The Sacramento Kings basketball team recently moved its offices into the Sawyer tower next to Golden 1 Arena. The new space might be the most expensive corporate office in the region. Randall BentonThe Sacramento Bee

Looking for a cool place to work?

Check out these cutting-edge Sacramento offices

tbizjak@sacbee.com
February 26, 2018

Want to work somewhere cutting-edge and cool? 

As the economy rebounds, more Sacramento businesses are investing in employee-friendly workplaces, where stylish architecture and some surprising amenities create an environment they say encourages productivity.

A well-known sports entertainment company’s new downtown offices include not one but two back-lit cocktail bars. Another Sacramento work site provides weekly in-office yoga classes and free Kombucha on tap.

Then there’s a Rancho Cordova tech company that boasts a pair of slides that whisk you back to your desk after a break in the mezzanine. And a Capitol Mall office with a small room painted like a grotto where employees can slip away for an emotional breather. 

Here’s a look inside six of the region’s newest cool office environments. (Yes, most of these companies are hiring this year.)

Sacramento Kings

Where employees swing on the patio

A view from the patio overlooking Golden 1 Center and the city skyline at the Sacramento Kings offices downtown. Randall Benton | The Sacramento Bee

Back story: The new 16-story Sawyer tower at 5th and J streets downtown is home to a Kimpton hotel, penthouse condominiums, a night club, restaurants and stores. But there’s one other less-publicized resident. The Kings’ basketball team has run of the entire fourth floor. They’ve turned it into perhaps the most elegant and accommodating corporate office in the region.

Style: Call it Sacramento luxe moderne. If you’ve seen the luxury suites in the adjacent Golden 1 Center arena, picture those on steroids. Designed by Kings’ designer David Lee and RMW Architecture, the 38,000-square-foot office has space for 225 employees on the Kings’ business operations side.

Philosophy: The Kings believe an open office environment encourages collaboration. Most employees sit in large clusters, but the office is dotted with getaway spots for private conversations and solo work. Some of those rooms seem better suited to dinner parties – with credenzas, vases and art on the walls. One meeting room next to managing partner Vivek Ranadive’s office has no table or desks, just plush white couches and easy chairs, a flat screen TV and private balcony.

Key features: The Kings’ brand is all about entertainment. The office suite has two wet bars the Kings use to host visitors, serving the Kings’ own “Sawyer” label wines and cocktails. There’s a café in the middle of the office called Central Perk, serving Old Soul coffee. Employees can do work on three outdoor terraces overlooking the arena plaza and city skyline. One has swings.

Signature detail: A group seating area is shaped like cascading wooden bleachers overlooking J Street. A set of guitars on the wall above commemorates the arena-opening Paul McCartney concerts.

Quote: How much did it cost? “A lot,” chief operating officer Matina Kolokotronis said. “We were generous. We wanted to elevate. The employees deserve this.”

Stantec

Cozy up in ‘The Nest’

Interior designers Elaine Medeiros and Ashley Fratis work in “The Nest” at Stantec on the sixth floor of a Capitol Mall office. Randy Pench | The Sacramento Bee

Back story: The local branch of this international multipurpose consultancy moved into two floors at 555 Capitol Mall a year ago, but decided first that the office’s dated Mad Men look had to go. They blew the space apart, ripping out walls that hid the floor-to-ceiling windows, and opened the ceiling to give the space height and expose the duct work.

Philosophy: Sunlight equals creativity. There are no private offices. Everybody – the architects, interior designers, and building engineers and environmental scientists – gets a cityscape view. One reluctant employee initially contended the open space concept would hinder his productivity. He did research to try to prove his point. He’s since changed his mind. The new elbow room and conviviality has energized him.

Signature element: An idea was born when someone noticed a bird’s nest in a tree out the window. Designers built an elevated perch called “The Nest” in a corner of the office. It has couches, rocking chairs, Moroccan rugs and Kechmara Designs pillows made from Turkish rugs. It’s framed with twig-like wood sticks and cabling reminiscent of the horse hairs birds use to bind their nests.

Notable feature: There are three small “Hide Rooms” to get away for private calls, one-on-one meetings or to decompress. Each is painted with intense colors: The outer space room has floating orange and copper planets. The undersea room is blue and green. The cave room is done in purple, gray and blue.

Quote: Bret Harper, who co-designed the space, said of the Hide Rooms: “We wondered, should we call them that? Yes, we have to be honest. Sometimes you just have to get away and hide.”

Redtail Technology

Ride the slide

Systems annalist Matt Plouff slides from the mezzanine at Redtail Technology in Rancho Cordova. José Luis Villegas | The Sacramento Bee

Going to the dogs: Redtail Technology in Rancho Cordova is named in honor of a co-owner’s golden retriever. This may be the most dog-friendly workplace in the region. Employees can – and do – bring their dogs to work. The company partners with the Front Street Animal Shelter to foster dogs until they can be adopted. There’s a company dog park behind the building. And the M&M’s in the jar at receptionist’s desk have dog silhouettes – the company logo – on the shell.

Back story: The 15-year-old software technology company does cutting-edge, web-based office management for financial advisers. Seventy-two people work at the Rancho Cordova headquarters (the company also has offices in Arizona and Georgia). Notably, most workers are in their 20s. Typical jobs are software engineers, data analysts, and sales advisers. The company is looking to hire.

New office: The company remodeled a drab-looking Rancho Cordova office park building last fall by adding windows and skylights, a game room, a gym, employee showers and a soft drink machine that dispenses free drinks of more than 100 flavors.

Telling detail: The new office has a pair of old-fashioned, steel playground slides. But they are indoors, not outdoors. Employees on break in the mezzanine can slide back down to their desks. “It’s really fast,” says company human resources manager Krysta Malonson, standing a safe distance away. One of the co-owners wanted to put a pit of plastic balls at the bottom of the slides. He was talked out of it.

