The way we work is changing and it’s mandating a change in what the workplace looks like too. To be competitive in today’s technology and idea driven world, companies have to be creative, lean, efficient and productive.
The buzz words are “innovation” and “collaboration.” The new office looks less like cubicle city inside a single purpose suburban office park and more like a place where convenience, comfort and creativity collide.
From small startups to big corporations, businesses up and down the First Coast are redefining their office. There is no one-size-fits-all design for a creative collaborative office space, but there are commonalities among the offices reviewed here. They are in more urban locations. They are rewarding worker bees with the prime views. They are creating spaces designed to provide for spontaneous brainstorming and team collaboration. In this section, meet four local companies that are leading the way.
The Innovation Lab
Meet Ignite, the Innovation Lab of the Adecco Group, a national staffing company that employs over 300,000 people. Sean Paley, a Jacksonville employee of Adecco, pitched the idea of an Innovation Lab to the CEO of Adecco while at a brainstorming conference. He got the thumbs up, recruited two other Jacksonville Adecco employees, and branched out to create Ignite with Adecco remaining its parent company. They operate like a startup, occupying the fourth floor of the historic Dyal-Upchurch building at 6 E. Bay St. in downtown Jacksonville. While their office space is being renovated they are temporarily working in CoWork Jax nearby. Their primary focus is to find creative solutions to Adecco’s big corporate problems. For instance, they started wickedsmart.me to help place high potential students that they meet at career fairs into internships that best suit them.
Today, Ignite is 23 people strong. They will have collaborative open space with magnetic white boards on multiple walls, quiet space to use for analyzing and executing projects, an ideation room made fun with foosball and ping pong, phone rooms for privacy, a library for contemplative breaks and a kitchen equipped with a fancy espresso machine and snacks. More information on Ignite can be found at ignitewithus.com.
Meet KYN, your next of kin. KYN is an accelerator team looking to invest in and accelerate startups. It is the idea of Elton Rivas, Dennis Eusebio and Shay Arnett, born out of last year’s inaugural One Spark event.
“At KYN, our team and extended family of mentors work fulltime side by side with the startup teams every day. The KYN Loft was carefully designed to encourage daily collaboration, while offering flexible spaces for when teams need to be quiet and focused.” said Elton Rivas, co-founder at KYN. “Grouping our startups, apprentices and staff together increases discipline and accountability; thus higher engagement and better results for everyone.”
KYN runs a 16-week boot camp for promising entrepreneurs who want to take their business to the next level. Each company is given $35,000 in seed money and over $50,000 in design, development and launch resources and in return KYN receives a small equity position in their company. KYN’s 6 staff members and 7 paid student apprentices from UNF work fulltime alongside the chosen startups to help grow their companies. Additionally, 30 plus mentors from throughout the Jacksonville business community are available to offer advice.
The KYN Loft is set up to foster innovation and collaboration. They are located in a lofty open office on Bay Street in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. Their designers’ and developers’ tables are located adjacent to the business tables so that collaboration can happen spontaneously. A phone booth provides private conversation space and multiple conference rooms are available for group classes and meetings. The kitchen and game room of course come equipped with a slushie machine and Jenga.
KYN is now accepting applicants for their next class. Check out the details at kyn.is.
Meet Hashrocket, a full-service design and development company for web and iOS applications. They are located on the 7th floor of the Metropolitan building in downtown Jacksonville Beach. Hashrocket believes that “collaboration is everything,” and they’ve made it a point to design their office to promote collaboration. The Rocketeers, as they call themselves, practice pair programing: two Rocketeers share one computer in order to keep communication and code quality high. Owner Marian Phelan feels her most important job is keeping her team happy. “The view from the glass walls of the Hashrocket offices is second to none. The team has a great view of the beach, and I get a great view of happy people enjoying their work.”
The design room has floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking downtown Jacksonville Beach and views out to the ocean. The office is equipped with a shower to clean up from lunchtime surfing. And the kitchen is stocked with an assortment of coffees and teas, and is restocked with groceries every Monday. Hashrocket has 32 employees in total, 22 in Jacksonville Beach, 8 in Chicago and 2 in Boulder. A video feed with their Chicago office is always on so the offices feel connected.
