Stepping into the Emmi Solutions Chicago HQ is a bit like walking into the loft of an eclectic artist. Splashes of color dot the office, exposed concrete beams support 15 foot ceilings, and light floods in from the windows and enormous skylights. Orange network cables snake high above the cavernous space and green and blue walls shoot up toward the ceiling.
A focus on workplace and culture that started as a way to compete for talent has become evangelical for Emmi CEO Devin Gross, who reads up on Zappos, Patagonia, and Starbucks to stay current with trends. “We want people to love coming to work here,” says Gross. And he means it: Emmi has a cross-departmental fun committee that puts on events like family day, painting lessons, and cheese and wine tastings, to name a few. Gross even performs a monthly “culture check” to ensure there is always a pipeline of fun events on tap.
Of the 21,000 square foot office, over 15% is open and collaborative space. The enormous café is a central gathering place and comes complete with four types of seating, including a full bar, small round tables, traditional booths and bar-height tables. Open areas with wall to wall whiteboards allow for impromptu brainstorming sessions. Room names such as radiology, the psych ward, and even the morgue (the graveyard for old computer equipment) are just the start. The spaces’ layouts reflect the monikers, with a bright orange couch and deep-blue walls in the psych ward and an onslaught of green in radiology. Open areas get loud, but the space includes call rooms when employees seek privacy.
“We spent a year designing this space, which is an extension of our culture,” says Gross. And the employees noticed. Their idea of going to work “changed overnight.”
“You can’t take culture for granted. And space is a key component.”