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Synergy. Teamwork. Innovation. These oft-repeated words were the stuff of motivational posters spotted in corporate offices of old and hinted at ideals rarely seen in the workplace—at least during a bleaker point in time.
With new workplace design strategies taking over in corporate America and a more energized workforce emerging from the rubble of the cubicle (R.I.P. Dilbert), it’s safe to say that these lofty principles are alive and well once again. As proof, look no further than the new “non-corporate” headquarters of one of the country’s fastest growing companies, Snagajob, based in Richmond, Va.
With a strong corporate culture and a number one ranking in Entrepreneur magazine’s 2011 Great Place to Work® Best Small & Medium Workplaces survey, Snagajob just needed their physical space to reflect who they are. (The fact that they purchased large, three-fingered foam hands for their employees after ranking third on the list in 2009 should tell you a lot about their culture.)
The design team at Baskervill worked closely with Snagajob to redesign the 67,000-square-foot space so it reflected the lively culture, creativity and camaraderie of its 250 employees, and resonated with the company mentality of unapologetic passion for people.
“In terms of branding, it was the emphasis of everything,” says Susan Orange, director of workplace strategies for Baskervill. “It’s huge; it informed all of our decisions, whether it was color, whether it was materials, whether it was the logistics of the space planning, the amenities—it all goes back to their brand and culture and supports that. I can’t think of a thing in that office that doesn’t have a root in their brand and culture.”
The expectations of the client and design team were made clear from the start: “Snaggers” would participate first-hand in the development of their new office space. “They not only wanted to be involved at the executive team level or the planning team level, but they wanted all of their staff to have a voice,” explains Orange. “And how do you get 250 people’s voices heard and assimilated and evaluated?”
The design team addressed this challenge by leaving behind idea boards in common areas with large sheets of paper so that employees could respond at their leisure to design concepts and materials—a process which proved to be incredibly valuable during the programming phase. “We kept it very casual, very low-tech,” says Orange.
The design goals focused on several main ideas that emerged during this process: bring the outdoors indoors, make it fun, and encourage teamwork and collaboration in a comfortable environment. In response, floor-to-ceiling windows flood the area with light, allowing for scenic views of the pond outside. Instead of private offices, the new space features intentionally designed areas that create opportunities for casual collisions and synergy. More than 20 conference rooms throughout the space allow for both serendipitous and scheduled collaboration.
The open floor plan was a challenging opportunity for Baskervill. On one hand, it allowed for spontaneity and encouraged the free exchange of ideas; on the other hand, space was at a premium and each wall had to be carefully considered for its functionality. The ceiling was fashioned to add height, light, details, articulation and aesthetic design elements. The creative use of materials, including concrete, wood and metal, allowed the design team to focus its limited budget on creating high-impact community spaces.
One of most stunning additions is the Town Center, a gathering space featuring a kitchen, beer taps and “The Hill,” a six-tier riser built with OSB and topped with carpet tile. An intricate part of the corporate culture, The Hill transforms into a lively and engaging space for the entire company to meet, share information, and celebrate with “shout outs,” where employees and leadership recognize outstanding performances and important business/personal milestones.
“The genesis of [The Hill] was how to fit 400 people in this room, and still get everybody to see what would essentially be the head of the room for company meetings,” explains Orange. “Putting people on risers seemed like a logical choice once we got past code, but it also was a great place to meet.”
The showstopper is the stainless steel slide, a practical icon of fun providing employees quick transport between the building’s two floors. This playful accent is intended to stimulate workers and visitors to “do things ... differently.”
“The slide to them is a symbol of their playfulness,” Orange says. “They don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s a very conceptual symbol of quick-to-market. It’s the expedited idea, the expedited way to get from one floor to the next.”
The response from employees and leadership has been overwhelmingly positive, and Orange says the novelty of the slide has not worn off in the slightest.
“We curved the slide so that it dumped out or stopped right on the outskirts to Town Center, so the engineers upstairs take that slide I don’t know how many times a day. It’s used all the time. They come down that slide always to that center spot in the building,” she says.
Employees can even be seen on the weekends enjoying the space leisurely and playing ping pong. The new office reinforces the client’s motto “bust it while having fun,” and serves as a physical communicator of Snagajob’s culture, brand and mission.
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4851 Lake Brook Drive
Glen Allen, VA 23060
101 S 15th Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Susan Orange, CID,
lead interior designer
Susan Poehler, CID
Chris Cunningham Photography