Tag Archives: In the Office

Pingpong, Popcorn, and Pops of Colors

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.

Daylight Factory

July 16, 2018 by
Photography by contributed

Daylight may be the most prominent feature of the Rail and Commerce Building at 10th and Mason streets. The banks of windows on every floor—including the lower level—were designed in the style of a “daylight factory,” a multi-story concrete frame industrial building that proliferated in the early 20th century, and that’s how they were restored. 

The multitude of windows was not happenstance. “We recognized the daylight as a resource worth harvesting,” says Jon Crane, president of Boyd Jones, the company responsible for renovating the building. “You need an environment conducive to attracting, retaining, and hiring quality people. Environment matters.” 

Crane motions through the conference room window to the Boyd Jones’ open-space office area. “This is a very collaborative space, which is an important value of our company. This space is very open, yet not disruptive.”

The open floor plan was a feature of the original building. The first floor Boyd Jones office was once meant for mail trucks—they drove right through the center of the building, from the 10th Street bridge to what was then the 11th Street bridge. Downstairs, in what is now the Commerce Village, there was a track so railcars could go through. When the building opened in 1926, it received nearly all the mail for western Iowa and Nebraska. It served in that capacity until the 1970s, when the existing post office next door replaced it.

Vacant for most of the years since then, the Rail and Commerce Building was condemned to be torn down when Crane and his team found it. “It was a cold, dilapidated shell on the inside. But the building itself, the structure was very sound,” Crane says. “We restored the façade and we completely cleaned out the inside and made it new. It was a historical preservation project, so we worked with the Nebraska Historical Society and also the National Park Service. We were able to preserve a lot of the neat historical aspects of the building.”

Building a new edifice for Boyd Jones’ headquarters was only a fleeting thought for Crane.

“It’s very important to remember where you come from—to embrace the past, but adapt it to the future,” Crane says. “Change doesn’t have to mean destruction. It can mean evolution.”

The location in Little Italy attracted Crane. He guessed it would attract others as well. The lower level of the Rail and Commerce Building houses the roughly 20,000-square-foot Commerce Village coworking space. With 16 private suites and 50 desks, it offers a variety of systems for renters: closed-door offices, set desks, floater desks, or one-day drop-ins. 

For the planning of Commerce Village, Crane brought in Matt Dougherty, who had prior experience with collaborative workspaces. His eight spaces at the Ford Building at 10th and Dodge streets “went so fast it became clear there is a real need for this type of incubator space,” says Dougherty. In his insurance business, he’s seeing a sort of “small business renaissance”—a trend of wanting to work for yourself rather than someone else.

That fit just right with Boyd Jones. “One of the values of our company is entrepreneurship,” Crane says. “We wanted an office space that would attract entrepreneurs and start-up companies—a collaborative atmosphere for collaborative people.”  

That energy drew Verdis Group, according to managing partner Craig Moody. “We’re excited for the opportunity for partnering with other organizations here,” he says.  

The daylight was another huge draw. An unexpected benefit? “The trains going by,” Moody says, grinning. “Sometimes I feel like an 11-year-old boy.” 

Verdis Group promotes sustainability, so they were pleased to find the building was equipped with solar panels. There’s also ample bike parking, as well as private showers and changing rooms so employees can freshen up after pedaling to work—or using the Rail and Commerce Building’s own fitness center. 

Conference rooms; access to a printer, mail, and package services; and a stocked kitchenette round out the amenities. Crane explains, “We really want people to be comfortable, like you’re in your [home] office.”


Visit boydjones.biz or commercevillageomaha.com for more information. 

This article was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. 

Dear Creatives:

May 8, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Two things are immediately obvious when walking into the Inclosed Letterpress Co. office: a creative person set up this office, and creative things happen in this space. Located in the Mastercraft building, which houses fellow creative companies Scott Drickey Photography, Grain & Mortar Design Studio, and others, Inclosed Letterpress Co. was founded in 2006 by owner and creative director Lesley Pick. She selected the Mastercraft Building in part because the building itself is “so beautiful—it’s wonderful,” she says. “Everyone is happy and friendly in the building. It’s fun to come to work.”

Pick didn’t have to do much to the space after moving in. “We painted the walls white and hung some fun lights. The beautiful exposed wood and brick of the building match the mechanical, industrial feel.” The office is an open concept, intentionally made that way to promote creativity. “You can see what’s actually happening in the creative process,” she adds.