A key component of their office is its location in Jacksonville Beach. Hashrocket chose to locate in the Metropolitan because most of the employees live at the beach and they wanted to be a part of an urban setting. The Metropolitan has a mix of uses, including retail, office and residential. Hashrocket owns one of the condos and is able to offer it to clients when they visit. Their clients come from around the world and also love to stay at one of the nearby oceanfront hotels where they can walk to restaurants and the Hashrocket office.
If you want to learn more about Hashrocket, visit their website at hashrocket.com, or better yet, meet them at this month’s Ancient City Ruby conference in St. Augustine, ancientcityruby.com.
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Meet EverBank, whom you should already know. After gaining the naming rights to the Jaguars stadium, EverBank made the decision to have an even bigger presence in downtown Jacksonville and moved 1,600 employees from its suburban office at J. Turner Butler Boulevard and Philips Highway to the newly named Everbank Center in 2012. Moving that large number of employees, many of whom were apprehensive about moving downtown, was no small feat. With the help of Workscapes, a local office design and furniture company, they were able to create an attractive open floor plan everyone has come to love.
The new office has minimal walls, an airy and bright atmosphere and stunning views of the St. Johns River and the city. Besides the typical conference rooms, EverBank created innovation rooms that are set up like living rooms to create a casual atmosphere to exchange ideas. The kitchens are contemporary with bistro tables providing a comfortable place where associates enjoy eating.
As explained by Claudia Amlie, SVP and Chief Human Resources Officer at EverBank, “We wanted to create an atmosphere in the office that exemplified our core values of teamwork and entrepreneurial spirit.” They seem to have succeeded. The call center associates’ happiness in the space is translated to their customers with more energy and innovation. When associates are happy they are happier on the phone. And now, with two years under their belt at the new office, initial apprehensions over moving downtown have been replaced with a love for the conveniences that downtown has to offer and a renewed excitement in the company. Amlie says that EverBank would love to see other companies move downtown to add to the area’s vitality.
Common Threads in the Innovative Office
Each of the four companies we visited was unique in its business model and thus unique in its office space needs. There were however many common threads amongst them.
Benching. Gone are the days of the cubicle. Benching is the term used to describe the dining room-type tables that most of the workers use as “touchdown” space.
Personal Stuff. Benching doesn’t allow for many personal items. But the young workforce doesn’t have a large library of books. They keep their books on their nooks and all other resources on their computers. If you give them shelves, they fill them with things like bobbleheads and carnival trinkets. Physical books are considered a shared item and are located in the office library. Other personal items are stowed in kindergarten style cubbies or high school lockers.
Fish Bowls. Management over the age of 40 still likes to have a personal office. They still like to print things out and have reference documents. They like to close their doors to have quiet. Their offices have the appearance of being open with glass walls creating a fish bowl effect. The primary difference between the office manager of yesterday and the office manager of today is that their offices are smaller and they don’t take up valuable real estate. The prime locations are left open for everyone to enjoy.
Noise. The open floor plan can be noisy. Every office has solutions to this. First, if you really want solitude, there’s the phone booth or any number of smaller collaboration spaces that you may be able to use by yourself. Some companies have created indicators for employees to use when they do not want to be disturbed. The headphones rule is popular: two ear buds in, you’re in the zone; one ear bud in, you’re open for discussion.
Location. Each of these businesses has made the conscious decision to locate within an urban core. Whether the location was downtown Jacksonville or downtown Jacksonville Beach, they located there to be within a mixed use dynamic setting.
Each of the offices we visited here strives to connect their employees to each other. Their teams are driving innovation. Each office is also striving to connect their company to other companies through locating in urban cores and through technology. The concept of work is changing. Work can happen anywhere and at any time. The office is evolving into a place that you don’t need to be, but a place that you want to be. The new open urban office is the place where innovation and collaboration happen.