How Softchoice uses office design to maximize employee collaboration

Something is missing from the new 25,000 square-foot addition to solution provider and CDN Top 100 winner Softchoice’s Toronto headquarters.

It has no individual offices. Not one.

Incorporating offices would have been antithetical to the company’s primary goal when designing the five-week old space, senior facilities manager Greg Jones explains to encouraging collaboration between employees, and making it as comfortable as possible to do so.

Softchoice senior facilities manager Greg Jones says the company made collaboration a specific goal when designing its newest office space.

“We have installed literally hundreds of features,” Jones says. “We have ergonomic furniture, monitor arms and docking stations, all kinds of experimental spaces [among other features, which can be seen in our slideshow, the addition includes a ‘quiet room’ known as ‘the Forest’ and a meeting space called ‘The Nebula’]… we wanted it to be a natural expansion of our existing facilities, one that feels more like a campus than an office.”

Equally important, he notes, was making Softchoice’s other Toronto employees feel welcome to visit, and vice versa: While 165 of the company’s employees currently work at the new addition, part of a converted baking factory in the city’s Liberty Village neighbourhood, the rest of Softchoice’s 900-strong Toronto-based workforce is stationed at the 100,000 square feet of office space across the street, where the company’s footprint has been steadily expanding for more than 20 years.

“If the people here didn’t collaborate with the other parts of the campus, and vice versa, we would have failed,” Jones says. “Since we opened [the new facility] there has been a constant stream of people running both ways, which indicates that we’ve done the right thing.”

Softchoice director of strategic innovation Erika Van Noort says the company’s recent focus on collaboration was born from a mix of aspiration and necessity: Between the company’s natural growth and the youngest members of its workforce – particularly in its marketing and sales departments – increasingly banding together to develop projects, its leaders saw an opportunity to increase the amount of collaborative space available.

Van Noort says that Softchoice’s marketing and sales teams in particular have benefitted from its headquarters’ increased collaborative space.

“From a sales perspective, employees are often working on complex opportunities with customers that require people with different skillsets, and on the marketing side, small factors like natural daylight augment the open, synergistic feel of the work,” she says. “Giving our employees the opportunity to conduct whiteboarding activities in a more creative space, for example, helps them better solve challenges for our customers.”

Van Noort says the new facility, which primarily houses Softchoice’s field sales and marketing departments, as well as some IT asset management staff, has helped the company’s more collaboration-minded employees feel more creative and flexible in the workplace than its predecessor, which has translated into success in the field.

“A lot of the work that we do, particularly with sales teams, involves getting people together anyway and talking with everyone from creatives to solution architects to technicians,” she says. “So putting them in a space that allows for a more creative flow of ideas really aligns not only with their work, but our overall purpose and mission, which is to put people first.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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