Featured Workplace: Inside Canva, Australia's Best Place To Work

Canva co-founders Cliff Obrecht, Mel Perkins, and Cameron Adams.

Canva has recently been ranked as Australia's best place to work, not once but twice. Both Great Place to Work and LinkedIn named it the number one workplace in the country over thousands of other companies.

With this in mind, along with the reputation the business has earned through the entrepreneurship of its co-founders Mel Perkins, Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams, we thought it would be the perfect time to take a look inside the powerhouse that is Canva.

But before we do, to give you an idea about the growth of the business since it launched in 2012, here are a couple of stats:

  • The company has grown to more than 350 employees across three international offices: Sydney, Manilla, and Beijing.
  • It's also amassed a global following and now churns out 20 designs per second, produced by 10 million users in 190 countries.
  • To date, the company has raised approximately $US70 million.

OK. Here it is, Canva's Sydney headquarters:

Located at 2 Lacey Street, Surry Hills the office blends in well to the eclectic, urban chic nature of the Sydney suburb

See those beautiful designs? The company has a full time staffer employed to continually add and improve the look and feel of the building.

Entering the building, you can already get a sense of the company — bright colours, festive vibe, and full of life

You're greeted by an easy to navigate iPad where you select the person you're there to meet and sign in

A coffee is tempting while I wait

It looks like staff members keep their cups in a tray below in order to reduce waste. Love that.

To the side of the entry is a small lounge area

It looks like staff also use it as a break out zone.

The ground floor mainly consists of a dining area filled will long communal tables

This idea was conceived by co-founder Mel Perkins. While she was an intern at a PR agency, she found herself in the awkward position: she had no one to have lunch with. When designing this space she aimed to make sure that wouldn't happen to anyone at Canva.

Chris "Chef" Low, a former chef who was recruited by the co-founders to head up their "Vibe Team", says meals, particularly lunchtimes, at Canva are "as much about the dining experience as the food".

"We want to create a family dining experience here at lunchtimes," he says.

"The big shared serving plates make practical sense, but they also represent the way that a big family eats together. It’s quite a symbolic thing.

"When I grew up, my mum and dad always had centrally placed dishes that we would all serve ourselves from.

"The shared dishes and shared mealtime here really open up dialogue, camaraderie and good vibes generally.

"The long tables here mean you’ll often find yourself next to someone new, which gives everyone an informal window into what is happening in the whole company."

At the end of each table are all the condiments you might like to have with your food

Here's the in-house kitchen and bar that prepares and serves all the company's meals

It serves breakfast and lunch for all employees everyday, and what's not eaten at lunch is packaged and put in fridges for employees to take home for dinner.

The bar is also always open, as is the coffee machine.

If you know what you're doing, you can even make your own brew.

The produce used in the kitchen is sourced from a farm in regional NSW owned by Canva.

The farm provides the team with fresh, seasonal produce from sustainable sources that is locally grown, which it says contributes to minimising the company's carbon footprint.

The farm also has two homes for short-stays, where the team can enjoy an exclusive 25% discount on accomodation.

On today's menu is lasagne

Birthday celebrants get to choose what they want to have for breakfast and lunch, and even cocktail and desserts.

So far, there have been requests for duck pancakes, tapas, seafood platters, beef pho, Japanese okonomiyaki, and more!

Some of the drinks that have been requested are mojitos and espresso martinis, as well as kombucha on tap.

Also on the ground level is this stage which is used for events, company meetings and other purposes

When the company reaches a goal, teams organise a celebration for the whole organisation to take part in.

The tables are moved from their formation and the space opens up into massive event space.

Here's a look at one of those events: Season Opener held in December last year

Past celebrations have included:

  • An Apple-themed iOS launch party to celebrate the launch of Canva's iPhone app by the iOS team, where the whole office came to work dressed as Steve Jobs.
  • The launch of the Global HR Operations team, where the whole office came to work dressed in "traditionally" corporate attire.
  • A five course obstacle drone race to celebrate the launch of Canva's Android app.
  • A pirate themed party complete with a dunk tank to celebrate parity across Canva's mobile offerings.

Check this thing out

I'm told that for certain events this is filled with beers and other drinks.

Right now it has swag bags leftover from the latest new starters induction.

Here's another chill out area

These guys look like they're in the zone.

It's a common scene around the Canva office: people working how they feel comfortable, where they feel comfortable.

The company also has flexible working options to encourage balance.

Some employees choose to work from home several days a week to manage family commitments, while others work nine-day fortnights.

There are also employees who work remotely from overseas such as the States and Argentina.

Also on the ground floor are arcade games...

More arcade games, a massage chair...

And a rock climbing wall. Very cool.

These features are courtesy of the Vibe Team, a dedicated department within the company whose primary purpose is to take care of the employees' needs and maintain a happy, engaged, and productive workforce.

