When you are widely considered to be one of the most prestigious management consulting firms in the world, the announcement of a bold new workplace relocation project for your New York City office is bound to focus eyes on your workplace strategy.
In 2015, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) announced that it would move from its prestigious address (but less than pristine midtown offices) on Park Avenue and Park Avenue South to be one of the first tenants of the colossal $20bn Hudson Yards development on Manhattan’s Far West Side, joining L’Oreal USA, SAP and Coach in the 1.7m sq ft, 52-storey tower at 10 Hudson Yards. The new development sits on stilts over the rail yards serving Penn Station and is the largest private real estate project in US history.
BCG was vocal from the outset on its core objectives and, having moved in earlier this year, is clear: “Uniting the two locations in a new building has allowed us to align our physical space with new ways of working, our brand and our values. The underlying idea was to unlock the culture that was always there. People join BCG because they like the people, and the one thing we weren’t able to do [in the old office] was give expression to that in the workplace,” says Ross Love, BCG’s Managing Partner for New York. “The new office communicates the characteristics of our work and our firm as never before. It is a flexible and adaptable environment that fosters a strong, connected community and encourages creative, team-oriented problem solving. The office of the future is not a place where people come just to do work. It’s a place to make personal connections with colleagues”.
BCG ‘partnered’ with Gensler to design the space, and together they set four key goals: collaboration and connectivity; a wide variety of flexible spaces; seamless technology; and a compelling experience for employees and guests.“Innovative companies such as BCG empower their employees to work when, where and how it best suits them,” says Jean Anderson, a Gensler principal and design director who advised the firm. “BCG really pushed us to develop a design that would maximise collaboration and a sense of community and culture. With Hudson Yards being brand new, we had a blank canvas to help BCG realise its vision.” Before briefing the design team, Love led a series of focus groups and work sessions with most of the New York employees to test their expectations. Love asked his consultants to create a wish list for their ideal work environment – in effect, allowing the BCG employees to sketch a brief for the new space themselves. “People should be allowed to be the author of their own space,” says Love.
The firm did make a number of decisions to keep expenses down and ensure a relative cost reduction: selecting an emerging rather than an established location; creatively designing high-value collaborative spaces to reduce individual space needs; and making senior consultant and staff offices ‘convertible’ so that they can be booked when people are out. “We refuse to call them offices because ‘offices’ implies personal ownership, and we’re trying to get people used to the idea that they don’t own the space,” Love says. And, despite reducing the floor space per person by 32%, the resulting design almost doubled the proportion of seats in collaborative spaces. It is also worth noting that these ‘convertibles’ are placed around central core areas and lack the traditional privilege of an outside window. Instead, they have one wall made of glass, and the incredible views through floor-to-ceiling windows – especially those south across the Hudson River towards Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the distance – are for all to appreciate.
“Performance rises as a result of frequent informal interactions, enhancing speed in decision-making, employee focus and creativity. At the same time, fewer formal meetings, shorter time to finish tasks, less idle time and shorter workdays augment productivity,” says Love. So the office also features a large, centrally located café (named after the High Line park directly below), offering free breakfasts, lunches and barista-made beverages by Joe Coffee, a local merchant. ‘Landing zones’ with communal seating are then clustered around all the main staircases. A ‘neighbourhood seating’ system is designed to promote small-group affiliation and idea-sharing in the desk areas and is organised by practice area or function and there is then an almost bewildering variety of enclosed room types and flexible spaces to support different work styles and uses. The effort invested in the design and detailing of these rooms is exquisite. And on a tour of the 6 floors, almost every room appears to be different in some way, leaving no shortage of opportunity for teams to choose a setting that best fits the purpose of that particular meeting.
Benjamin Rehberg, a New York partner who worked closely with Love in leading the BCG-Gensler design team, notes that beyond promoting connectedness and collisions, the office, which is characterised by a light, bright, visually open appearance and an eclectic, non-corporate feel, “reflects several other important goals: to convey BCG’s preeminence as a professional services firm and employer, celebrate BCG’s people and support their diversity, engage the firm’s talent to promote its thought leadership with the community and provide an environment where clients can explore new ideas, immerse themselves in world-class thinking, and develop innovative strategies”.
“Disruptive technologies have brought new opportunities for both virtual and physical collaboration, and an increasingly diverse workforce with new expectations is challenging us to continually innovate in our workplaces”
Kathryn Bell, a Boston-based partner who leads BCG’s global operations, including real estate, points out that the new office is part of a firm-wide strategy to create a vibrant, enjoyable workplace experience that will inspire people to build relationships and share insights to deliver outstanding client value. “Disruptive technologies have brought new opportunities for both virtual and physical collaboration, and an increasingly diverse workforce with new expectations is challenging us to continually innovate in our workplaces,” Bell says. “Whilst we reflect the unique local context in each project, we leverage each one to inform our broader change programme; 10 Hudson Yards is an important part of that learning.”
It also appears BCG’s own clients will be looking very closely at 10 Hudson Yards to see what they can learn. The new workplace, which conducted its Leesman post-occupancy survey in May 2017, received a Leesman Lmi workplace effectiveness score of 78.5, propelling it into our Leesman+ category of high-performance workplaces. And achieved superb employee agreement / satisfaction across multiple performance lines. An exceptional 98% of respondents said the space supports ‘informal social interaction, while 96% said it supports the BCG corporate image. Meanwhile, 95% are proud of the new space and 90% agree agree that it contributes to a sense of community, so it’s clear that many of the project objectives have been delivered effectively.’