You can also hear what’s happening. Two antique presses clack and bang their way through the relief printing of hand-printed notecards and invitations. Thus, the second reason why Pick picked the Mastercraft—the dock door allowed her large equipment into the building.

The presses are beautifully refurbished and have a special place in Pick’s heart. “New printing technology is automatic and everything comes out the same,” she says. “With these presses, every card is completely different. The color saturation is different. And I can use thicker cotton paper than I could with new printers. Digitally printed stuff is flat, but these give me a more luxurious feel.”

Before moving to the Mastercraft Building, the presses sat in the basement of her father’s house. Her father was also a printer and often works side-by-side with Lesley today. One is a Chandler & Price Old Style from 1896 that she purchased from a company in Indiana that specializes in refurbishing old printing presses, and the other is a press she bought from a printing company in Fremont that went out of business. The second press is from the 1920s and was refurbished by her father for his printing company.

Pick is quick to point out the differences between the two presses. “See how the spokes are wavy on this one and straight on the other?” she asks, proudly gazing upon the presses as though they are honored guests in the room. While she readily admits that these old presses are more difficult and time-consuming (and louder) to use than modern-day digital printers, it’s a compromise she’s willing to make. “It does get loud around here,” she admits, adding that the bulk of their printing happens on the weekend when nobody else is in the office.   

She’s made quite an impression with her work. In fact, she was voted a Top Ten Designer to Watch in 2017 by the trade publication Stationery Trends.

Kathryn Nygren, owner at Found & Flora in Wahoo, understands why she was voted a top designer.

“We love that it’s something different that we can’t find anywhere else,” Nygren says. “The quality is great and Leslie is really easy to work with.”

This love of old presses does not mean that Pick shuns technology. The graphic designer by trade creates custom invitations and cards on computer programs to be printed on 100 percent cotton paper.

During the week, Pick is joined by lead designer Allison Kuklis. Together they share the creative space and create products featured in the Methodist Gift Shop, Spruce, and several other retailers locally along with numerous retailers throughout the United States and Canada. Inclosed Letterpress Co. is entertaining thoughts of the future. If an expansion is in the cards, Pick anticipates staying in the Mastercraft Building and acquiring a bigger space. She wants to be in a creative, artistic space and she’s found that in this building.


Visit inclosedco.com for more information about their printing business.

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Powered by Effective Design

January 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The open office space of Oxide Design Co. has all the hallmarks of being inhabited by creative types: LEGO designs are the first thing you see when you peek inside the design and branding firm’s broad, south-facing windows. Then you notice the knick-knacks, like a curiously large amount of Aquaman memorabilia, a pinball machine, and a phone booth.

When Drew Davies started Oxide in 2001, he jokes that he got an office for his one-man business at the request of his wife to move his tchotchkes out of the house. But, Davies had a vision and, motivated by his passion for design, his business grew.

The four other creatives Davies employs are also passionate about creating successful design. Developer Wes Piper recently wrote on their blog site, “Successful design must answer this one question: Is it useful?”

The office embodies this theory. A couple of walls, the fabric on sofas in the lobby, and their logo include a bright red color; specifically, it’s true red, known as Pantone 032 in the graphic design world.

“Red is our corporate color, because it’s bold and passionate and a little bit dangerous,” Davies says. “I think it also speaks to our belief in consistency as much as anything.”

That red also appears in nontraditional ways around the office, such as in bathroom towels and planters.

Today, the firm consists of Davies, two more designers, a creative coordinator, and a web developer. Each adds to the collection of tchotchkes by personalizing their desks with their own.

“I love this office because it allows all five members of the team the space to build the kind of place where they want to come to work each day.” Davies says.

This also adds to the whimsical, team-oriented feeling in the office.

“From the top to bottom, it’s not a terribly hierarchical place to work,” says Mandy Mowers, creative coordinator. “We’re all one team.”

The small team is intentional. Its size allows Davies to remain involved in the design process.

“All five of us are working on the projects that come in the door,” he says.

The workweek at Oxide differs from the typical creative firm, Davies says. Everyone comes in around 8:30 a.m. and leaves around 5:30 p.m., allowing time to do their own thing in the evening. It’s an intentional schedule Davies says helps the creative process.

“It’s very important to me that everyone has a good work-life balance,” Davies says.

Oxide Design has worked with start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, and all sizes in between. Some of Oxide’s projects have included rebranding Metro Transit and Baxter Auto Group, and helping develop the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s national ballot design standards. Oxide has created unique designs for each client.