From the food and beverages, to the climbing wall, the Canva library, and even boardgame collection, these guys play a large part in forming the company's culture.

Heading upstairs to level 1, we pass the Coaching Room

Here I met with Sarah Nanclares, Canva's internal coach. She oversees personal coaching, group coaching and team coaching to help individuals and teams grow and develop audacious professional and personal goals.

Here's a look inside — very soothing

Along with the coaching sessions, the company also offers an Employee Assistance Program to all employees and their family members looking for confidential and personal counselling sessions with a qualified clinical professionals for any work and personal problems that may adversely affect wellbeing and performance.

On the walls are the Canva values to inspire and motivate

Graphics like these speckle the walls of the Canva office, some also reflect the company's core values.

One of those is: Be a force for good, which means actively working towards a world that isn’t just good for a small few, but one that’s good for everyone.

"We believe deeply that bringing together diversity of thoughts, perspectives and expression is key for building the best product for our equally diverse community," Liz McKenzie, Head of PR and Communications at Canva told us.

"To achieve this, we need to constantly work towards making Canva the best place to work, for everyone."

Other ways the company brings people together are through the numerous social activities and clubs on offer, to which family and friends are welcome to attend.

Recently, Canva hosted pasta making lessons, booked out a cinema for the screening of new movies, and even wine making.

Along with that, Canva also hosts company trips. In 2016, the entire Sydney team was flown to the Philippines — one of the biggest celebrations the company has held to date.

"It was a huge celebration recognising the the huge growth of the company and the diverse set of people, all working together to move the needle toward achieving our company vision," says McKenzie.

Moving on, here's a pile of Canva swag available for staff at all times

Those bags would be great for supermarket shopping now they've banned plastic.

Here's some bike storage for employees who ride to work

As you can see, many people take up the option to ride to work.

The location of the office is a 10-minute walk from Central Station, and parking is pretty appalling with most streets around the office maxing out at a two-hour time limits.

With free bike servicing days for all employees who ride their bikes to work, it seems like a pretty good option.

And here it is: Level 1

Canva's office is open plan, and industrial in style.

It has ergonomic office equipment, such as adjustable chairs and standing desks, as well as more casual, relaxed workspaces designed like living rooms, with bean bags, private mezzanines, and couches.

There are also solo work stations for those wanting a little more privacy.

The design also takes advantage of natural light, and the company is focused on using sustainable energy. It uses green energy and has a sustainable waste management system.

The Canva balloons represent new starters, while the numbered balloons represent work anniversaries or 'Canvaverseries'

As you can see, there are a lot of new starters. The week I was visiting, the company inducted 14 new people in one go.

As well as a balloon, every celebrant receives a limited edition T-shirt commemorating their milestone, as well as a certificate which is signed by everyone in the company, and cupcakes with their faces printed in frosting.

New starters, before they even arrive, receive swag bags full of Canva merchandise and infomation so that when they start they already feel a part of the team.

To celebrate five years at Canva, it also has a Wall of Fame, where celebrants get a personalised caricature commissioned in their likeness, along with a new honorary title and a pre-recorded video montage from people who they work with closely.

Here's one of the meeting rooms. As you can see they are named after the staff's favourite meals served by the kitchen

Did you know: Every employee has direct ownership in Canva through equity options in the company and therefore holds a stake in the business?

"Employee equity reinforces that everyone is on the same team and everyone is sharing in the success of Canva," says McKenzie. "The bigger the pie grows, the better the outcome is for everyone."

This room, called Bento Box, is a staff training room

The idea for Canva came about when Melanie Perkins was teaching graphic design programs at university and found students struggled to learn the basics.

Partnering with co-founder Cliff Obrecht, the pair launched Fusion Books, an online design tool that made it easy for students and teachers to create their own yearbooks.

They soon realised that the technology they'd developed could be used much more broadly. After searching far and wide, they launched Canva with tech co-founder Cameron Adams.

Believe it or not, this very room — Bento Box — was the office that Perkins and Orecht ran Fusion Books from all that time ago.

All the bathrooms at Canva are gender-inclusive and have some very cool features like this towel service for those who have a shower after a run or going to the gym

Canva employees have access to free memberships to boxing classes and yoga studios around the area.

It also offers an additional monthly stipend of $50 to cover membership fees for those wanting to choose their own gym.

And a wide variety of products available at all times

From feminine sanitary products, to bits and bobs like hair ties, an iron, hair dryers and straighteners, and body lotion.

Going up. This is Level 2. If you look closely you can also see one of the co-founders, Mel Perkins

In 2016, Perkins was ranked as the "coolest woman in Australian technology" by Business Insider Australia.

As you can see there is a lot of greenery throughout the levels of the office

Employees have a number of opportunities and incentives to be involved in building the company.

