A peek inside Skype's 'acoustically advanced' new UK office
26th Mar 2013 | 16:00
Tech City goes central
In a bid to accommodate its expanding UK workforce, Skype has opened its new London office based in the Chancery Lane area.
But of course, this being Skype - you know, that thing with over 600 million users worldwide - it isn't quite your average working environment.
As such, the building's whole interior has been created with a quirky, bespoke design to embody the company's personality. And we have to say that it's pretty damn snazzy.
The benefits of now being owned by Microsoft are clearly showing. But Skype being what it is, this isn't just about looks. How the office sounds is equally as important and the building has been designed with a keen eye for acoustic detail.
TechRadar got to step inside the office's meeting rooms, where most of the day-to-day magic happens. Visually they feel open but on the inside they're built like echo chambers.
"It's almost studio grade," Skype's design director Steve Pearce tells us about the sound quality of the meeting rooms. "We'd say this might be one of the most acoustically advanced offices in Europe."
We can see why. As we continue to wonder around the office we look up we see that the ceiling is adorned with a few rows of large, hanging circles. These, Steve explains, are to stop the sound from travelling across the room, creating invisible corridors that weave through the building.
Each meeting room is also fitted with conference calling equipment that, when in a call with another Skype office around the world, creates the impression of sitting on one long table with whichever team is on the other end of the line. It's a nice touch that echoes Skype's mantra of making people feel closer together.
On our way out of the room we notice that the glass walls are covered in circles – visual representations of Skype's "whoosh pop" startup sound, Gary explains. TechRadar even spotted a few emoticons roaming around in the mix.
There's also a separate conference area for Skype's "vehicles" - small teams working on a particular product - to have their daily morning scrum with other offices around the world. This consists of taking turns to individually outline their priorities for the day, what they're happy with, and what they need to improve on.
Our favourite detail of the building, however, is its room organisation. Each floor in Skype's new office is organised by theme - Bands, Brands, British people - and every room named to fit accordingly. For example, there's a Beckham room on the top floor, while weekly meetings below might take place in Sex Pistols.
But the centerpiece of the whole building is its middle floor hub. Every morning, this becomes a breakfast bar with every type of cereal under the sun. It then remains a communal meeting space for the rest of the day, padded out with some kooky furniture we wouldn't mind having in our own homes.
It's all reflective of Skype's belief that creativity drives innovation. "It's good because most people join the business because they want to make stuff," says Gary Bramall, Skype's global director of brand and creative. "So if you just let people make stuff then it's really nice."
With its UK workforce booming 43 percent since February 2012, Skype's move to a larger premises is essential for keeping up with its growing staff base.
"I don't think there are many cities that can compete with London for having such a wealth of knowledge and passion for the technology industry," said Ed Vaizey, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, during the opening event.
Skype is certainly not the only one expanding its UK presence in the tech domain, with Facebook also launching a new London base last year. But Skype is definitely sending out the 'we're hiring' message right now. After taking a look around, who wouldn't want to work here?