While in-person work will always be core to Zipwhip’s culture, the team has adjusted to working from home incredibly well and helped maintain our culture while remote,” Lauer said.

A ping pong table in the Zipwhip dining area. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The company has no plans at this time to sublease its space on the fourth and fifth floors of the Elliott Bay Office Park.

In a GeekWire tour of the space last year, Lauer was beside himself, putting golf balls, watching scooters zip through the hallways and taking in the view.

“Any time you go and move into a new space that’s all your own, you get to design it for the way you work, imbuing your culture into everything. It’s pretty sweet,” Lauer said at the time. “I think everybody’s just like, ‘Oh, wow! All right, now we’ve got to really, really earn this space.’”

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