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- PayPal has built a virtual building to keep employees engaged during the period of remote work.
- Dubbed The Pavilion, the SimCity-like building features six floors of themed learning, from a futuristic security command center to a sunny courtyard complete with a water feature and the sounds of birds chirping.
- PayPal’s chief technology officer, Sri Shivananda, commissioned the project, which was initially thought of as a virtual stand-in for the company’s annual innovation expo.
- The Pavillion will live on as a way to train and connect PayPal’s more than 23,000 employees around the world.
- The company told Business Insider that it plans to stick with remote work through the first quarter of 2021.
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Step into my office.
That’s a phrase that precious few managers have been able to tell their employees of late, with millions of people still working remotely.
But PayPal, the digital-payments giant that employs more than 23,000 workers worldwide, thinks it may have cracked the code on the pandemic-proof office of the future — and chances are, it looks unlike anything you might have guessed it would.
The PayPal Pavilion, first launched in late July, is a fully virtual, six-floor immersive office space that exists entirely in the digital world. Available 24/7 — the Pavilion never shuts off the lights — the virtual campus is chock full of about 200 experiences that employees can access, with the promise of potentially hundreds more on the way.
Read more:POWER PLAYERS: Meet the 8 PayPal execs shaping the payment giant’s future as its stock skyrockets and e-commerce surges
Think of it as the SimCity of corporate America. Through innovations like this one, “we can continue to engage our employees in ways that defy spatial distancing,” Sri Shivananda, PayPal’s chief technology officer, told Business Insider in an interview.
The concept for the Pavilion was originally conceived back in March and has been online for about a month, said Genessa Nannini, PayPal HQ community engagement leader. There’s no time card punching here: PayPal can track how long employees spend poking around the space using their virtual IDs.
To build the new platform, Nannini explained, “an army of volunteers” produced content spanning a variety of topics from trainings on developing your skills as a professional, to better understanding how PayPal’s underlying security infrastructure keeps information safe.
There’s also the promise of interactive games and challenges where employees can earn badges and points; in turn, they can redeem them for swag and prizes. PayPal told Business Insider that it plans to stick with remote work through the first quarter of 2021, so the Pavilion will continue to educate and foster a sense of community among its workers while they keep clocking in from home.
Business Insider was exclusively invited to tour the new PayPal Pavilion. Take a look around.
Read more:The Big Tech office isn’t dead. Here’s why giants like Facebook and Amazon keep gobbling up space while telling workers they can stay home.
Outdoor Pavilion and Lobby
When employees first visit PayPal’s new virtual Pavilion, they are greeted by a digital outdoor space that’s replete with a water feature and audio clips of birds chirping in the background (every floor has its own unique soundtrack).
Inside, employees arrive in the lobby where they can explore a map of the Pavillion, look through the PayPal Marketplace which sells company swag, and catch the elevator to the other floors. Those floors house the specific content and experiences PayPal has created.
The idea for the entire space was born out of a longheld company tradition: the annual Innovation Expo, typically held at the company’s San Jose headquarters, where PayPal shows off its latest tech and product advancements.
But, this year, the two-day event wouldn’t be possible in light of the pandemic — so Shivananda commissioned something he thought might be an alternative way to drive engagement among staffers.
“A few of us got together and decided, what if we take this virtual?” he said. “What if we used extended reality as a setting to create an experience that still feels like you’re coming through a convention center?”
So, in partnership with the design firm Blueprint Studios, Shivananda’s team of engineers constructed the virtual building.
Infrastructure and Security
Data privacy is top of mind for a corporation like PayPal in the most ordinary of times — indeed, the payments company collects sensitive user data like names, addresses, banking informatoin, and credit bureau reports, among other things.
But 2020 has brought about a new set of corporate concerns for large companies, which are grappling with how to keep proprietary company information safe while huge workforces are accessing and interfacing with data from the comfort of their homes.
“What we all need to understand is that people are the new security and network perimeter,” Shivananda said. “We always believed that the perimeter of our company actually is in people’s homes, because any one of them could have worked remotely” prior to the pandemic.
In this case, PayPal created a designated Infrastructure and Security floor where employees can learn about how it protects the megalithic amounts of data it has access to. To evoke a high-tech vibe, the floor has been designed to look like a futuristic command center.
No coffee here — in the Branded Experiences floor, which looks like a virtual coffee shop, employees won’t find cappuccinos or lattés, but instead can access information on PayPal’s various brands, ranging from its its digital wallet and peer-to-peer app Venmo to shopping tools like Honey.
Users can navigate through the floor, clicking on links to videos or flip books to learn more about the consumer-facing side of PayPal’s business.
Read more:Why Honey’s massive $4 billion PayPal deal marks the official start of the commerce era
The Common Platforms floor introduces employees to the various teams that keep PayPal operating, like the compliance and risk organizations.
Here, employees can brush up on their knowledge of PayPal’s payment paltform — the company’s central operation — or get more insight into how its safety measure protect merchant and consumer accounts.
Unlike prognostications of future offices having to adopt plexiglass screens and discard the communal meeting places and high-touch surfaces of yore, this floor echoes how offices before the pandemic used to look.
It even features design elements like fooseball tables (at the moment, they’re just props — employees can’t actually duke it out at the fooseball table during working hours).
Employee Experiences and Strategic Investments
The Employee Experiences and Strategic Investments floor is a verdant outdoor space complete with lush additions like bushy trees which provide some virtual shade from the virtual sunlight.
Its purpose is to use the space for gamification and engagement though. Here, PayPal plans to host a climate week in September; employees will be encouraged to virtually clean up this outdoor space and discard trash, earning points along the way while learning about the importance of environmental sustainability.
Employees who rack up points in the frequent challenges that the Pavilion will host can cash in those points for prizes at the PayPal Marketplace.
On this floor, employees can access training resources for recruiting, onboarding, and skills development.
During the pandemic, PayPal has seen employees engage more in online training, Shivananda said. “Over time we have moved from in-classroom training to a lot of online and virtual training, and what we have found is more people engage in that kind of training,” he added.