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Tech Giants Need Cohesive, Modern Offices Across Dozens Of Markets

An office space Swinerton built for a technology client.

It pays to be big. In addition to sprawling campuses in Silicon Valley or Seattle, some of the nation’s largest companies operate satellite offices in urban centers like New York and Chicago and growing tech hubs like Nashville, Austin, Pittsburgh and Denver. But having all these offices presents a challenge: How can a company sustain its work and culture across such a vast network?

Expanding national companies are turning to workplace design and construction to unite their distributed teams and to attract and retain top talent. By employing contractors who work in numerous markets across the country, they can standardize the look, feel and flow of all their workplaces.

“It’s a question of culture, but it’s also a question of parity,” said Peter Hau, vice president of corporate services at Swinerton, one of the nation’s largest construction companies. “Employees join these companies with the idea that they’ll be working in a productive or even futuristic workplace. These Fortune 100 companies have to make sure that they keep that promise not just at their big campuses, but at their smallest satellite offices.”

Increasingly, tech companies are dictating exactly what they want in an office. But Hau said the difficulty comes in building offices that look and feel congruent across a dozen different markets. A company typically has to choose and train a new contractor on the same set of standards in every new city.

Construction companies that operate nationwide are presenting a new solution for these corporate giants. Since Swinerton operates in 18 markets, it can take its experiences and apply them to all of the clients' future projects, Hau said.

“It can be little things, like how to submit a budget, or something more serious, like how much to invest in a cafeteria,” Hau said. “Clients can spend months teaching a brand-new team. But by working with Swinerton  in multiple markets, clients can eliminate that learning curve and increase their speed to market.”

Company-wide changes can be redeployed far more quickly by working with a single construction company, he said.

“A company may have just updated their home office in Silicon Valley, and now they need the same updates from Atlanta to Austin," he said. "When they call Swinerton, we already know how to make those changes. Offering that consistency across all markets sets us apart.”

Swinerton's branch offices in Austin, Texas

For many of these companies, the most important aspect of workplace culture is flexible workspace, Hau said. In these offices, teams of five to 20 employees regularly come together to tackle a two- or three-month project, then disband and are reconfigured within a day once the project is complete.

In that model, knowing the ratio of conference rooms and meeting spaces to workstations is crucial, Hau said, and Swinerton is able to take what it has learned from one project and apply it across the country.

“The more exact we can be, the more successful projects will be in term of efficiency and ease of implementation — we make sure each client has a delightful first day of business,” Hau said. “When companies offer ‘the workplace of the future,’ the office itself is a tool to attract new employees. So it’s on us to make sure that it stays consistent everywhere.”

Beyond their work, many companies have social traditions that require specialized office spaces or amenities. For instance, Hau said, one company builds community by sharing meals and dedicates a large part of the office to a kitchen that can hold the entire team. Others offer state-of-the-art fitness centers. Hau said Swinerton’s job is to make those cultural offerings fit into whatever space the company has, whether that means a sprawling suburban campus, or a renovated warehouse in the urban core.

“A large part of my role is to ensure every Swinerton office delivers a high-quality construction experience and that we’re treating every client like a repeat client,” Hau said. “There are many large, national contractors in the marketplace, but very few with Swinerton’s proven track record. When we’re working with big tech companies, we’re not just looking at a single six-month project — we’re trying to build a 10-year relationship and beyond.”

Hau said he is often humbled that he gets to help build the offices that employees at other companies look at with envy. But he said he realizes he and Swinerton have a special opportunity: to bring innovative construction and design expertise to a wider audience.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Swinerton. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.