Beyond building a product that makes writing, clipping articles, and staying organized simple (and dare I say, fun), Evernote, has built a progressive work culture that includes equity, unlimited paid time off, $1,000 vacation stipends, catered lunches, an athletics program, and the intention to be a 100-year-old startup. They’re also big on life-long learning, and work hard to create an environment that fosters personal and professional development.

They’ve Swapped HR For People Operations

Evernote—”the workspace for your life’s work”—currently has 400 employees, a number that continues to grow rapidly. The privately held company, which was founded in 2008, has over 150 million global users, and is headquartered in Redwood City, California.

Like many of the companies we’ve profiled, Evernote doesn’t have a traditional “HR” department; instead, they prefer to call the department in charge of recruitment and culture the People team, which is led by Michelle Wagner, the SVP of People Operations.

They Want to Be a 100-Year-Old Startup

“We’re in it for the long haul, so if there’s anything that’s dinking, that’s annoying, anything that doesn’t feel right, our only solution is to fix it because we’ve got to live with it forever,” Phil Libin, Evernote’s Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, told Fast Company.

The operative word in this aspirational goal is startup. They don’t just want to be a company that has existed for 100 years – they want to be a company that’s actually still relevant, interesting, and a great place to work.

“We want to be a 100-year-old, very large company that’s still operating like a startup, people are still in love with, that’s making innovative decisions, that’s acting decisively. We didn’t know how to do it; we still don’t, but we thought ‘This seems like a sufficiently epic quest to devote our lives to.’”

But really, it’s the culture they want to survive for 100 years, not necessarily the product

“If you’re thinking in 100-year terms, the culture is the only important thing,” Libin told Fast Company. “The culture is everything in the long-term. The culture is much more important than the current product. The product is the current product, the culture is the next hundred products.”

Cardboard furniture at Evernote's Taiwan office
Cardboard furniture at Evernote's Taiwan office


Last year, Libin took off his hat as Evernote’s CEO and passed the reigns on to Chris O’Neill, who was brought in to help the company grow through its its “awkward adolescent phase.” Since joining, O’Neill—who was previously at Google for almost 10 years—has hired a new leadership team comprised of former hotshots from Microsoft, Skype, HP, Motorola, and AOL.

The coffee bar at Evernote's Redwood HQ
The coffee bar at Evernote's Redwood HQ

At Evernote, They Love Their Coffee

A lot of tech companies in Silicon Valley have cafes and coffee bars, but Libin wanted to do something different… something cooler. So to kick off the coffee program, he invited a bunch of California coffee roasters to do tastings at the office (the winner was Santa Cruz’s Verve Coffee Roasters). To take things to the next level, they brought in a barista competitor to train Evernote’s management team on coffee knowledge as well as the ins and outs of making a great espresso. Today, any interested staff can sign up for the trainings, which includes a “master class” for serious connoisseurs.

“The response to Evernote’s unique coffee program has been quite positive, with many employees reporting that by taking a ‘break’ to make coffee for their coworkers, they were able to clear their heads, using a different part of their brains to get creative juices flowing,” Sprudge explains.

In addition to baked goods on Monday mornings, the coffee bar is home to Tea Time Tuesdays, Iced Coffee Thursdays, and Beer o’Clock Fridays.

A Few More Things

Among the cultural perks Evernote offers is free housecleaning twice a month, which Libin told The Next Web is “probably the thing that we do that people love the most.” He added, “We thought that we needed to get spouses and significant others on our side. I want the pressure from them to be, ‘You better not be thinking about leaving Evernote.’”

They also offer unlimited paid vacation time, and a $1,000 annual vacation bonus for people who successfully take at least one week off. The reward is to help dissuade employees from flirting with burnout, so if verbal encouragement doesn’t convince them to take a break, hopefully a monetary nudge does.