Spaces   //   June 14, 2024

D.C. tech firm’s return to office was made possible by a push to revitalize the surrounding area

Tuesdays and Thursdays are typically bustling at Virtru’s office in downtown Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from the White House. Staff at the data encryption tech company came back to work in person about a year ago when it opened its newest space on the building’s fifth floor.

The nearly 17,000-square-foot office is eclectic and vibrant, and includes a variety of different spaces and seating arrangements where the company’s hybrid staff can make themselves comfortable. It includes two dedicated conference rooms, and three other flexible meeting room spaces with drapery to keep open or private. Dedicated desks are also part of the office environment, which some other companies have done away with in hybrid arrangements. While part of the office is bright and airy, the back of the space is darker and more relaxed, and features a new kitchen, game room and speakeasy-like room.

Virtru CEO John Ackerly is an artist and art collector, and some of his own pieces are displayed throughout the office, including a collection of portraits that were used in one of the U.S. military’s earliest facial-recognition projects.

For an inside look at our tour, head over to WorkLife’s TikTok account for extended coverage.

Whiteboards are also important in the space for collaborative, in-person work, and can be found in nearly every room, including some rooms in which entire walls are made up of whiteboard.

The RTO push was a bit easier for Virtru, given the company was able to welcome about a hundred staff members back to this new space. It was also made possible through the D.C. Vitality Fund, a program the city launched to incentivize companies to get staff back in offices and revitalize parts of the city that slowed down significantly during the pandemic and rise of remote work.

The new space is about double the size of the previous space and under a 13-year lease, as Virtru also expects to grow its local workforce in the coming years.

Companies obtaining grants through the Vitality Fund must affirm their dedication to in-person work with a commitment to having their staff in the office for more than 50% of the work week. Virtru was the first recipient of such a grant and used the funding from the city to build out its new office space.

“There’s a financial aspect to it but also a cultural aspect because you’re bringing people into the office which means you’re revitalizing the area around the office,” said Sean Wayne, a senior designer at Gensler. “It’s a smart way of bringing people back.”

“A lot of these smaller start-up companies can take advantage of that. Build-out and construction costs are ever increasing, and it gets very hard for startups and small companies to actually do a build out of the space. And with the rise of hybrid work it becomes less of an intention,” said Jessica Maples, Gensler’s design director.

One of the most central gathering spaces in Virtru’s office is a large room overlooking a park outside with a living room-like vibe. It’s where all-hands meetings take place, as well as larger events Virtru holds for the wider tech community in D.C. The dynamic space allows for flexible seating depending on the size of the events, which also include roundtable meetings, panel discussions with cybersecurity executives and training sessions. 

“So you have to study like how does this furniture move, does it move, to give Virtru that optionality,” Maples said.

Virtru’s space also includes new seating options like semi-enclosed lounge chairs that allow staff to retain some privacy while working in the open, and several dedicated phone booths can be found in pockets throughout the office. While private areas are still present, the overall theme is open to boost seamless interactions and collaboration.