Office space is still essential for growth

Aug 16, 2023

Office space allows you to establish your presence with clients and staff by physically being there for them and by providing the tools necessary to stay connected in a virtual environment. 

In the post-pandemic world, many companies are choosing to condense locations and square footage and are opting for a work-from-home lifestyle. Conversely, WSB has taken a different approach to office space by investing in and expanding our brick-and-mortar office portfolio.

Since the pandemic, we’ve explored ways to build talent within our company by creating a culture of collaboration. Through our experiences, we have learned there are some interactions that cannot be reproduced in a virtual environment. These interactions are supported through an office-based culture. In addition, new and expanded offices help solidify our presence in the area and represent an investment in the region with local clients and partners.

Our company has grown tremendously in the last few years, with more than 700 staff in 17 offices. We are establishing our presence with clients and staff by physically being there for them and by providing the tools necessary to stay connected in a virtual environment. By opening several new offices, expanding existing ones, and doubling down on our investment in technology to support remote operations, we are differentiating ourselves in today’s corporate setting. Here are some of the ways our offices are supporting our staff and client relationships:

  • Career development and mentorship. Collaboration is a gift. An office environment provides opportunities for career development that can be hard to replicate virtually. As we strive to create innovative solutions for our clients, staff are in a constant state of learning, which often is best approached through hands-on education. Mentorship is one of the best ways to learn, and the knowledge gained from working with veteran staff is extremely valuable. Guidance from experienced staff is vital in providing new hires with the chance to gain knowledge, build business acumen, and grow their careers. Working in an office space allows for more accessibility to expertise and maximizes the opportunity to ask questions in real time that might otherwise be avoided if additional steps, like a call or virtual meeting, were necessary. The possibility of joining last-minute meetings and the potential to interact with clients are opportunities that are also bolstered by being physically present in an office.
  • Talent attraction and accessibility. In today’s tight labor market talent attraction is key. Office space provides an opportunity to build brand presence and visibility to potential talent. One successful tactic we employed was to strategically place offices in regions with significant infrastructure growth and available talent. For example, we had an existing office in Austin, Texas, but recently opened an office just north of the Austin metro to accommodate staff who live there. Creating a space that was more accessible is important to retention. We also witnessed incredible growth in the Austin region, and the placement of the new office was critical for current and potential projects. After a modest build-out incorporating the key design features described below, we now have a bustling office where staff that had been remote due to a commute are collaborating and thriving.
    Equally important to accessibility is creating an office environment to attract new staff and retain existing staff. In 2019, we acquired a company whose office space was underutilized due to the office condition and location. To increase staff experience and recruit new staff, we relocated and expanded our office to a new space and added upgraded amenities including an inviting café, a wellness room, a variety of collaboration spaces, and a welcoming and comfortable aesthetic. These features now play a strong role in the way we construct offices. In addition to the design elements, we also focus on creating an inclusive environment through technology. Conference rooms are equipped with dual screens so staff working virtually can join the conversation and those in the room can see the presentation and those remote. This creates a stronger connection between staff and the material being presented. Following the implementation of these upgrades, staff attendance and recruitment has increased dramatically causing the space to be nearing capacity. Full offices are a good sign. We credit the positive shift in office culture to a very intentional approach to developing a technology-forward and collaborative space.  
  • Strengthen client relationships. Physical offices can also assist in building strong relationships with clients and prospective clients. An office space shows investment in the area and provides opportunities to meet, work, and assist with the development of communities. Office space is an extension of your brand and inviting clients into a professional environment can leave a lasting impression.

The decision to expand or establish an office in a new location will depend on a variety of factors, including the needs of staff and clients as well as the current market for office space. When we reviewed our office footprint and the needs of our staff and clients, we saw the benefits of adding physical space. We chose to invest in office space to provide opportunities for our staff and clients to connect and grow. These updated physical spaces bolster our virtual capabilities, allowing our staff the opportunity to connect with clients across the country regardless of location. The expansion of our office presence has largely been positive and has garnered results that have both influenced our culture and have built visibility with our clients. We look forward to enhancing productivity, collaboration, mentorship, attraction, accessibility, and visibility through office-based work environments.

Karne Newburn is general counsel and leads risk management for WSB, ensuring that legal, business, and operational risks are well anticipated, understood, and mitigated in a way to drive financial success and growth. Karne’s years of diverse legal and government experience help her provide proactive and pragmatic advice and solutions to leadership.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.