We office hunted a few months ago here at Aspire, and we’re feeling great about our choice. But, we were inspired by DC Inno’s “Office Envy” series to take a look at offices other companies have built for themselves in the Metro area to see just how well we did. Having a sweet place to call your home away from home can make all the difference between just enjoying work and never wanting to leave (hey – we can dream, right?).
Local companies are showing us that keeping the best and brightest in your halls is easier if those halls reflect a culture of fun, healthiness, and work-life balance. To bring more of that levity to their offices, DC companies are overhauling their spaces in some pretty innovative and beautiful ways (offsetting the terrible ’60’s functional architecture of some downtown facades – we’re looking at you Department of Labor).
What follows are some of our favorites we’ve scouted – some known for their design, others for how the offices function, and some for the sheer creativity they used to replace the ordinary office chair.
You can’t help but admire Optoro’s H street location – just a block away from the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro station, workers can easily commute no matter where they live in the city. Even if the location wasn’t possibly the most convenient place in the city, we’d still be left in awe of the beautiful red brick of the old church-like building. Inside, it gets even better. The staff are treated to an open concept with high ceilings and low desk divisions, which is the perfect combination of separate and collaborative. To top it all off, Optoro employees have access to a fully stocked kitchen (snacks and beer galore), with more open space for meeting and dining. The whole building features tons of exposed brick – enough to make even the pickiest House Hunters couple happy.
Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS)
While the numerous councils and associations here in DC might not seem like your first guess for a cool place to work, DISCUS is different. Behind unassuming doors lies a well kept DC secret that would have Don Draper green with envy. The DISCUS office boasts the most liquor per square foot of any office in the District, with most of the staff members maintaining a well-stocked personal bar by his or her desk. The Council represents the interests of the majority of American distillers, and they accrue rare and expensive liquor from across the country (and the world) as a result. Fortune named their corporate bar, The 1797 Lounge, one of the best in America, and it frequently hosts Senators and members of Congress. Does it get much better than that?
AES, a large electricity producer and distributer, recently redesigned their expansive Arlington offices to mesh great design with high-technology and functionality. Focusing on collaboration, 80% of the 70,000 square foot office is dedicated to an open concept shared space. For calls or meetings that require privacy, staff can use one of the 40 individual and “team focus” areas with motorized shades on the glass panels. To break up a long day of work, employees don’t even need to leave the office – they can simply head to the dedicated wellness rooms complete with showers. In April of this year the Washington Business Journal dubbed AES’s office one of the coolest in the area, and we have to admit that we agree – this one is definitely cooler than our office.
Wingate Hughes is a boutique architecture firm located right in the heart of downtown. Their offices boast beautiful wood and brick features with a mixture of dark and light floors, capturing what they like to call a contemporary minimalist aesthetic. By distilling the essence of their own company into a unique and gorgeous space, Wingate Hughes doubled the use of their office as it is also an advertisement. Wingate Hughes is in the business of beautifying places across the metro area, so it makes sense that their own office would be a testament to their skills. If you hear anything about the innovative spaces at tech startups or other entrepreneurial companies in the city, Wingate Hughes was most likely involved. A few places you’ll recognize, including 1776 and Living Social, owe a tip of their hat for their beautiful spaces to Wingate Hughes.
KaBoom! is in the business of play, bringing joy and learning to kids across the country, particularly those living in poverty. Befitting a company with a unique and fun mission, their offices are brightly painted in their signature purple and orange colors, let in tons of healthy natural light, and of course are littered with playground toys that also function as seating for impromptu meetings. No chairs required. We recently spoke with one of their employees (during a break in their kitchen, constantly stocked with peanut butter and jelly) who said KaBoom! is “…a place where passionate people work very hard on something that makes the world a better place … they emphasize a fun workplace culture and value us beyond our regular work functions.” KaBoom!’s focus on fun and functionality is evidenced by the giant tire swing in their entrance (our landlord already said we can’t have one).
Vocus (part of Cision Inc.) provides cloud marketing solutions to companies across the nation, and their Beltsville office could make even Google employees envious. Their entire space was designed to be reminiscent of a playful main street, complete with offices that are facades of arcades, florists, and cafes. Employees can schedule a facial during a stressful day, or sweat it out in the full gymnasium, complete with hoops. The whole space offers a balance of collaboration, privacy and stress release to ensure employees are happy and healthy in a fast-paced industry.
No DMV awesome office list is complete without mentioning the Motley Fool. The founders of this financial services firm take corporate culture very seriously, and their success at it has put them at the top of Glassdoor and the “Best Places to Work” lists for many years. If you want to see their secret sauce in action, you should attend one of their cultural tours. You’ll see employees working at treadmill desks, hanging out in the arcade room, participating in ping pong tournaments, or taking advantage of the robust wellness program. Motley Fool employs a full-time wellness expert to oversee the health of its staff, coordinating everything from spin classes to morning yoga sessions to healthy snacks in the kitchen. Motley Fool’s office is consistently changing based on employee as well. If you can propose and justify a cultural idea, you might just see it in action – even if it’s a ball pit for Take Your Puppy to Work Day.
If you’re looking to engage your employees or attract new talent without (or in addition to) redesigning your office layout, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you strategize!