Finding the Right Space for Your Company
What’s the best part about being in a comfy, familiar place? It’s the sense of belonging and connection, and the freedom to be yourself and add your personal touches to a space. In architecture or landscaping, the term ‘placemaking’ is used to describe the development of public spaces in an architectural or landscaping sense, with an ultimate goal of strengthening the connection between people and these places. This might mean changing a hallway, the placement of a door, or deciding where a water feature should go in order to get the best views and photo ops.
This idea fits on smaller scales, too. Though we’ve written before about environmental branding, placemaking isn’t quite the same, because it’s more than logos or layouts. Placemaking is all about getting that perfect spot for your company’s character and values, leading to spaces that your employees want to work and spend time in.
For example, with our growing team in Saskatoon delivering constant results, we recently decided to move to a new office. We took placemaking into careful consideration through the whole process:
- How will people feel when they first walk in?
- What kind of décor and personality will tie all the areas together?
- Does each employee get an opportunity to make their space their own?
- How quickly can the person in the far office get to the coffee machine? (Very important in an agency!)
The Project for Public Spaces defines a great place as possessing four key attributes: Access and Linkages, Uses and Activities, Comfort and Image, and Sociability. Let’s break these down and take a look at how they played into our choices – and hopefully our experience will be helpful when you’re on the hunt for a new space in the future.
Access and Linkages: Making Places Easy to Reach
Our new office is located right in downtown Saskatoon, overlooking the South Saskatchewan River. There’s no trouble getting to and from the office – there’s plenty of underground parking and public transit access, and the Meewasin river trails run right up to the Victoria Bridge beside the complex. A river stroll (and a sighting of Saskatoon’s famous beaver families) is a great way to destress and get creative, and heading the other way into downtown means there are options for lunch, dinner, or an evening of celebration after a job well done.
True accessibility also means whether or not people want to access a particular property or area. Remember, the first sight of the building you occupy is often the first physical touchpoint for a customer. A spacious and welcoming office is interesting, while a locked door or plain brick walls can be cold and off-putting. This building has a gorgeous west-facing lobby and a broad glass façade that catches the setting sun from the “living skies”, while our office itself has excellent floor-to-ceiling views of the morning sunrise.
River Landing East Tower in Saskatoon, SK (from Triovest)
Uses and Activities: Love What You Do
The River Landing complex (where the SK office is located) is one of the newest office buildings in all of Saskatchewan – so, as you might imagine, it’s got excellent connections and data speeds, which is perfect when your company spans three provinces. We also made sure to build flexibility in to the floor plan: the office is big enough to allow our regular team to work safely during the COVID era, but large boardrooms on the second floor can accommodate dozens of people if needed for big projects.
The ground floor of the building has an OEB breakfast spot (and we highly recommend the French toast), and a big tenant fitness centre takes up an entire half of the second floor. Small perks like saving money on a gym membership each month is a great incentive for a potential hire, and the beneficial effects of promoting good health among employees are so well documented by this point that some companies are even taking to keeping their workers on the clock while they work out.
Comfort and Image: Making an Office Feel Like Home
Comfort is more than a good seat and a working air conditioner (though they definitely help). So, we wanted our new office to “flow”, with a sense of space and ease. Having floor-to-ceiling windows – and a noticeable lack of drywall cubicles – lets the light in and helps our staff daydream up creative solutions.
When we moved in, we gave the office a quick mini-reno so that the interior style matched our Calgary office. Maintaining a sense of unity is important for teams separated by thousands of kilometres, and helps brand consistency as well. After all, when a person is inside our space, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s in Saskatoon, Calgary, Grande Prairie, or anywhere else in between. The experience should feel the same.
Sociability (aka “Where to Place the Coffee Machine”)
Sociability can be the hardest one of these to achieve, because it means creating a place where people are comfortable interacting and letting their guard down – in other words, a place to really, truly communicate. We try to work without ego at WJ, and a part of that is sharing a mood or a feeling – and what better place to do that than around a coffee machine, chatting from a comfy chair in a coworker’s office, or over a shared lunch in the boardroom?
We use features like glass walls so that our team can have their own private space for uninterrupted concentration, but also stay aware of visitors or other people in the foyer. Art pieces on walls and in corners act as conversation starters, and cushioned benches in the front area provide a place to chat and relax. We often find that our best work comes out of these moments!
Wrapping It All Up
So, there you have it – the tour’s complete. Our team is settled in and continues to deliver the same quality branding and marketing services for small to mid-size businesses in Saskatoon and beyond. We can’t help you move your desk between buildings, but we can help you form the business strategies that will take your company to a bigger office. And no matter where you are, we’re just a click away!