‘My space no longer fit my job’

This piece is presented by Interstate Office Products.

For a leading regional contractor, Journey Group had an office that could only be described as a little embarrassing.

It was old – built in 1949 originally as a 1,000-square-foot “little box with a basement” as CEO Randy Knecht puts it.

A cramped office in Journey Group’s former building.

The growing company added onto it six times. There still wasn’t enough space.

“There was no flow to the building,” Knecht said. “It was cut up, narrow hallways.”

There were offices with no windows that felt dark, he continued.

The place smelled musty enough that spouses complained after work.

“You just adapt,” Knecht said. “And then you end up robbing conference rooms. They either get smaller or go away, because you convert them into offices.”

In short, for a business that builds buildings, this was not an impression remotely close to the work that Journey regularly produces for clients.

“If there was a project we were trying to land, we would meet at the architect’s office,” Knecht said. “We’re a leading building contractor in the region, and our space was pretty modest and not a good reflection of what we can do.”

Clients rarely saw the inside of the old Journey Group office.

By 2014, it was clear the time had come for change.

That’s when Knecht and his team reached out to Interstate Office Products to start planning for a new building.

“We had a lot of conversations about the different work modes and working styles before they got into the design of the building,” Interstate president Gary Gaspar said. “Just changing the furniture isn’t going to solve the issue.”

Design time

Working with Architecture Incorporated, the businesses assessed Journey’s needs. In addition to running out of space, the way the contractor did business had changed a lot since 1949.

“Improving collaboration was one of the biggest factors for them,” Gaspar said. “Designing a workplace to encourage impromptu collaboration and to visually see each other. For them and the leaders to be more present to the rest of the employees was a big factor in how they ended up designing the space.”

Journey Group’s new office was designed so employees could see one another. Interstate and Journey took a trip to Michigan for a tour of Steelcase. Interstate is a Premier Partner Steelcase dealer, so Journey was able to see the latest workplace research and incorporate it into the building’s design.

A central hub in the new Journey office.

“They saw the concept of a social hub and work cafe, and those ideas immediately were planned into their space,” Gaspar said.

Journey liked the idea of a central space where employees could gather for meals, breaks or impromptu meetings.

“The idea of a social hub is that it’s located in a way that people will accidentally pass through it as they go through the facility,” Gaspar explained. “It encourages interactions that might not happen outside scheduled meetings, which leads to innovation and problem solving. Creating that hub was a big deal.”

Knecht also took notice of the modern desks available at Steelcase. Previously, workers used built-in desks with a rigid design.

“We really liked the adjustable-height workstations,” Knecht said. “So now we have one in virtually all our offices. All our employees have the ability to stand while working, which is much healthier than sitting at a chair all day.”

The team also strategized around what technology Journey would need and how the furniture would help integrate it.

Adjustable height desks by Steelcase.

 

“They did a great job giving us options for efficiencies. There are a lot of directions you get pulled with technology and new office capabilities, and they did a great job sorting through it with us,” Knecht said. “It really gave us the ability to do higher-end collaboration spaces.”

Journey’s new conference spaces allow the team to connect their laptops and to alternate whose screen is shown to the group, for instance.

A collaborative work room at Journey.“We didn’t even sell them our technology. We sold them on an idea and brought in a partner because that would be the best solution for them,” Gaspar said. “They really did their homework to make sure they got it right on the front end, and it definitely paid off.”

Finished product

Moving day arrived in late 2015, and then Journey was especially grateful for the relationship with Interstate.

“They’re very experienced in moving in – much more than we were,” senior project manager Tony Wiseman said. “They really assisted us and made sure everything was ready when we moved in.”

 

Journey Group has multiple work spaces where employees can collaborate and share screens.

Now that workers have settled into the space, Knecht said the difference is noticeable and significant.

“Actually, I think it’s improved the culture of the organization, and that was one of our goals,” he said. “To create an environment where people wanted to come to work every day. And I see it happening. And when we’re recruiting into our organization, when they come in the door, you can tell they like what they see and want to be a part of it.”

Wiseman agreed.

“It exceeds expectations, and now I feel like our office is part of how we do business,” he said. “It’s how we function. We don’t see it as just a building. We see it as who we are and how we function, so the efficiency of the space makes us more productive.”

 

Journey Group’s front desk.

 

Building an office with employees in mind is critical to talent attraction and retention, Gaspar added.

“When you provide a great environment, that sends a message to people,” he said. “And millennials are having a huge impact. They don’t want to work in a huge cube farm. They won’t apply. Or they will just walk out because it makes you question if the employer is forward-thinking.”

The Journey project is a strong reminder that working together early on the design results in a higher-quality final product, he said.

“The fact that we were brought in very early totally impacted the design of the building and made the end product much better. If we’re brought in too late, we can’t make as big of an impact on the big picture things,” Gaspar said.

“I think it’s fantastic. It’s perfect. It’s an unbelievably great statement about their work.”

Journey Group

‘My space no longer fit my job’

The interior of Journey Group’s new office was designed with the help of Interstate Office Products. “Actually, I think it’s improved the culture of the organization, and that was one of our goals.”

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