For one, there are referral rewards in which an employee can receive up to $5,000 for referring a successful employee. Additionally, there are recruitment awards for interviewers who consistently provide excellent candidate experience, such as providing fast review turnaround and detailed interview feedback.

Other awards which motivate and promote employee satisfaction include: the Bugathon Award which is given in recognition of excellent contribution at Bugathon events, the Night Owl Award for engineers that stay up late to fix Canva down events, or the Certificate of Kindness given to someone who goes out of their way to help others.

Also on this level is a parenting room. Side note: how relaxed does that employee look? Nice!

The parent's room provides a private space for personal needs, with features such as toys, nappies, a changing table, a nursing pillow, and a fridge.

Parents are also welcome to bring children to work, and often have them join for mealtimes and team activities.

The Canva Parents Club launched the company's first Canva Kids Day this year, where they planned breakfast and fun-filled day of entertainment for parents to bring their kids to the office during the school holidays.

On the topic of parents, to celebrate the arrival of a newborn, Canva provides 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave for primary caregivers and 4 weeks for non-primary caregivers.

During parental leave, parents are able to take 10 keeping in touch days to keep connected and updated on the business.

The company also gifts every parent with a newborn kit, which includes baby rompers, bibs, baby brush and blanket, as well as nourishing care products for the parents.

Here's a look at one of the many kitchenettes throughout the office

As you can see, lunch leftovers are put in the fridge for people to take home for dinner.

Here you can see the numerous ways people at Canva work. There's even a loft at the back of the room fitted out with sofas if that's your preferred style

There's also a keyboard with headphones up there, if you feel like a jam to get those creative juices pumping.

Because employees are scattered all over the office and out, Canva relies on Slack for internal communications.

On Slack, the company uses its "Kudos" channel to give shoutouts to those who have done an amazing job or exemplified their values.

There are also screens strategically placed around the office which provide information about new starters and what's for lunch on loop

Canva prides itself on being an equal opportunity workplace, designed to provide a welcoming space for everyone.

Some ways it does this is by providing gender-inclusive bathrooms, quiet spaces without busy colours or visual distractions, large font signage, and wheelchair accessibility.

The company is also a member of the Diversity Council of Australia which means all employees have free access to a library of D&I research and events.

Because of this, Canva has a diverse team of people from various backgrounds.

"For many, celebrating a festivity is not only important, but is a significant part of who they are," says McKenzie.

And for that reason, in addition to celebrating mainstream holidays such as Easter and Christmas, Canva also celebrates Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Thanksgiving.

Canva also allows you to bring your dog to work. This is Clover, so cute

"We are an animal friendly workplace and encourage people to bring their furry friends to the office," says McKenzie.

While I was in the office I met both Clover and another pup called Biscuit.

New level, new names. These meeting rooms are names after famous Australian destinations

The rapid growth of the business has meant the company also lives over the road at 119 Kippax Street

While we couldn't go into the company's largest training room as it was being used, we did see this cool feature wall

The mural was painted to celebrate the launch of 100 languages, a goal Canva achieved even before Facebook.

This open green space gives you a sense of what the training room is like

Just add more chairs.

Here's some of the additional office space at 119 Kippax

The company is also made up of many expats who have relocate to Australia for their job with Canva.

To welcome these team members and their families, Canva provides them with a swag pack of Australian goodies and necessities, such as an Opal travel card, Anzac biscuits and mosquito spray, and hosts quarterly events designed to help them meet new people and explore the sights and surrounds of Sydney.

Past events have included an evening harbour cruise and a kayaking tour in Rose Bay.

These meeting rooms take a new theme entirely. This time it's local Sydney suburbs

Canva's approach to time off is also pretty flexible, accommodating new hires taking planned holidays shortly after they start and people working remotely for short periods.

Time-in-lieu is also available for engineers and technical employees who work late hours when its service goes offline.

And now the company is planning to expand, again

While currently under construction, Canva expects to move into 110 Kippax Street at end of February.

The building will seat 454 people and will feature a roof top bar and beer garden, gym and yoga room, commercial kitchen and cafe, and end of trip facilities.


Comments

    Maybe its just me & I am probably cynical, but all of these style of workplaces seem that they are cult like in their wish to make the workplace socially engineered so that people spend their whole life immersed in the workplace. Its done to maximise productivity, garner loyalty and control employee churn. A happy worker bee is a productive worker bee.

    Eat together, bring your kids, socialise together, etc. I find this a bit weird. I can't conceive of wanting to spend any more time than necessary in the workplace with people who I have not chosen to spend time with, nor often times like.

    I hope that employees realise that when times get tough, or you don't fit in or heaven forbid you get a crazy boss , its more likely that employees will get the lemonade and sars rather than the company directors, managers and founders. Just sayin...

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