4 New Designs Baltimore Companies Are Incorporating Into Their Offices
Decked out conference rooms, flexible areas and collaborative workspaces are sprouting up in companies that are designing offices with the goal of fostering teamwork and retaining employees. Here's a look at four office trends at five Greater Baltimore companies, from a Fortune 100 energy firm to a startup incubator.
1. Collaborative Workspaces
Baltimore magazine is putting the finishing touches on a yearlong makeover of its Harbor East office, which brought new furniture, lighting and more collaborative workspaces, director of finance and business development Debbie Darmofal said.
Private offices and towering cubicles were fixtures of the old space. Now, the office contains a number of collaborative workspaces with colorful chairs and rugs where staff can brainstorm, either in an enclosed area or out in the open, Darmofal pointed out during a recent tour.
The huddle rooms make it easier for staff in different departments to work together, which is essential as the company evolves from a print publication to a multimedia enterprise with digital, social media and events.
"It's a big transformation," Darmofal said. "Change is sometimes hard, but people are utilizing the creative areas."
Reducing physical barriers to promote teamwork was one of the goals staff at Exelon Corp. had in mind when designing its Harbor Point office, located in its namesake $160M waterfront tower. The office offers huddle and focus rooms, and community tables that allow its 1,500 employees to work privately, meet casually or conduct meetings of two to 200 people, Exelon's vice president of real estate and facilities, Deborah Kuo, said.
Exelon moved into the building, which serves as the Fortune 100 company's Baltimore headquarters, in November.
2. Flexible Configurations
When providing office space to young, nimble companies, flexibility is key. Staff at incubator Betamore kept that in mind when designing the new 8K SF space at Sagamore Ventures' City Garage. The Port Covington office debuted this month, housing co-working, education and office space for WebbMason digital, Galley food delivery and other companies.
Employees can rearrange desks so that they form one big community table or be used individually, Betamore CEO Jen Meyer pointed out during a recent tour of the space. The incubator also offers long tables to accommodate freelancers who just need a spot to plop their laptops. Members can opt between open workspaces or private offices.
Accreditation agency ABET also needed a flexible workspace when designing its learning center, where it trains the 2,000 volunteers who evaluate science, technology, engineering and math programs at universities and colleges.
A garage-style door pops up to make the room larger and shuts down to accommodate smaller groups or train two groups at once, chief marketing officer Danielle Baron said. The company trains between 30 and 60 volunteers at once. The room offers multiple floor outlets and desks that can be repositioned to create any configuration training leaders want.
The 7K SF collaborative space is on the third floor of the company's downtown Baltimore office and was designed with the help of Melville Thomas Architects and Baltimore's Ashton Design. The company is considering extending these features throughout the rest of the office.
Conference rooms marked with generic furniture and bland color palettes are a thing of the past at some companies. Corporate Office Properties Trust used reclaimed wood from Sandtown Millworks to design the custom barn-style doors for the shared conference room at 7134 Columbia Gateway Drive in Columbia.
Called Cirql, the 21K SF office offers a common kitchen, lobby and meeting spaces for the building's growing companies that have signed leases with the Columbia real estate firm, said senior vice president of asset management and leasing Cathy Ward. The tenants include Advanced Patient Advocacy, Leap Orbit consulting and software development and Sealing Technologies Inc.
COPT gutted a staid 1970s single-story building to design a new space that offers high ceilings, natural lighting and an industrial warehouse look one associates with urban offices. Ward said she drew inspiration from Silicon Valley and other innovation hotbeds to design the space, intended for companies in between the incubator and long-term leases stages. Offering a cool space will help these early stage companies attract and retain the best and brightest, she said.
3. Upgraded Conference Rooms
Baltimore magazine added new floors, table and brighter furniture to its main conference room as part of the renovation, Darmofal said. The aptly named Harbor Room features a water theme, with a blue color palette throughout and lights designed in the shape of ocean waves. A bench against the wall offers more seating to accommodate the publication's 45 employees during all-staff meetings.
The view is now the focal point of the room, which the publication rents out for networking events.
A reception desk, which previously blocked the conference room view, was moved to the side so guests and employees see the water as soon as they walk through the front door.
4. Customizable Work Areas
Adjustable desks that allow employees to sit or stand and computer monitors that can be lowered and raised are part of the redesigned Exelon office, which aims to make the space more comfortable for employees.
"All employees now have more control over their personal work area," Kuo said.