Employee Engagement was Key to the Design of New LA Offices

Employee engagement creates a successful change management process. 

Employee engagement in the change management process is integral to the success of any major move, but it’s especially so in those that collocate companies into shared spaces. That’s what WPP, a multinational marketing communications company, which owns a family of smaller firms, did in deciding to move 13 of those companies to two locations in Los Angeles, after looking at their company needs and business projections–and how these could be best supported in an agile environment. WPP enlisted HOK to design the new spaces, transitioning the companies from private offices to a full open-office design and tasking HOK with keeping individual brand identity even in the shared space.

Moss and felt walls feature into the design of the new spaces. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

Moss and felt walls feature into the design of the new spaces. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel..

How much space (SF)?

Site 1 has 22,000 useable SF, while site 2 has 41,500 useable SF.

How many employees?

Site 1 has 205 seats and site 2 has 387 seats, but both allow for more with activity-based working.

Describe work-space types?

Both sites are an open-office benching environment with a combination of assigned and activity-based working, creating flexible neighborhoods for each individual company. Even the C-suite sits in the open office at the same size bench as the rest of their staff. Metrics were created to allow for the proper ratio of open office collaboration, as well as enclosed meetings spaces. Various working styles are promoted in both the open-office collaboration as well as the enclosed meeting space – lounge settings to standing height environments.

The design includes client conference breakout rooms with moveable walls to expand the space. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

The design includes client conference breakout rooms with moveable walls to expand the space. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided? 

Various meeting spaces were provided, from phone rooms to large enclosed conference rooms that expand into open office lounge spaces to house large events. A four-to-five person huddle room is provided per every 10 employees. These huddle rooms are furnished with a variety of settings from lounging environments to standing height tables, promoting different meeting styles.

What other kind of support space or amenity spaces are provided? 

Outdoor patios; multi-purpose rooms; Loop Rooms, which manage digital media in real time; game rooms; and living rooms.

Has the project achieved any special certifications? 

While they did not go for LEED or WELL certification many of the principles were applied to the design, such as daylighting, views, sustainable materials and many more design elements.

The open office features faceted huddle rooms. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

The open office features faceted huddle rooms. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

What is the project’s location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities? 

Site 1 is close to the new metro that is slated to open, and it’s also within walking distance to many amenities.

Site 2 is in a new development that has access to a nine-acre park featuring a soccer field, basketball court, volleyball and bocce ball courts, an open-air concert venue and miles of pathways for walking and biking. There are also many local amenities like restaurants and retail.

Was the C-suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?

One C-suite member from each company was part of the design committee. They were involved in the project planning and design process from visioning through project completion. There were also mid-level manager work sessions, employee focus groups, and change ambassadors comprised of all levels of staff involved in the design and change management process.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?

Micro programming and half day visioning session with the C-suite representative of each individual operating company.

Moss and green walls promote wellbeing and air cleaning. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

Moss and green walls promote wellbeing and air cleaning. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

A survey was sent to every employee.

Were there any other kind of employee engagement activities?

Employees had the option to visit a full scale mockup of four potential benching systems and open office finishes (including lighting) where they could vote for which system they preferred. Change ambassador meetings helped inform the design and preferred amenities for each site. They held competitions to name the various meeting spaces and they also hosted company mixers to meet people from other companies.

Were any change management initiatives employed?

Utilization studies, heat map studies, employee surveys, a mock-up (for furniture, benching style/finishes), performance measure setting, change ambassador meetings, and town hall meetings to keep all the employees apprised of decisions and progress. Leadership goal, metric setting, change readiness assessments, welcome kits, and weekly newsletters were sent to all employees.

The pantry of this space features a moveable glass wall and raw edge table. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

The pantry of this space features a moveable glass wall and raw edge table. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

One company required an interactive media wall that changes design based on its environment and the people within it. Another group wanted a beer tap that would feature local breweries.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?

Due to the density of each site, additional restrooms were added to promote wellbeing for the employee. Wellness rooms were added and they selected sites with proximity to fitness locations. Access to natural light was also important. All workstations were along the perimeter and all rooms (except conference rooms and break rooms) were on the interior with fully glazed fronts to bring in natural light deep into the space.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?

Moss walls and green walls to promote health and air purification

Acoustical tack surface in the open office and enclosed rooms made up of recycled electrical wires.

Digital media wall that changes and adapts to users and environment

What were the major furniture products used?

The workstations are Steelcase, the task chairs are SitOnIt, the flooring is Interface and the lounge furniture is a variety of bespoke pieces.

The open office features branding and collaboration areas. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

The open office features branding and collaboration areas. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

Branding was a very important part of this project because we were locating 13-plus creative ad and media agencies (some are even competing business) under one roof. Branding gave each operating company a sense of place and identity within the project but as these companies expand and contract based on need the branding needed to be flexible so wall graphics, accent paint colors, and cushions on the benching storage were used to achieve this.

What is the most unique feature of the new space? 

The design took full advantage of the spectacular views and designed spaces to highlight them. Also unique and innovative materials were used throughout to give a constant surprise and wow factor.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?

Lounge furniture in the wellness rooms, access to outdoor spaces, as well as a variety of working environments (including standing height). Moss walls + Green Walls to promote air cleaning and wellbeing.

Various meeting spaces were used throughout the neighborhoods of each individual company. Image courtesy of Kim Rogers.

Various meeting spaces were used throughout the neighborhoods of each individual company. Image courtesy of Kim Rogers.

What kind of technology products were used?

Each huddle room had wall mounted flat screens and powered furniture if the setting promoted it. Each conference was equipped with 70-inch-plus TVs with speakers, table mics and video conferencing capabilities. Each reception had gobo lights where company names or guest names could be projected and one reception had a media wall that reacted to the environment.

If the company relocated to new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?

Both sites were approximately 45 minutes from their original locations. Surveys of where existing employees lived and client contract requirements were taken into consideration when selecting the new office sites. The first challenge was the adjacency requirements of each operating company between the two sites because some worked with each other while others were in direct competition with one another. Another change was taking all staff out of their private offices, even the execs. This remained a major concern throughout the project but once they started to inhabit the office they saw the tremendous benefits of this new working style.

How did the company communicate about the changes and moves?

Change ambassadors were selected from each operating company. These ambassadors were made up of mid-level staff. Numerous focus groups were held to communicate with the staff. There were two town hall meetings and weekly newsletters to keep the employees up to date on the changes and moves.

If change management program was in place, what were the most successful strategies?

We heard from all levels of staff that the town halls were very effective in allowing a platform for everyone to ask questions about the project and what to be expect.

This reception area features pivoting glass doors with beach-inspired shutters. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

This reception area features pivoting glass doors with beach-inspired shutters. Image courtesy of Eric Laignel.

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