When embarking on a project for a company that makes customer service software, it’s important to ace the art of designer-client interactions. The first rule of business? Listen to the customer. So when Montreal’s Ménard Dworkind and Studio MHA were hired to design Zendesk’s Montreal office, they started with a company-wide consultation.
This survey was especially critical given that the project came at a time of major transformation for Zendesk. After acquiring Montreal start-up Smooch back in 2019, the company set out to open a splashy new Canadian headquarters. Then the pandemic brought construction to a screeching halt. Eventually, Zendesk’s original plans for its Montreal office were scrapped altogether once it became clear that they no longer made sense in a hybrid world.
Hence the rebooted project’s key kickoff question: “What do you actually want in a workspace?” Zendesk employees reported high satisfaction with their current work-from-home arrangement when it came to focused tasks, but identified room for improvement when it came to collaborative brainstorms and problem-solving.
In turn, the design team conceived Zendesk’s new Montreal bureau as a dynamic mix of vibrant social spaces. At 1,291 square metres, the project is half the size of the 2,415-square-metre office that Zendesk had originally envisioned back in 2020 — but it’s designed to serve the company’s workforce (which has maintained more or less the same headcount over the past two years) much more effectively. In 2022, it’s not necessarily the size of an office that matters — it’s the design.
Throughout the workspace, a smart spatial configuration strategy helps to delineate different zones. Areas shift from public to private as one moves deeper, with fluted glass and translucent polycarbonate panels used to achieve varying degrees of privacy and quietude while still communicating an open company culture.
Visitors arrive to an inviting café lounge, where Scandinavian-inspired white oak seats nod to Zendesk’s Danish origins. These are contrasted by the reception desk’s brutalist fluted concrete, which brings in some of Montreal’s own vernacular design.
Just past the café, another welcoming public zone — a natural light-soaked event space dubbed “The Forum” — is ready to play host to important presentations.
From there, one moves to a lush indoor garden, where snaking arrangements of benches and planters sculpt comfortable nooks designed to support both individual work and casual team chats.
Beyond this, proper meeting rooms and computer terminals — designed as bookable workstations rather than assigned desks — create spots for more formal discussions and focused concentration.
The office’s abundance of plants and emphasis on residential furnishings ensure that it makes for a natural complement to the laid-back home workspaces that Zendesk employees have grown accustomed to over the past two years. The open arrangements of space also facilitate easy reconfigurations down the road.
With their thoughtful design, Ménard Dworkind and Studio MHA Design go to prove that often, the best way to meet a customer’s needs is by listening directly to their feedback. No doubt, it’s a lesson that Zendesk’s Montreal office will continue to put into practice.
Tapped to envision the new Canadian HQ of Zendesk, Ménard Dworkind and Studio MHA Design heed staff requests for dynamic collaboration zones.