Mission Statement: Painted as a mural on a break-area wall, the statement includes, “Be the leader in our industry. Deliver an amazing experience. Have a helluva lot of fun.”

Quote: Company co-founder Andy Hernandez recently noted three plastic toy rockets lying on top of the hanging lights above the desks. A rocket war must have broken out. “This is a hard working group. But we want them to be able to decompress. There is no time a rocket war would be inappropriate.”

SkySlope

House of radical candor

Employees meet in a conference room at the SkySlope offices on K Street, where ideas are scrawled on glass doors and walls. Randall Benton | The Sacramento Bee

Back story: SkySlope offers real estate agents document management via cloud-based technology. Founded a half dozen years ago by Sacramento natives Tyler Smith and D.J. Stephan, the fast-growing company moved two years ago into offices above Rite Aid at the corner of 8th and K streets.

The space: It basically says “start-up happening here.” It’s redone industrial, mixing old and new. Brick exterior walls and big screen TVs. Bike racks on the wall. There is a virtual jukebox where employees add favorite songs to the play queue. “We will play a country song followed up with something from Drake,” Stephan said.

Jobs: Stephan said they’re looking for full stack engineers and a chief financial officer, among others. SkySlope interviews about three Bay Area residents looking for Sacramento jobs every week, some of them surprised a Bay Area-style company like SkySlope is here. “They all say the same thing – they’re looking for an affordable place to live and work with good schools. They feel comfortable here. It’s familiar.”

Philosophy: SkySlope’s published core values include obsession, humility, urgency, ownership, greatness and radical candor. What’s radical candor? “The intersection of directly communicating and giving a damn.” Stephens admits feelings sometimes get hurt. The goal, he says, is that you speak your mind, but do it from a place of caring about your work and coworker. “It’s not just a free pass to be a jerk.”

The pace: The book on Stephan’s desk, given to him by one of his engineers, is titled “SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice The Work in Half The Time.”

Pride: The words “Sacramento Proud” are emblazoned on a glass wall, offering the hope that Sacramento is coming into its own, though not nearly as fast as Stephan would like. He and Smith say they want to help generate a tech cluster downtown, but they want Sacramento to do so its own way, not simply mime Silicon Valley.

HGA Architects and Engineers

It’s about serendipity

Architect Creed Kampa led the design for the HGA offices on R Street. Randall Benton | The Sacramento Bee

Back story: Three years ago, HGA Architects and Engineers decided to increase its “visibility” in the Sacramento region. It moved from suburban Roseville to the fast-growing R Street corridor downtown, closer to state clients, along with several other architecture firms, near the Warehouse Artists Lofts and the Ice Blocks village. The company is helping to consolidate what some leaders say is Sacramento’s new “creative corridor.”

The building: It’s a 1920s-vintage former electrical parts warehouse with 15-foot-high brick walls and a vaulted roof held up by dramatic wood bowstring trusses. “We saw it and we’re, ‘Yeah, this is it,’” HGA senior designer Creed Kampa said. The space is 11,500 square feet and home to 60 employees.

The style: It’s a combination of the raw and the refined. The brick walls and wood trusses provide a “wow factor” and a sense of hominess. A modern kitchen with a massive quartzite island juts out toward the work area to create a link between work and social interaction. The main meeting has an unfolding glass wall that allows it to become an event space. It’s the site of Bagel Mondays where all 60 employees gather to plan.

Cool detail: An interior wall made out of reclaimed walnut planks from Central Valley orchards with tulip chairs in the reception area.

The thing about architects: Architects are often introverts, Kampa said. He knows, he says, because he’s one. The open kitchen, floor plan, open meeting areas and mezzanine are all designed to create interaction. “It encourages us to communicate and spark discussions that take ideas to the next level – those serendipitous moments.”

Urban Hive

Kombucha with your yoga

Cory Robertson, founder and CEO of Wifient, in the lounge at I/O Labs at 7th and J streets. Randy Pench | The Sacramento Bee

Back story: Entrepreneurs Brandon and Molly Weber founded the Urban Hive co-working space in midtown eight years ago for other entrepreneurs, small businesses and solo workers to make connections and collaborate – or just work alone amid like-minded people.

New office: The concept, popular in the Bay Area, caught on. The pair opened their second, more stylized Urban Hive in December in The Cannery on Alhambra Boulevard. Most memberships range from $125 to $325 a month. Some cost more, though. It’s not just individual entrepreneurs. Brandon Weber said companies with a small presence in Sacramento, including Eventbrite, Pandora, WordPress and AngelHack have been hivers.

Style: It’s industrial chic with soft edges. The brick walls and polished concrete floors are softened by couches, daylong sunlight and 21 art installations. The floor plan is open, but lined with private ‘team studios,” where people are allowed to write on the glass walls during brainstorming sessions.

The entrepreneurial grind: Working alone at home or at your laptop at Starbucks is not enough for some entrepreneurs, says Molly Weber, the Hive’s chief experience officer, or CXO. “You are pretty lonely, you lack connections and community and the ability to throw ideas out there and see how they fly. Here, at some point, you are going to close your laptop and talk with people.”

Amenities: Free beer and Kombucha, both on tap. Cookies and milk are offered in an open-plan kitchen, but you have to stay in the kitchen and chat while munching. There is guided meditation and massage two days a week, and a weekly yoga class.

Upcoming: The Webers soon will open another group work site called I/O Labs in three upper floors of an old bank building at 7th and J streets for people and companies who want to spend more for a downtown experience in the shadows of Golden 1 Center, with more private space available.

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