Seven years into its existence, the online handmade and vintage marketplace Etsy is such an Internet cultural staple that its most distinctive superficial parts—the twee aesthetic of many of its shops, the earnestness of its mission ("to change the way the global economy works")—have become fodder for popular parodies. But those straight outta Portlandia aspects of Etsy’s Brooklyn headquarters are also what make it a stimulating place to work.
When employees are hired, they are given a stipend to spend on Etsy so they can put their own personal stamp on their work spaces at the company’s open-plan office. According to Etsy vice president Matt Stinchcomb, all of the desks are handmade and some of them were even built at the office’s own woodshop. There are open, plant-filled rooms where employees can gather to collaborate on ideas, and they’ve just created a "breathing room," which Stinchcomb describes as "a digital device-free room with meditation cushions." There’s even a locally sourced, organic company meal offered two days a week and called—what else?—"Eatsy."
But it’s not just the surface aspects of Etsy’s HQ that make it the kind of progressive, creatively oriented corporation that you think it is. Stinchcomb, who has been with Etsy almost since the beginning (he was the first non-founding employee hired), has been tasked with leading the company’s social responsibility initiatives. His previous positions at Etsy were in marketing and community building, and he’s moved to a new role this year: vice president of brand and social responsibility. That mouthful of a title just means that Stinchcomb is now focused on helping Etsy "create positive ecological and social value."
One of the main ways that Etsy is working toward that goal of positive value is that it applied for, and has been awarded, B Corp certification. B Corp stands for "Benefit Corporation," and to become one Etsy had to meet stringent standards of social and environmental responsibility. In addition to becoming a greener company and assessing the company’s eco-footprint as part of its B Corp mission, Stinchcomb has been working with Etsy HR to figure out the gross happiness index of Etsy employees. The gross happiness index is being calculated through "a combination of surveys, observations, and other kinds of data," Stinchcomb explains. They also want to answer questions like, "How often do we promote people from within? And do people have clarity around their roles?" he says.
Etsy has also started a program called Etsy School based on the premise that its employees are happiest when they are given an opportunity to share their talents, even if those talents have nothing to do with their day jobs. Employees teach classes during work hours "on mindfulness, meditation, juggling, screen printing, making cloth wallets…therapeutic doodling, which is actually a real thing," Stinchcomb says. The sense of community that grows from these classes is another cultural characteristic that increases worker happiness at Etsy central.
It’s not just therapeutic doodling, though, that the company is trying to encourage these days. After receiving B Corp certification, the company has started internal discussion groups to explore questions like, "How do we create a trajectory for women to do leadership roles in the company?" This is a particularly poignant question for Etsy, as the vast majority of the website’s stores are run by women. Becoming a B Corp helped Etsy to turn a mirror on itself, Stinchcomb says, and to really work at optimizing diversity. So don’t fret: You can buy that ring made out of human teeth with the full confidence that you’re supporting a company that’s trying to have a positive impact on the world.
Take a tour of Etsy’s Dumbo offices in the slide show above.
[Images: Drew Anthony Smith/Fast Company]