It was about a year and a half ago, shortly after arriving at ACL, that we found out that our building was re-zoned for residential and we were on the hunt for new office space. While some may view this as a giant pain in the ass, I was thrilled. This was an amazing opportunity to design an office space that matched the amazing culture at ACL.
We live and breathe our values at ACL. Not only are they posted on our walls and in all of our on-boarding materials, we act them every day. Authenticity. Disruptive Innovation. Customer Intensity. While our old office was nice, it just didn’t match our values. It lacked areas to allow for collaboration and creativity and had so many physical walls that created silos and isolation.
When we set out to search for a new space, we knew the power of office design on culture. By applying the things below, the new design was a massive success. The staff love it, it has reinvigorated our culture, and hopefully is contributing to an even more creative and collaborative space than before. Another major impact is on our employer brand. It gives candidates a clear picture of what life is like at ACL, and certainly confirms how much we value our team. While what we did is certainly not new or earth shattering, it was a total game changer for our culture, engagement and brand. I thought I would share things that everyone should consider to make any new office design a success for your organization:
- Alignment: Ensure that your design firm and internal team is in alignment with your goals from day one. For us, everyone understood from day 1 that this just wasn’t a project to put up walls and pretty paint, but rather an opportunity to build something amazing, transformative, invigorating which reflected our culture. Our leadership team and entire staff were aligned with what we hoped to achieve with this new space.
- It starts at the top. The exec team plays a key role in setting the tone as to what a new space can do for you. Things like no offices. Right from the start, our CEO set the tone that we wanted more transparency and collaboration and was the first to give up her office.
- Ensure the staff have a role and a voice. A really loud one. We had a team of reps from every department (the Transformers!) that contributed to the design of the space. They gathered feedback from their entire team as to how they work, how they would like to work. They sat in on design meetings. We had mock workstations set up for them to select their furniture, colours. We ran a contest to select the theme of our meeting rooms and graphics.
- Communicate regularly. Keep everyone in the loop every step of the way to build excitement and alleviate any concerns and questions. Emails, photos, office tours. For us, since this was a new build, it was impossible to have the staff onsite to see the new digs while construction was happening. So next best thing? We took video tours, pictures, etc. and shared on a regular basis. We provided updates at all-hands, posted updates on the intranet.
- Do your homework on the new space/neighbourhood. Change is always difficult for us humans. To make this change as easy as possible, we did a lot of prep work for the staff. We searched out the closest Skytrain stations and all of the nearby parking lots and associated pricing. We let everyone know how to gain access to the bike lockers and onsite showers. This made everyone feel comfortable with the new neighbourhood, and sent the message that we care about them.
- Listen. We had open communication channels for staff to post ideas for the office, ask questions. And more importantly, we used so many of the ideas and suggestions. Implementing their suggestions confirms their voice, and thus their engagement with the organization and the new office. And now we have plenty of air regulating plants and nap pods!
- One size does not fit all. Organizations should recognize and celebrate the fact that teams and individual staff all work differently, have different needs. Is there appropriate space for client calls without background noise? Is there an area for peace and quiet for work that needs attention to detail? Each floor caters to the needs of the teams, their roles, their requests. From large boardrooms to nap pods, we listened and accommodated. We went from 9 meeting rooms to 12 different TYPES of meeting spaces and 125 available meeting or individual spaces NOT including your personal work station. The collaborative open areas encourage staff to sit and chat and get out of your cube with whiteboards and tech to capture ideas. The shared spaces all have the best views of the city. In many areas, it feels like a home, not a typical office.