About a week ago, Zimmerman Advertising's 750 employees in Fort Lauderdale walked for the first time into their new corporate headquarters. Many said they were blown away by the change from their old office, just two miles away.
Light flows through the L-shaped office, with massive windows looking out on blue skies and I-95. A giant "Z" is emblazoned on the building — a feat that took some wrangling with permitting officials.
"This is a game-changer," said Jennifer Nguyen, 24, a social marketing specialist for the national advertising firm. "I'm more inspired."
Some 200 more employees have posted Facebook comments about the morale boost they were feeling from the brand new headquarters.
After operating for three decades in a dark, cramped space with little opportunity for informal interaction, company founder Jordan Zimmerman decided it was time for a new office. He hired international architecture and design firm Gensler to create an office that was "energetic, ergonomic and collaborative."
"This had to be a space that employees were excited to come to every day," said Zimmerman, giving a recent tour. "Natural light brings out energy and incentivizes productivity," he said.
After acquiring the 130,000-square-foot building off Andrews Avenue near Cypress Creek Road, the renovation took 22 months to complete. Eventually, Zimmerman will occupy all five floors, he said.
The office center is "town square," where a client's TV commercials and other advertising campaigns can be displayed on screens for a visit. Offices have glass fronts and writeable whiteboard walls. Departments are called "neighborhoods," with decor that illustrates one of Zimmerman's values. In "Fearless," punching bags line the hallway while letters in the "Creative" space are made with pencils.
Business analyst Stephen Romy, 56, said he most likes the openness of the new office. "It's like coming to a new job or a whole new career," said Romy, who said he had trouble interacting with staff in the old building where he had a high-walled cubicle.
The office has 22 meeting spaces and collaboration areas with chairs or benches. Formal meeting rooms are named after classic rock songs including Zager and Evans' "In the Year 2525" and Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" — more the top executives' era than their 20-something colleagues.
The Z Lounge gives workers a place to chat, relax, play foosball or video games. A Z Cafe is planned for the first level.
Most unique, perhaps, is the Social Media Newsroom where more than 20 workers blog, e-mail and post messages on Twitter or Facebook for clients that locally include AutoNation and Office Depot. A live feed shows the activity inside the room.
Zimmerman, an self-made entrepreneur who has grown the firm to more than $3 billion in annual billings and a 1,000 employees nationwide, said he most wanted an office that employees could "call home."
With the average employee age at 26, Zimmerman Advertising needed an office that embraced digital media, reflected the firm's values and gave options to work either quietly or collaboratively in a group.
"We have a lot of young college graduates and executives, and they work differently," he said.
Gensler's design team, led by Diana Farmer-Gonzalez of the Miami office, first met with a group of employees who shared their ideas for the new design.
"You can see an energy boost," said Dan Gitlitz, creative director and a design committee volunteer. David Nathanson, executive creative director, said the new space tells employees: "Bring your A game."
Farmer-Gonzalez said the space allows for different types of workers and work. "The most successful Fortune 500 companies have four types of work: focused work such as on a computer where they might need sound or light privacy. Collaboration can happen at your desk or in small meeting rooms," she said.
She said in an office such as Zimmerman's, the open office concept was important for the "creative" department, social media specialists and others who needed to collaborate.
"Younger workers are learning from older counterparts who are more seasoned. They want to work with a seasoned professional to hear the challenges of managing a project and be a part of everything," she said.
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