The office environment that attracts talent, inspiration and ideas is changing. Sandra Tripp, Managing Director of Huntsman Architectural Group in New York, explains!

The war for talent is real.

According to Gallup – Only 32% of employees in the United States are engaged. That means over two-thirds of employees nationwide are disengaged with their work. It is not surprising, then, that employers are beginning to think of employees more like customers. Many organizations are realizing that they must pay closer attention to the moments that matter most when employees decide to join or remain with an organization.

What does this have to do with the office environment?

The design of your office is a reflection of your organization. It should speak to your brand, reflect your values, and enable a sense of belonging.

Design elicits emotion. If an employee feels good about their workspace, it is a positive touch point for engagement. The right workplace, just like right technology tools, can help enhance employee morale, which has a direct connection to productivity. If an employee feels supported, they are inspired to do their best work.

Companies are keenly aware of this when attracting and retaining talent. Successful employers understand that the workplace is a physical articulation of their brand. For a growing company it can be a way to say, “this is who we are & what we believe”, and while startup office spaces may not be able to offer the same features and amenities as larger competitors, the company’s values are absolutely reflected in the space. For an established company built space can be a chance to evolve their reputation to ensure that they remain competitive in the talent war. But whether small or large, the solution needs to be more than gimmicks – if the workspace isn’t authentic to the company’s ethos, users won’t connect with it.

(, formerly AppEagle)
Excited to design their first office from scratch, wanted their space to speak to who they are as a company – and to up their professional game. The relocation closer to New York City sought to improve public transit access and tap into the city’s talent pool. Key project drivers were a more flexible workplace, space within the office for industry events and meet-ups, and future expansion opportunities within the building. However, the most important goal was to maintain the bootstrapped startup spirit that had made the company so successful in the first place.

Our design team was tasked with creating a space that would meet’s needs today while accommodating their vision for the future. We kept the casual vibe from their startup past by providing lots of lounge spaces, but instead of being distraction zones next to workspaces, we located them in a more public, buzzy area adjacent to the café. A new feature for employees was the inclusion of quieter, heads-down areas. With more staff, a variety of meeting room sizes needed to be augmented with spaces to focus and get away from the buzz when needed. Rather than painting and decorating their own offices as staff had done the in past, the desire for personalization was addressed with chalkboard walls in the entry café, which is also a place for employees to let off steam during epic Nurf gun battles.

Aquent’s mission statement:

To harness the power of individuals to change the way the world works.

By celebrating the unique abilities of our talent, we’re empowering the makers of the modern world to work smarter every day.

Aquent has over twenty offices in North America, and the majority of their team can work from anywhere. So why does the design of the office matter? For Aquent, the physical office is a place where the team can come together for meetings or training, and where new hires go for interviews (and first impressions!). More than a resource, it’s really a place for connecting and reinforcing the company’s values. In designing office space, our collective goal is always to ensure that every workplace speaks to that local team.

Since their workforce uses predominantly mobile technology, Aquent offices typically offer a mix of workspaces: Half as free-desking or hoteling stations, and the rest as alternative workspaces. These can be open or enclosed meeting rooms, lounge areas adjacent to a café, or library type spaces that provide a distraction-free environment for focused work.

Periodically, Aquent checks in with their staff to survey if the workplace continues to support their evolving needs and inspires them to do their best work. The feedback is then incorporated into the next refresh or update that typically happens in conjunction with lease renewal or at the midway point of a long-term lease.

Connection, belonging, meaning. Are we asking too much of the modern workplace? Are these things solvable with sticks and bricks?

Yes, to a degree. When people can work anywhere, a sense of belonging is exactly why they may want to come to an office. Good workplaces can assist in creating meaningful connections among people and brands. Built space can be the difference-maker in an employment decision, but it can only amplify a company’s values, not create them.

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