September 17, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ervin & Smith’s office resembles an aquarium floating above the Aksarben Village street level. But instead of fish, there is a full-service advertising and public relations firm occupying the second floor of 1926 S. 67th St., Suite 250.

Pedestrian passersby can catch a glimpse of ad agency life through bare full-wall windows wrapping along the southeast side of the modern office building. 

Ervin & Smith’s stand-alone popcorn machine beckons from the corner of the second floor overlooking Lotus House of Yoga and the new HDR headquarters. 

The suite’s bare-glass southern wall faces Genesis Health Clubs with a row of pod workstations—partially enclosed, high-backed club chairs in teal and gray upholstery. The east wall of the office space features three house-shaped semi-private spaces with bar tables and chairs.

Heidi Mausbach, president and CEO of Ervin & Smith, says the current design is the result of a collaborative process focused on fostering an environment conducive to teamwork and community engagement.

Mausbach challenged the local architectural office of RDG Planning and Design to build an office space that encourages fun, collaboration, and community involvement. Everyone on the Ervin & Smith team participated in RDG’s research to provide insights on an ideal working environment for a diverse workforce.

“People wanted more private space, more collaborative space, more comfortable space, but many didn’t want an open environment. So we really dug into what’s the problem and heard that a lot of times in an open environment it’s just flat desks all the way across, there is very little privacy,” Mausbach says.

RDG tackled the assignment with a variety of mobile dividers, private offices, and myriad café- style booths. A mix of materials—plywood, metal, and textiles—were incorporated into the designs to serve as visual buffers. Soundproof materials ensure a quiet workplace to the agency’s staff of 42 employees.

When Mausbach was thinking about effective ways to use the new office, she decided to invite clients and representatives of other companies to use Ervin & Smith’s meeting space. For example, employees who serve on the boards of nonprofit organizations can do community impact work in the large conference room. And if more space is needed? The garage door separating the large conference room and multifunctional kitchen can be put up for more people to gather.

Ervin & Smith was named in Best Places to Work by Ad Age in 2014, 2016, and 2017. The Omaha-based advertising and PR firm also earned a Top Company Cultures award from Entrepreneur magazine in 2017, and it received a Business Excellence Award for Leadership from the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in 2018.

“We want to continue to have a culture that people want to work here, so we can recruit and retain the best talent. We put a lot of emphasis on making it a great place to work,” says Mausbach, adding that Ervin & Smith sought to foster career, social, financial, physical, and community well-being among its employees, based on research from Gallup.

“With Gallup, they have five different categories of well-being, so we’re looking at creating perks that align with those,” she says. “This year, we bring in lunch twice a week. Free lunch aside, it brings together coworkers for a little bit of downtime and builds social relationships outside of the work that we are doing.”

And then there is that free snack. “The popcorn machine is used every single day,” Mausbach says. So is the pingpong table in front of it.

One of the team’s associate creative directors, Aaron Christensen, enjoys both. He even keeps a recurring appointment with Don Aguirre, one of the agency’s senior copywriters. These creative staffers bounce ideas off each other during their daily pingpong contests. And they keep score.

“For me, the daily pingpong game serves as a brain break,” Christensen says. “It gets me away from my desk and gets the blood flowing a bit. I haven’t had any amazing creative breakthroughs, but just taking the time to stop thinking about things is an important way to come back and get a new perspective on a problem I’m trying to solve.”

“Playing pingpong is my daily reminder of just how great of a gig I have at Ervin & Smith,” Aguirre says. “It’s just a fun way to give myself a mid-afternoon brain-break.”

“That playful, give-your-brain-a-break type of environment, sometimes that’s where the best ideas come from,” Mausbach says.


Visit ervinandsmith.com for more information.

This article was printed in the October/November 2018 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.