Investing in Etica Group’s new corporate headquarters was years in the planning.
It feels like we’ve been talking, at least internally, about a new centralized headquarters for Etica Group for a long time. And that’s because it has literally been years in the making. With just a few weeks left before the long-anticipated move, we took a few minutes to chat with Jessica Nickloy (CEO), Sheena Lee (VP of Operations) and Toby Winiger, AIA (Director of Architecture and Building Envelope Services) about the process.
What was the precipice for a new office?
Due to the nature of our firm’s growth over the years, we were spread out in a local area (3 offices within 30 miles). We were wasting resources and knew we would function better by being together for collaboration and resource utilization. We also knew it would improve equity across the employees by everyone having access to the same quality of equipment, cultural activities and access to the firm’s leadership.
With three offices in that 30-mile radius, how did you decide on a part of town?
In 2019 we put our local office staff’s home addresses on a heat map to evaluate where everyone lived. We knew we wanted to make it convenient for the greatest number of staff. The results showed the northeast corner of Marion County would accommodate over 90% of our staff.
Before starting to look for space, we engaged with Choreo to figure out how much space we needed, compared with what we currently had and how staff wanted to use the space. Heat sensors were put in various places around all three offices to see how the current space was being used and with what frequency. This was extremely beneficial to determine how much space we needed and of what types (workstations, conference rooms, collaboration spaces, etc.).
Choreo also conducted staff surveys and focus groups to ensure they had a voice in the amenities and type of office they wanted to work in. The top survey result was natural light followed by quality meeting space. The survey showed concerns about noise in open spaces and that staff desired flexible workstations that would accommodate both computer work and marking up full drawing sets.
Once you had the data, how did you find the actual office space?
At this point it was Jan. 2020 and we enlisted the help of a realtor. They sent us a list of about 20-30 spaces. Jessica and Sheena toured them all to evaluate how well they would accommodate our space needs and staff input. They were also evaluated for the relation to our clients, partners, etc. in the area and added bonuses of outdoor amenities like walking trails in a business park, outdoor eating, etc.
Jessica and Sheena narrowed it down to about a half dozen spaces and toured the remaining spaces with the Directors. They brought multiple perspectives representing all our staff and how they work. Some were focused on the ‘ease’ of accessing the building, local amenities, ability to renovate the space, price, etc. This larger group took a survey based on the things we were looking for and ranked the spaces.
We were nervous at what the results were going show and pleasantly surprised it was a unanimous agreement. Ironically enough it was the first space Jessica and Sheena saw. We are glad we really took our time to find the right space based on what our staff was looking for.
Right as we decided on a new office space, COVID hit. We spent some time evaluating if this was still the right decision but knew the positive impact of one central office for our staff.
What lessons learned would you share with others evaluating their office needs?
Engage with staff. It’s extremely important to allow them a voice in the process of how they work and amenities they would like. Once we had the space, we were still showing workstation options to Directors, Department Managers and Project Managers for input. This helped us narrow down design decisions. We even brought in six different test chairs for staff to sit in and evaluate. Staff responded to a survey and because of it we found a few options that fit everyone’s top choices.
What excites you the most about the new office?
Besides the obvious abundance of natural daylight, flexible furnishings and ample meeting space, it’s the intangible benefits it will provide our culture. Being ‘One Etica’ instead of across three local acoffices will encourage increased employee interaction and enhanced cultural benefits. We’re looking forward to having space for lunch and learns, staff eating together in the Social Hub, celebrating wacky holidays (and traditional ones) and walking meetings throughout the business park.