Charity Magazine

Creating Welcoming Workspaces, the Softstar Way

By Softstar @Soft_Star_Shoes
Creating Welcoming Workspaces, the Softstar Way

When people first come to Softstar headquarters, they get an immediate sense of how the company's values help create welcoming workspaces where the elves can thrive. Our facility is the third building we've had in Oregon, and it's the largest. A great deal of thought went into making it feel warm, inviting, and productive.

What characteristics help create a workspace that is enjoyable for all? It takes a lot of things, big and small. As always, the details matter.

Honor and Preserve Historic Materials

Softstar's entire operation is housed in a former roller rink in Philomath, Oregon. Before we moved in, the space required some imagination to visualize it becoming a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. While the lower level of the building was in terrible shape, the original bow trusses holding up the ceiling were soundly built to last. The building owner decided to rebuild from the ground up and preserve the handsome and functional trusses. The elves joined together to jack the ceiling up and tie the roof beams into new vertical beams, enabling a refreshed first floor to be built below.

Creating Welcoming Workspaces, the Softstar Way
Original roller rink building versus Softstar remodel

Natural Light

As the roof rose, we wanted to let in as much natural light as possible. The windows fill the space with warm sunlight comprising the majority of the building's illumination. As a result, the elves can feel the rhythm of the day and sense the outside world. Since each workspace needs dedicated task lighting, all light bulbs are daylight-balanced to prevent any differences in color temperature throughout the work stations.


As we pad across the floor in our Softstars, energy efficient radiant heat from our polished concrete floor warms our feet. Once you experience hydronic radiant heat, you can't help but instantly want it in your own home. It's like a big warm water bottle under your feet.

Walking lightly on the earth is embodied not just in the shoes we make, but in our welcoming workspaces as well. The remodelers designed our building to use only uncoated wood. Drywall, paint and chemicals were nixed from the building design, and we installed fresh air ventilation.

Space to Collaborate, and Spaces to Take a Break

Our HQ has several spaces where staff can meet. The large kitchen area can seat most of our staff at once. Softstar provides the elves with filtered drinking water and complementary local coffee service. In recent years when distance has been required, the upstairs conference table and the outdoor dining area came in handy. There's a private room where small groups can meet, and we have a dedicated massage chair to work out the knots.

Creating Welcoming Workspaces, the Softstar Way
Outdoor dining area in the Garden


Any repetitive task can be taxing on your body, so we intentionally break up the day with ergonomic breaks. The elves rotate through different stations to ensure that no one works in a focused way for more than two hours without a change of pace. Key to keeping people healthy is encouraging movement, so we encourage frequent stretch breaks. The nature of our detailed work can cause people can get "in the zone" and work in the same position for too much consecutive time. To deal with this, we remind each other when it's time to stop, breathe, stretch, and relax.

The Garden

Oregonians love the outdoors, and the elves are no exception. We created a large private outdoor space where staff can sit and bask in the sunlight on clear days. The space includes a covered and heated dining area for lunches and breaks. We planted our garden with organic edibles including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, herbs, apples, pears, plums and figs. On warm days, we open the large doors up to the outside so the warm air can gently flow through the shop.

Creating Welcoming Workspaces, the Softstar Way
The Garden at Softstar

I know what you're thinking... can I move in already? Well, no. But please visit us when you are in the area and see for yourself how Softstar creates welcoming workspaces that are enjoyable, safe, and fun for all!

Creating Welcoming Workspaces, the Softstar Way

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