Advancing Culture and Preparing for the Future - A Case Study on United Way of Central Indiana’s New Headquarters

For nearly 25 years, the United Way of Central Indiana’s headquarters were in a segmented, multi-floor office. Systems were aging, and the United Way needed a space that supported their culture and the changing working styles of their employees, both now and in the future. The ideal solution? Relocating to a 40,000-square-foot, third-floor suite in the State Auto Building that would allow United Way to meet the following goals:

·       Create a modern, efficient, and collaborative space reflecting the vital, innovative work United Way does for the community

·       Reinforce its mission, culture, values, and “New U” community impact strategy

·       Recognize volunteers, donors, and advocates

·       Reduce its footprint to reflect a more efficient and productive organization

The project—designed by Rowland Design and recently recognized with a Citation Award from the American Institute of Architects Indianapolis’ Excellence in Architecture program—provides many lessons learned for organizations who want to promote their culture with a next generation office. 

Engage a space auditor and accommodate the magnitude of change.  Do you know how—and how often—you currently use the spaces in your office? Often, our perceptions don’t match reality. You may think you need one large conference room, but could in fact benefit from two smaller conference rooms. For United Way, Carson Design initially conducted a space planning study to discover how areas of the existing office were used. The new office includes collaborative, open workstation areas organized in neighborhoods—a dramatic shift from their individual private offices in United Way’s previous location. The floorplan allows square footage to be reallocated to a variety of right-sized meeting spots, increasing the availability and accessibility of space.

Like United Way, many offices are moving from private offices to a blend of collaborative, open spaces. As we covered in our January blog, a shift of this degree often calls for a consultant that specializes in change management. For this project, Choreo helped United Way navigate through this transition. 

Engage your staff in the decision-making process. Involving staff in the decision-making process for certain aspects of your project can help support retention and recruitment goals and foster a sense of ownership and pride in the resulting facility among team members. United Way’s office is the result of a collaborative process between the design team and staff. Employees voted on several features and furnishings, and six staff-led committees helped make selections related to the space.

“About 40 individuals volunteered their time on various committees to help us make crucial decisions about our space,” said Ann Murtlow, United Way of Central Indiana President and Chief Executive Officer. “Their feedback was critical, their enthusiasm was infectious, and their drive was unstoppable.”

This spirit of providing employees with options extends into the completed space. The office is programmed with flexible choices, from a selection of larger meeting rooms and enclaves surrounding the reception area to flexible, team- and individual-oriented furniture solutions that accommodate different ways of working around the perimeter. 

Use your space to communicate your values and brand.

The way space is allocated and organized can help communicate an organization’s values. Promoting a culture of trust and transparency, United Way’s executive’s offices and associated meeting spaces are highly visible. Each office features two doors and glass walls, allowing the leadership team to connect with each other and with the rest of the staff. While the executive team resides in a central location, the other employees’ workstations are arranged so that everyone benefits from natural light.

United Way’s brand, colors, and imagery are also critical design components, apparent upon arrival at the third floor, where visitors instantly connect to a two-story social hub visible through custom glass. Framed with “Live United” and adorned with larger-than-life photos of local United Way supporters, the space fosters impromptu gatherings and provides a place for lunch breaks and small events. The “welcome center” features United Way’s visible pillars: Education, Financial Stability, Health and Basic Needs. Design elements throughout the space—on walls, doors, and computer screens—recognize donors that made the project possible.

"From spaces like the branded, two-story social hub to details like the lighting feature that represents the light United Way spreads to the community, we enjoyed designing a space that advances the organization's work environment while symbolizing what they do for central Indiana,” said Alex White, AIA, Associate Principal, Rowland Design.

Keep staff efficiencies, comfort, and collaboration top-of-mind. From natural light brought into the space through openings cut in the core atrium to ergonomic desks for team members, the design of United Way’s office focused on thoughtful integration of features that promote wellbeing. LED lighting increases energy efficiency, while the addition of white noise helps mask potential distractions. Centralized areas for printers and trash/recycle stations and the addition of a business center increase chance meetings and improve United Way’s operational efficiency. The office takes advantage of the latest technology in room scheduling, team collaboration and virtual check-ins to further increase productivity.

Since moving into the new space, United Way has witnessed an increase in staff energy and pride, efficiency and effectiveness, and collaboration to solve problems and foster creativity. The resulting, right-sized environment helps the United Way be a good steward to its staff and community partners while attracting and retaining employees of today and tomorrow.

“We are only 10 blocks south of our old location but we are light years ahead in our operation, thanks to this gorgeous, efficient, bright, innovative new home,” said Murtlow. “So far, I’m proud to say I’ve heard these words from our teammates:  the space is ‘cheerful, motivating, collaborative, high-tech, comfortable, inspiring, healthier, vibrant,’ and my favorite phrase, ‘I’m proud to work here.’”

Project team:

·       Architect: Rowland Design

·       Owner’s representative: CORE Planning Strategies

·       Mechanical, electrical, plumbing engineer: Applied Engineering

·       Constructor: Capitol Construction

·       Office furniture: RJE

·       Audiovisual: Sensory Technologies

·       Change and move management: Choreo

·       Information technology: UNITY Tek Systems LLC

·      Space planning study: Carson Design

·       Photography: Lumatic Imagery

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