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Originally published April 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 30, 2008 at 1:57 PM

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Microsoft's "Touchdown Space" helps employees dodge traffic jams and still work

For Simon Daniels, a Microsoft lead program manager in the typography group, a typical morning goes like this: Take his daughter from his...

Seattle Times technology reporter

For Simon Daniels, a Microsoft lead program manager in the typography group, a typical morning goes like this: Take his daughter from his Seward Park home in South Seattle to school on the north edge of downtown Seattle, then bide his time at a coffee shop while the rush hour on Highway 520 clears.

On Monday, Daniels instead reserved a seat in Microsoft's new "Touchdown Space" in South Lake Union, just a few blocks from his daughter's school. He settled in at a quiet workstation in a large, light-filled workroom and hammered out e-mails as, several congested miles away, traffic crawled over Lake Washington.

Microsoft conceived the space on the third floor of the Westlake/Terry Building as a temporary stopover to help employees dodge the commute but still be productive. The Touchdown Space is also meant for employees coming from the Eastside for meetings in Seattle.

"I'm very excited about it," said Daniels, who joined Microsoft in 1997. "It will make my life a lot easier."

Microsoft is exploring several ways to make commuting to Redmond easier and more flexible for its workers — an important recruiting and retention tool as competitors Google and Yahoo expand in the area.

It is more than doubling the shuttle service it began last fall and continues to encourage using public transit and van pools.

The company has four floors in the Westlake/Terry Building, 320 Westlake Ave., N. The building, in the burgeoning South Lake Union neighborhood, was developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan and is owned jointly by Vulcan and Group Health Cooperative, which has its headquarters there.

In addition to the Touchdown Space, Microsoft has 285 employees in the building. They are in groups including U.S. advertising sales, search and display media operations and branded entertainment.

The Touchdown Space, which opened Monday, can accommodate 50 employees now, but room for 100 more is in the works. Employees sign up for a specific desk through a company scheduling system.

All the amenities of Microsoft's newest buildings in Redmond are there: modern furniture, a variety of desk types, small tables for group work, private booths for phone calls, conference rooms and a kitchenette with refrigerators stocked with the full assortment of beverages employees are offered.

John Neuharth, a Microsoft test lead in the Office group who lives in Ballard, has tried lots of options to ease the Redmond commute in the past 12 years. He said the Touchdown Space provides a more businesslike atmosphere than working from home.

"I just did a conference call over there," he said. "It's just a little bit easier than having my dog barking and that kind of thing."

Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or bromano@seattletimes.com

Information in this article, originally published April 15, 2008, was corrected June 30, 2008. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Microsoft's South Lake Union "Touchdown Space" is being expanded to accommodate 100 employees total instead of the correct number of 150.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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