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If You Build It, They Will Work

Written by 2U on Mar 14, 2017

Related content: Higher Education, Branding, Features, Marketing, 2U Studios, Digital Education

Think the look and feel of your office space have no impact on the effectiveness, satisfaction and retention of your employees? Think again.

Companies are turning to office design as a way to attract and retain top talent, the days of cubicle-farms — like a scene out of Office Space — are over. Open, flexible and lively workspaces are now the trend in office design because they breed the collaborative interaction and employee satisfaction needed to produce big ideas.

Workplace design isn’t just a priority for chic startups, industry giants like Ford, Google, Salesforce and Zappos are being intentional with their office design to encourage conversation and camaraderie.

Ford Invests in Silicon Valley-Inspired Campus Redesign

Ford, a leading automobile manufacturer that’s been around longer than most people living today, launched a 7.5 million sq. ft. redesign of its office space and other facilities in 2016, the first time it’s done so in six decades.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said the Detroit company was investing in more “we space” design, rather than “me space” — that is, an open collaborative office instead of a cluster of closed-off, private spaces.

According to a recent International Facility Management Association survey, more than 70 percent of American offices have moved some sort of open layout.

For a company like Ford, not only does this stoke the innovative fires of its current employees, but it positions it as a competitor for top talent — particularly technologists and software engineers who may not have traditionally thought of leaving Silicon Valley for industrial Michigan.

“People really like being connected and not being in, let’s say, the 1970s and ’80s layout where what was more appropriate then was to work in cubicle areas and have your own little personal space,” Fields said in Fortune. “We’re just looking at how they’re living their lives now, staying connected, and we’re saying, ‘How do we do that?’”

Googleplex Campus, Mountain View, CA, Source: Getty Images

Google may be the preeminent case study for the open, innovative office space. For more than a decade the search-engine-company-turned-everything-innovative-company has invested in comfortable, lively and aesthetically pleasing offices.

The hope is, like atoms inside of a molecule of gas, Google employees moving freely around their workplace bump into one another — say, at one of their cool game rooms or other modern lounge areas — for the most organic and explosive production of ideas.

2U Open New Headquarters to Reflect Company Culture

2U Inc. recently took a dive into “we space” by moving and redesigning the company’s Lanham, Maryland headquarters to accommodate a growing team. The new space reflects the company’s commitment to innovation, creativity and collaborative teamwork.

2U’s corporate real estate and workplace team enlisted the help of interior design experts, borrowed best practices from the research of Gensler and requested employee feedback to build a state-of-the-art space that fits their needs.

Between 2010 and 2016, 2U experienced rapid growth — expanding its workforce from 98 to more than 1,100 employees. “We ended up on segmented floors, small suites, because we took the space that was available to us,” explains Jason Peterman, senior director of 2U’s corporate real estate and workplace team.

For 2U, the move was not only a way to both accommodate growth, but to create a space reflective of its company culture.

But the heart of the new space is built around the idea of the team coming together for collaboration — “sometimes by happenstance, sometimes by intention,” Peterman says. “We’re hoping that arbitrary collisions happen and prompt conversations where you otherwise wouldn’t run into someone.”

And like Google and Ford, the belief is that will translate to a happier, more engaged and all together more productive workforce.

Lanham, Maryland, has some geographic limitations, compared to some neighboring hubs in the Washington, D.C., metro area. With that in mind, 2U designed the new space to allow employees to be as productive as possible without leaving the campus. Employees enjoy dining options, a gym and other amenities at their fingertips.

“We’re building spaces that say ‘please step away and have a random collision with an employee you otherwise wouldn’t get to speak to over lunch, and actually take a few minutes to enjoy the fact that you work at 2U,’” Peterman explains. “We’ve put thought into how 2Utes work every day, and hopefully that translates immediately to them getting really excited to come to work because you’re able to do what you do best every day, and not have the workplace be an impediment to that.”

2U offers a high-energy work environment that’s both challenging and fun. Visit our careers page to see current job openings and follow 2U Careers on twitter for updates on in-demand positions.