Offices designed with collaboration at their core have swept the world during the past few years. Go beyond the browser with inspiring apps for classroom learning
Why? Because in addition to technological advances that push the possibilities for communication forward, research proves that collaboration has a dramatic impact on productivity, creativity, and innovation. A report from Accenture on the Digital Collaboration Index states that, “In an increasingly digital and connected world, it’s vital that large enterprises and startups/entrepreneurs explore the value that can be created by closer and deeper collaboration with each other.” This Index measures both the effectiveness of an enterprise’s present collaboration mindset and how it successfully translates it into revenue growth and innovation company-wide. The study revealed that 78 percent of large companies and 67 percent of entrepreneurs believe collaboration was of prime importance. Of those surveyed, high performers in collaboration (those performing in the top twentieth percentile of the Digital Collaboration Index) reported higher levels of revenue growth in 2014—true for both startups and enterprises. Research from Nielsen found that larger, more diverse teams generate better concepts. Teams of six or more people generated concepts that performed 58 percent better with consumers in pre-market testing, and teams with representatives from four or more functions generated concepts that performed 46 percent better than baseline results with consumers. In industries where creativity and innovation are valued, organizations that don’t prioritize collaboration will struggle to maintain a competitive edge, but businesses across sectors are finding it a challenge to weave collaboration into the fiber of their company. It’s not enough to encourage people to collaborate—the physical layout of a space must make collaboration inevitable and ubiquitous. It’s no surprise that some of the world’s most innovative companies—Facebook, Google, Pixar—have built offices that make collaboration and connectivity a paramount priority. In the digital age, this requires more than building an atrium for “unplanned collaborations” or cafeterias where “casual collisions” can occur. It means crafting office space that enables dynamic groups of people to work anywhere, anytime, with anyone; physical and digital space must be interwoven and inextricable. While it sounds great in theory, businesses have been slow to make the transition. Completely changing the landscape of an office is expensive, not to mention time-consuming and potentially disruptive. It requires forward-thinking companies to make the first foray into the unknown, not only to demonstrate the potential of connected workplaces, but also the “how.”
R/GA is one of the most well-known and well-respected advertising agencies in the world. When founder Bob Greenberg decided it was time to move office buildings, he approached the endeavor the same way he has approached work throughout his career: with innovative and tech-forward thinking. R/GA built its global headquarters in New York City during the 1980s, but the company eventually outgrew the space and expanded across four different buildings.
R/GA acquired 200,000 square feet of a building at 450 West 33rd Street, and embarked on a complete and total renovation. They didn't just want an upgrade—they wanted the most connected office possible. R/GA brought elite architecture and integrated design firm Foster + Partners on board to rethink what an office could be in a radical new way.
R/GA’s new global headquarters follows an open floor plan, with each of the two floors being larger than a football field. While aesthetics—and communicating R/GA’s identity as a brand—were important, facilitating collaboration was the top concern. Greenberg wanted a space that would enable R/GA to locate as many of the 900 New York employees as possible on each floor, in order to drive interaction, creativity, and efficiency through close prximity.
Colocating hundreds of people who are online and on their computers all day long requires a tremendous amount of cabling. Foster + Partners designed a raised floor, enabling the distribution of over 100 miles of electricity and digital infrastructure in a way that doesn’t compromise performance or design. There’s also a canopy of Unistrut, a metal framing system, hanging overhead. It allows R/GA to easily reconfigure the floor plan and create private conference rooms of any and all sizes, as necessary.
R/GA’s new office has 1,000 custom sit-stand desks on wheels that provide every employee not only with their own workspace, but also with high mobility. When employees don’t want to be at their desks, they can go to a communal area to work, collaborate, socialize, and relax as they wish. All communal areas are equipped with IT infrastructure, so employees can quickly get up-and-running wherever they choose to work. “Everything we look at [in the design], we want to be sure it's helping with collaboration, integration, and networking—things that will really move us forward,” Greenberg told Fast Company. “And we’re not investing in anything that would be part of the past...we wouldn’t invest in finishes over everyone having a sit-stand desk.” One of the main challenges that open-concept offices raise is noise. Hundreds of people gathering in the same large room could be a recipe for constant noise, unless tempered. R/GA and Foster + Partners overcame this challenge by fitting acoustic panels to the coffered concrete ceiling to absorb sound. Spongy floor tiles also serve to dampen the noise, creating “the perfect amount of buzz,” according to Advertising Age. Light was also a key design concern. Bad lighting can cause painful and uncomfortable eye strain, as well as headaches, which can limit concentration levels and curb performance. It also leads to drowsiness and boredom, which translates to lower productivity, as well as dissatisfaction. To stave off light fatigue, R/GA installed 8,000 smart bulbs from Ketra that are programmed to change their color temperature and brightness based on the season and time of day. With its new headquarters, R/GA prioritized not only intra-office collaboration, but also inter-office collaboration. The agency has 14 offices (and counting) around the world. Employees at every location needed the ability to seamlessly work together because as many as five different R/GA offices may be working on a project for an international client. R/GA set up state-of-the-art video conferencing technology that connects every office, so employees across the world can feel like they’re in the same room. “The ability to connect our entire global workforce, regardless of which continent, country, or office they sit in, has inspired some fantastic combinations of capabilities and talent,” Daniel Diez, R/GA’s EVP, global chief marketing officer, told Forbes. “And the impact on our work, culture, and client relationships has been immediate.”
“The ability to connect our entire global workforce, regardless of which continent, country, or office they sit in, has inspired some fantastic combinations of capabilities and talent,” Daniel Diez, R/GA’s EVP, global chief marketing officer, told Forbes. “And the impact on our work, culture, and client relationships has been immediate.”