Last week our very own Samsung San Jose campus was featured in a WIRED article, “Silicon Valley Commutes Are Hell. Time for Companies to Fix That.,” as one of only a few Silicon Valley technology employers perfecting the art of retaining smart talent amid the growing commuter traffic issues. In an area known for technology and aspiring entrepreurs, WIRED reports that commuters in Silicon Valley endured 144 hours-worth of delays in 2016 given almost 75 percent of them drive solo.

Samsung Semiconductor’s North American headquarters in San Jose, CA.

Samsung Semiconductor’s North American headquarters in San Jose, CA.

Praised for its innovation, the Samsung headquarters in San Jose boasts building features to stimulate office collaboration—such as its central atrium and indoor sky pocket parks—core to Samsung values. Jim Elliott, Corporate Vice President of Memory Marketing, was quoted crediting the Samsung open campus approach and design as being essential to fostering great ideas and bonds between employees. The headquarters is also a front runner in showcasing that while security is important, the company doesn’t have to be sealed off from the public. Surrouned by sidewalks, the San Jose office enables employees and the public to enjoy several ground floor cafes.

We connected with Jim Elliott to learn more about the company’s decision to build its innovative home in San Jose, the campus design process and considerations for the employees onsite:

Five Questions with Jim Elliott

Did Samsung consider transit and other non-personal vehicle commute options when deciding on where to site its San Jose office?

Samsung has been located on the corner of Tasman Drive and N. First for the past 30 years, so it wasn’t a new site that we found to build our new campus. We’ve worked with the city of San Jose for many years to make sure we have access to public transit and other commuter offerings to provide options to our employees.

With that in mind, what efforts has Samsung made to ease the commuter woes for employees?

The Samsung office is located next to the Tasman VTA Light Rail station, a commuter bus stop and the ACE station stop, so the commuting options were a proven benefit to our existing location. Samsung also installed 34 electric vehicle charging stations that employees can use free of charge.

Open Stairwells in Samsung San Jose Campus

Open Stairwells in Samsung San Jose Campus

Many technology companies in the area worry that multi-floor buildings don’t stimulate collaboration and innovation in the way that a single, open floor plan does. Was that a consideration for Samsung?

The challenge in corporate offices is how to connect large workforces in tall, vertical buildings. Most co-workers won’t interact with colleagues if they are not on the same floor. Samsung asked employees for input on the new facility and several of their suggestions were incorporated into the final workspace design. Ultimately, an open campus approach and design is essential for collaboration and enabling more frequent discussions and impromptu, spur-of-the-moment interactions that are the genesis of many great ideas and bonds between our employees.

What steps has Samsung taken to foster collaboration and innovation in its San Jose office space?

Samsung’s architects broke down the vertical barriers to create a “three-dimensional Main Street” with a central atrium space that draws people away from their team areas. They inserted connecting stairs on every two floors to encourage movement and installed “sky pocket parks” on every third floor to draw people from the floors above and below to further interact. The building offers a wide diversity in types of work environments: the cafeteria, outdoor seating areas, garden floors, conference zones along the courtyard, double high spaces in the bridges and quiet zones along the outer edges of the building. The fundamental design premise is that work is everywhere, people work differently and different tasks require different work styles. It was critical for Samsung to incorporate some fun too—such as our Chill Zone, putting greens, ping-pong and foos-ball areas as well as an upgraded basketball, bocce ball and volleyball court.

Samsung@First Café

Samsung@First Café

Samsung allows non-employees to enter some of their outdoor spaces and the retail shops on the ground level in the San Jose building. Many technology companies are wary about outsiders entering company space. Could you explain the rationale behind Samsung’s decision?

Samsung wanted the building to have an urban feel to reflect North San Jose’s efforts to create a great working community. The ground floor amenities, including Peet’s, Honeyberry, and the Samsung@First Café, are open to the public so that friends, family and our North San Jose neighbors can visit and enjoy our campus.