Do your employees deserve a new office?

These leading companies have designed their new Toronto spaces with staff in mind. Here's why

Do your employees deserve a new office?
Inside a brand, 35-storey new tower on Toronto’s harbourfront, on 17 floors of bright yellow, Sun Life Financial has made its new home.

It’s an innovative, open office environment that boasts some of the city’s best harbour views through ceiling to floor windows.

The insurance and benefits giant’s 2000 staff work across open-plan areas and more than 400 “collaboration” spaces: brainstorming cutting-edge innovations in the “ignite studio”, taking part in video conferences on the office couches, and working at sit/stand desks.

The sustainable building at 1 York Street was designed with both staff and clients in mind, and it’s a monument to the company’s health and wealth ethos.

“If you got Sun Life people in a room anywhere around the world and said ‘quick, what’s the first word that describes the company?’, they would say collaboration,” Sun Life’s president and CEO Dean Connor told guests at the building’s official opening.

“Getting all of our employees in the downtown area together in one building enables that kind of collaboration, and that’s all about innovation and speed.”

He added that the building is another string to the company’s bow in attracting top talent, making it easier for them to live and work in downtown Toronto.

“Coming together in a building like this, where we can create some agile workspaces, innovative workspaces, get people collaborating together … is hugely important to our strategy around talent.”

Sun Life’s also taken a novel approach to acquainting staff with their new surroundings, and a staff survey showed nearly 100 percent employee satisfaction.

“The biggest thing has been getting people reoriented to their new neighbourhood. We’ve run scavenger hunts and things like that, which take them out across the neighbourhood,” executive vice-president of human resources, Carrie Blair, told HRD.

“They come back and go ‘I didn’t know that restaurant was there, I didn’t know we could buy some groceries here, there’s a pharmacy, there’s a post office’, so it’s worked out really well.”

Sun Life’s one of a handful of Toronto employers moving into new homes in recent weeks.

LoyaltyOne: “An exceptional employee experience”
In late August, LoyaltyOne’s 800 associates shifted into their new building on King Street East, in spaces designed with staff in mind.

LoyaltyOne’s associate vice president of talent management Dimitri Benak describes it as “a new, untethered work environment, coupled with best-in-suite technology” – plus a barista bar, yoga studio, and outdoor terraces where staff are also able to work.

“We’re confident that our new workspace will enable our associates to do their best work. What you would see coming into the building is unassigned seating for our associates. All executives, who at one time may have been in offices, are now coming into an open work environment,” he says.

“It’s really going to be an office where we think will deliver an exceptional employee experience, which has always been something that we’ve continued to look at and challenge ourselves to continue to look at how to improve that employee experience.”

LoyaltyOne’s design also has collaboration front of mind, and instead of being tied down to a certain spot on a certain floor, staff can choose where they’ll work on any given day.

“They’re going to be able to look at their day and say ‘you know what, I’ve got a few meetings with this particular client group, I’m going to go and sit in their neighbourhood, that way I can be in closer proximity to have conversation, to get to decisions faster, to brainstorm and solve problems together.”

Indeed: “A change of scenery”
Job search giant Indeed Canada has just shifted to Bloor Street West, to a space designed with its employees – nearly 90 percent of whom are millennials – in mind.

Indeed Canada managing director Jodi Kasten says the company wanted the office to reflect its fast-moving, tech-driven business and its culture.

“Millennials work differently and they demand different environments in their workspace. Employee engagement is really important to Indeed, and one way that we do that is by creating really cool office spaces and environments that are engaging,” she says.

Collaboration spaces and standing desks feature at Indeed, with the company conscious of its employees’ needs to move around throughout the day, whether that’s standing at a desk, holding a video conference in a meeting space – each of which is themed around a different Toronto street – or working in its many lounge areas and spaces designed by local artists.

“It’s really important to keep in mind that people don’t work eight hours in a row without a break,” Kasten says.

“We know that you need a little bit of mental distraction – whether it’s being able to play a game of ping pong or being able to go to a different space to have a cold drink, we keep that in mind to make sure the workspace is engaging for the employees.”

Related stories:
Can your office space make you healthier?
Will this be the best workplace in the world?

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