On a Thursday afternoon, when employees at Digitas are ready to unwind, they don’t head out to the neighborhood pub. They head up to the 18th floor.
Down a hall splashed with colorful art, past a lounge and sleek kitchen with blue droplights, pints and popcorn await in the taproom, an in-house bar that’s just one of many spaces where the 700 employees in the Boston ad agency interact during the week.
From collaborative lounges with the latest furniture to a mobile lounge with the coolest technology, corporate space is loosening up at companies that make the most of their offices. Because the “best thinking comes from groups,’’ Digitas executive director Barbara Goose said, the agency reversed its layout when it moved to a high-rise building in the Financial District six years ago.
“We used to have 25 percent open space and 75 percent office space,’’ said Goose, one of the few Digitas employees with an office and a door, adding that now, the numbers are flipped.
“Corporate culture in general benefits from open space: This is where team bonding happens,’’ said Goose, speaking in Digitas’s stunning eight-floor space in the sky.
Each floor is painted a different color to stoke imagination, and each has two lounge areas where writers working on a campaign for a client such as Samsung or Buick can meet.
One of the more popular spots is the mobile lounge, where the latest advances in marketing, such as augmented reality apps and shopping reward games, are on display for employees to demo. “The physical interaction makes it real,’’ said Sherri Kaufmann, vice president and group creative director at Digitas. “This is what customers are doing right now, and that sparks new thinking for our clients.’’
Some companies do less with the space and more with the furnishings. At the online travel service TripAdvisor in Newton, employees raised one side of their desks to a standing position, to promote better health. “The second that you sit down, you stop burning calories. Our bodies are created to move,’’ said Amanda Johnson, a TripAdvisor public relations specialist.
Photographs of a beautiful coastal village in Italy and urban landscapes cover the walls at TripAdvisor, reminding employees in Newton that they are working for a global company. “I like to see all the flags in our cafeteria from around the world,’’ said Johnson.
The travel motif is echoed in the collaborative lounges, each evoking a destination. In the rustic retreat, tables are made of clear cubes filled with hay. A mural of a wheat field sweeps across the wall.
Another area is tricked out like a bamboo forest.
“It’s good to get away from walls,’’ said Gisele Mast, senior product manager. “We are in a better mood as we are creating the ideas.’’
George Duncan, chairman and founder of Enterprise Bank in Lowell, is a believer in the power of attractive interiors. “It’s hard to say you want to run the best bank in New England, and put money into hiring the right people and technology and location, and not have the best-looking space,’’ said Duncan.
By focusing on lighting, original art, color, and carpeting when he first opened 22 years ago, Duncan received an unexpected benefit. “Employee morale is higher and they dress better,’’ he said. “It’s the difference between going to a nice restaurant or a family restaurant.’’
The community bank puts a lot of thought into areas that customers will never see, such as the fourth-floor call center. Light streams into the room located in a former attic in Lowell’s Old City Hall, bouncing off restored wooden beams.
“It’s an awesome space,’’ said Helen Parent, the bank’s customer service center manager. In her office, a framed watercolor dominates one wall, and light pours through transparent photos covering skylights overhead. “It has a calming effect up here, which is important because it can be tense,’’ said Parent, whose team fields up to 300 customer calls a day.
Downstairs, the basement has been turned into an e-café, with a quiet room where employees can power nap on couches. They can also jump online, watch TV, or have lunch.
These touches all add to the quality of work life there, but pleasing design is just one aspect of a work environment. “You could have the most beautiful facilities in the world, but if you don’t treat employees well and incentivize them correctly, don’t back them up with training and the support they need, it doesn’t make a difference,’’ said Duncan. “The building is part of the philosophy; it’s just not one thing.’’