“We try to push all of our clients right up to the line of comfort, so that their design stands out from the fray while being perfectly appropriate for them.”

The graphic design community has noticed. The firm’s work has been recognized by major design competitions, including The One Show, the CLIO Awards, and Communication Arts Design Annual.

Davies stays involved with the design community. He has served as president of the local chapter of American Institute of Graphic Arts, and is currently national president emeritus. More than 50 percent of his firm’s annual work is pro bono, in part or in full. The charitable work is a key measure to Davies on how successful the business is.

“If I wasn’t able to do that, I wouldn’t feel like I’ve been successful,” he says.

Jill Wells has worked with Oxide on a number of projects for different nonprofits, most recently for Niobrara Valley Preserve. The writer hired Oxide to design a brochure that she says was invaluable for telling the story of the place.

“I have worked with Oxide for about 17 years, first at Nebraska AIDS Project and then The Nature Conservancy. Oxide is an ideal partner,” says Wells. “They listen to what you care about and then create something so beautiful and compelling—it still surprises me every time…Oxide designers care deeply about their community and it shows in their creativity, passion, and professionalism.

Visit oxidedesign.com for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Open Offices—A Thing of the Past?

August 23, 2017 by

Since the height of the “cube“ in the 1990s, many companies have lowered panel heights to create more open, collaborative spaces. The added benefits, for the company, are that they conserve space, reduce costs, and improve communications. By the early 20-teens, workers were situated in attractively cavernous rooms without walls. It remains open to discussion whether employees can function effectively in these layouts.

Now the backlash against open offices has begun. Major systems furniture manufacturers are developing products enclosing spaces for the introverts and the departments that need privacy. Some tech companies are rethinking their open plans. Few are ready to give up on the open office completely.

Early on, the open office style appealed to tech companies, especially start-ups. This arrangement then spread to larger companies. In hot real-estate markets, it makes good economic sense. There’s a big difference in the cost of office space by going from 250-square-feet per person to 110-square-feet, or fewer, per person.

While open offices may have other advantages—improved communication and creating a sense of a team—it is hard to concentrate for long periods of time. For many, the difficulty lies in adjusting to an open office when you are used to having privacy. That’s where the backlash comes in.

Gen Xers and baby boomers in conventional roles are struggling with the increased noise and visual distractions these spaces generate. For many, the workspace has become polluted with limitless sounds and sights.

What does the new breed of office look like? It’s a reasonable compromise between open and enclosed spaces. Furniture manufacturers today are developing products that fit in phone booth-sized rooms for quiet work time. Not to be used all day, they are accessible when a certain project or task requires it. For group work, many companies today have multiple, smaller conference rooms rather than the one large boardroom. These are more efficient, functional, and appropriate for how work is done today.

Different groups in an office have diverse expectations. Engineers might seek focused, quiet spaces, while sales and marketing employees may thrive in shared settings. Balance is key.

Don’t expect low panels and open plan systems to go away completely. They are appropriate for how many companies conduct their business. Successful businesses will keep adapting to find that appropriate balance of open-plan and private spaces that work for them.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

Make First 
Impressions Count

January 13, 2014 by

How a business furnishes its workspace can define the company culture and help employees thrive. A well-planned office creates a good initial impression on guests and draws in potential candidates; it also improves the productivity and attitudes of your employees. With the right interiors and good quality furniture, you can set the tone of your business and impress potential clients from the minute they step into your office. 
Here are a few things to take into consideration when planning your office space:

  • Lobby. Start with a reception station that is warm and inviting. Add guest or lounge seating and occasional tables to complete the welcome area.
  • Conference room. The size of the table you need depends on the number of people you need to fit around it. Allow 30 inches per person to keep meetings comfortable. Conference chairs typically don’t require the advanced functionality of a work chair, so look for low or mid-back chairs that provide basic function and support.
  • Private office. Executives and managers typically need desks and an executive chair. Consider appearance as well as functionality to strike the right mix of prestige, professionalism, and personality.
  • Seating. Over one third of an average employee’s day is spent in the office. If the office furniture causes discomfort or pain, it may create serious dangers to your health. It’s necessary that office furniture, particularly office chairs, be ergonomically designed. An ergonomic workplace promotes better work management and organization among staff and also makes the environment more relaxed and pleasant.
  • Filing area/copy center. A good mix of shared and private storage helps keep common areas better organized and employees more productive.

