A glimpse inside Red Hat’s new headquarters in downtown Raleigh

mgarfield@newsobserver.comAugust 7, 2012 

— From custom-fitted desk chairs to free snacks and drinks in the canteen, Red Hat’s new downtown headquarters boasts a number of subtle touches designed to keep employees happy and productive.

But the most popular feature might be the location: an easy walk from dozens of restaurants and after-work nightlife spots.

It’s a contrast from Red Hat’s soon-to-be-former home on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus, an office-park setting removed from the central business and entertainment district.

For employees, the new home base at the corner of Davie and Wilmington streets has led to tough choices on where to eat lunch, said Rachel Anderson, a receptionist who works on the 12th floor. Dozens of options are available within a few blocks.

“I’ve only taken my car out once since being at work,” she said. “I’ve been walking everywhere.”

An initial group of 100 employees arrived during the past two weeks at the 19-story office tower at 100 E. Davie St., formerly the home of Progress Energy. When the move is completed by the spring, about 1,000 employees will work in the newly dubbed Red Hat Tower.

The company currently has more than 700 workers in Raleigh.

Last year, Red Hat chose to keep its headquarters in Wake County after being promised more than $15 million in state incentives. Those incentives are contingent on the company adding 540 local workers over nine years.

The move has given Red Hat an opportunity to test its employee-friendly practices.

The company is known for surveying employees, even on little things like which kinds of free drinks to put in the canteen (Coke and La Croix are among the choices). Staffers also get ergonomic assessments to make sure their chairs are properly set up.

“It’s very rare that we’ll do anything in a vacuum of command and control,” said DeLisa Alexander, Red Hat’s chief people officer and executive vice president. “Any time we can do anything in a collaborative way, we default to that...even when it comes to what type of snacks we’re looking for.”

Private offices take up only 5 percent of the total office space in the new headquarters.

Most employees work in low-walled cubicles arranged in an open-floor plan to encourage interaction. The setup also leaves room for more staff members than could otherwise fit on each floor.

In place of corner offices, conference rooms with high-top tables and chairs can be reserved by pressing touch pads mounted next to the doors.

Each floor of the building will have a feature wall that incorporates materials recycled during construction.

The 12th floor, for example, boasts a long block of North Carolina pine. Black onyx, a type of gem, will highlight an installation on the 12th floor.

Alexander said she was worried about whether Red Hat could infuse its youthful, tech-oriented personality into another company’s building.

“Having been here so long, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it have been nice if we could build our own building,’ ” she said. “The team has taken my breath away with what we’ve been able to do to make it our own... I don’t question that anymore.”

Garfield: 919-836-4952

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