In March 2020, we joined many organizations in transitioning to a fully remote workforce. It wasn’t easy, but from a technical perspective, ADNET was well-equipped for the change. As a cloud-first IT services provider, we had the capability to support our clients and our employees remotely. We did our best to remain connected, albeit over Teams and Zoom. As companies began returning to office settings, we had a decision to make about a post-pandemic workplace.
With our team thriving in our cloud-enabled, work-from-anywhere environment, did we still need an office?
My partner Ed Laprade and I decided that the answer was yes – a different kind of office. The missing link in our remote work environment, we had found, was a shared, flexible space where our team can safely come together to collaborate and continue to enhance and build our award-winning culture. Not an easy task by any means.
The Traditional Office Space
Traditional office space designs evoke two stereotypical scenarios for me:
1. The open-floor concept – a.k.a. The Introvert’s Nightmare
Complete with abundant noise pollution, a disquieting lack of privacy and the sense that your actions are always being monitored. This office is built seemingly for the purpose of facilitating constant interruptions and sensory overload. Oh, bring your noise-cancelling headsets!
2. The cubicle farm – a.k.a. How to Demotivate Your Extroverts
In which you are a peninsula of sadness, surrounded on 3 sides by fuzzy pale gray wall panels that you’re not allowed to pin anything to. Most of the area of your tiny desk is taken up by a sun lamp because you spend 8-10 hours a day under flickering florescent light (only the private offices have windows). You long to talk to other humans, but you feel like you’re not supposed to make sounds here.
As one of my colleagues recently reminded me:
“Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles surrounded by computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.” – “Office Space”, (Mike Judge, 1999).
Here’s the thing: offices don’t HAVE to be soul-sucking. Today’s technology, supported by people-first policies and a space built for purpose, can provide your team a better experience.
An Office with a Better Purpose
Co-CEO Ed Laprade and I discussed, debated and analyzed. Then we laid out our vision: a post-pandemic workplace designed to facilitate collaboration and “collisions” – for those random, spontaneous connections over coffee that remote working just can’t quite replicate.
In Seth Rosenblum, Chief Executive Officer with The Rosenblum Companies, I found another partner. The Rosenblum Companies has extensive experience creating inspiring spaces built for collaboration and innovation. We shared our vision for a “post-pandemic workplace,” a hub for safe interaction, yet equally inclusive of our remote workforce. Seth and his team helped us design our new Albany, NY office for that purpose.
“We’ve always focused on helping tenant companies create workplaces where their employees want to be versus where they have to be, so we understood ADNET’s desire to invest in a space that contributes to talent attraction and development even while embracing a home-based approach for its team,” explains Seth. “In a sense, it has been a perfect partnership – ADNET’s expertise in the cloud technologies that enable work-from-anywhere collaboration complements our experience developing spaces that emphasize wellness, drive culture and create the conditions for innovation that only happen when people can come together.”
The space includes:
- NO private offices – not even for Executive Leadership.
- Floor to ceiling windows to let natural light reach all areas of the office
- A “Wellness Room” – a space with complete privacy where any employee can go for a variety of needs: to pray, to breastfeed or pump, play a game, make a private phone call or just take a quiet, meditative break.
- A coffee bar with REALLY good bean-to-cup coffee and other hot beverage options.
- Multiple meeting rooms with integrated video conferencing technology to facilitate collaboration with remote team members, clients and partners
- Small collaboration rooms with glassboards to facilitate 1:1 meetings and small team working sessions
- Sit-stand convertible desks (no cubicles!) with built-in monitors and storage units that convert to seating to encourage spontaneous collaboration
- Hands-free sanitizing stations
Post-Pandemic Workplace, from Anywhere
We knew that a significant percentage of our team could feel miserable in any office configuration, if we require them to report there every day, to fulfill every aspect of their job. And that’s where our culture comes in.
ADNET’s flexible polices enable a permanent work-from-anywhere operation, connected by the cloud. Our new offices are there for employees, clients and partners to use when they want to, how they want to. They’re not required to report there. Not only can our team continue to work from home as many have been for the past year, but most of our team can work from anywhere.
While there are certain positions that still require a specific geographic presence, cloud-based technologies enable us to do a large percentage of our work remotely. If we can support clients across the nation, we can hire employees outside of commuting distance from our office locations. Plus, our employees don’t have to drive to the office every day.
An Office Fit for a Best Place to Work
We’re investing in new collaborative workplaces because we believe it will fuel our growth, strengthen our culture and drive value for our clients. Our Albany office is the first big step toward reimagining our entire work environment across our office locations. Beyond a place for meetings, we’re excited about the ideas that will collide and solutions that will emerge from these rooms and their design elements.
In a time when many businesses have downsized by necessity or been forced to close, I recognize how fortunate we are to be able to do this for our employees. I view it as my responsibility. Not only as Co-CEO, but as a leader of an awarded Best Place to Work. It’s my responsibility to give my team the flexibility they need to work from their preferred location and to build an office that people will WANT to work in. Whether I meet them over video or a cappuccino at our new coffee bar, I can’t wait to collaborate in a new way. The way forward.