Visit the All Makes showroom at 25th and Farnam streets in Omaha to see the latest office furniture and design trends on display. The All Makes team is trained to help you make design and furniture purchases that fit your office atmosphere, your work style, and your budget.

Phenomblue

September 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Before the introduction of the Dilbertesque cubicle, American commerce was most commonly conducted in wide-open bullpen settings. The typical professional office layout featured what seemed an acre of neatly arrayed desks surrounded on the periphery by private offices for management-level “suits.”

The floor plan of a new space at Aksarben Village may evoke echoes of that rotary dial, clickety-clack-typewriter business era, but Phenomblue isn’t your granddaddy’s Mad Men agency.

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What was once considered the most impersonal of setups is turned upside down at the Omaha-based brand experience agency whose marketing and technology services have attracted such clients as Gogo, Newegg, and Bellevue University.

The old-timey bullpen philosophy has come full circle, says Phenomblue co-founder Joe Olsen, in that it is now taking on new life as an incubator for collaboration.

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“When you start a small business and have only a few employees,” Olsen explains, “everybody just naturally seems to know everything about what is going on. As you get bigger, people begin to become acutely aware that they no longer know everything, and the danger is that a silo mentality can set in. That ‘pockets of activity’ thinking is the very opposite of what made you good in the first place. This design is all about condensing the amount of personal workspace and emphasizing the amount of collaborative workspace. It’s impossible to sit out there in that big room and not overhear and be drawn into most of what’s going on around you.”

Phenomblue co-founder Joe Olsen.

Phenomblue co-founder Joe Olsen.

Innovative thinking begins at the door for the company that also has a satellite office in Los Angeles. The obtuse angles of a raw plywood wall form an anchor for what architect Jeff Dolezal calls the space’s spine-like “armature.” “It’s a vehicle to visually carry you through the space,” clarifies Dolezal, co-founder of TACKarchitects, which designed the space for Phenomblue. The armature meanders through the office—don’t look for many 90-degree angles here—rising gently to a group of huddle rooms before reaching its curvy, sloping terminus, one that to this writer conjures images of a skateboard half pipe.

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Whiteboards sprinkled throughout are some of the few floor-to-ceiling walls to be found in this open, airy office that incorporates huge garage doors for access to both the main conference room and an outdoor area that is steps away from Aksarben Village’s many live-work-play amenities. Skateboards, guitars, and other oddities hang throughout the funky Phenomblue offices. There’s even an edgy bicycle sculpture in a sprawling area dubbed the Community Space, a drop-in site for many of the firm’s clients, associates, and friends.

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Nix that. Not a bicycle sculpture after all. Just a cleverly placed, if utilitarian, bike rack that’s just one of the creative design elements that make this experiential marketing space an experience unto itself.

“Every day, I feel as though I’m walking into a work of art,” says Olsen. “It’s like a living organism that has its own personality. It reinforces with our clients why they come to us in the first place. It’s all about the experience.”

Five Tips for Creating a Home Office

August 26, 2013 by

Your home office should be a place you want to be and to spend time in. By utilizing basic design principles to make it productive and inspiring, you can make sure you actually work when you’re working from home. Here are five tips for creating a home workspace.

Paint the walls a color that inspires you. Color can be used to soothe, stimulate, energize, or brighten—choose the mood you want in your workspace and select a paint color accordingly.

Buy a comfortable office chair. If you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time in your home office, choose a chair that has adjustable height, reclining seat back, armrests, a deep seat depth, and adjustable lumbar support.

Let the light in.  Good lighting is essential. Ideally you want as much natural daylight as possible. Natural light not only saves electrical energy, but it gives you more personal energy, too. The link between sunlight and vitamin D has been established for a long time, but the impact of natural lighting on mood continues to be studied.

Choose meaningful accessories.  Select personal items that motivate you to get work done. The natural look of plants provides a comfortable, relaxing touch to the office. Plants play a vital role in providing a pleasant and tranquil environment in which to move, work, or relax. Indoor plants can also help health, well-being, and productivity in the workplace.

Take control of your technology. Set computers, printers, and phones close to outlets so the cords can easily be hidden. Desks that come equipped with wire management grommets also ensure a clutter-free workspace.

Visit the All Makes showroom at 25th and Farnam streets in Omaha to see the latest office furniture and design trends on display. The All Makes team is trained to help you make design and furniture purchases that fit your office atmosphere, your work style, and your budget.