iStrategy Blends Eat, Work, Play in DC

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Create. Innovate. Accelerate.

These three words are front-and-center on a wall-mounted flat screen as you walk off the elevator at iStrategyLabs‘ new office in Washington, DC. The digital agency builds everything from apps and animations to festivals for clients like Coca-Cola, Honest Tea, and Nickelodeon.

Having outgrown their old space — a narrow two-story condo –they took over one floor of the space next-door, but quickly learned that the disjointed space was hindering productivity and couldn’t keep pace with their growth.

So Peter Corbett, founder and CEO, decided to move the company’s office to the seventh floor of a building just a block away. One with monumental views of DC from all sides.

Corbett worked with Alliance Architecture to create a space where his team could eat, work, and play. They gutted the 6,200 square foot space to bare bones, and today, these three eat-work-play zones spill into one another to the point where the lines among them are blurred.

Said Corbett, “I don’t have a work-life balance. I just have a life. The office is designed to make work accessible, productive, and fun.”

The default concept: no walls. Corbett waged battles to keep walls out of the design and, instead, use furniture to break up the office floorplan. Even the conference room is built to be wide open, though a glass-paneled garage door is installed to provide the option for privacy.

The result is a sweeping, open space with only one office — and many places to get work done comfortably. Even with a concrete floor, sound doesn’t travel much thanks to several ceiling and floor tiles and the furniture itself.

Pockets of bank-style workstations line the edges of the office, and each pocket houses a different team and function within iStrategy. Other, more specialized areas include a phone booth, and a quiet, dark room for focused work. It’s affectionately called, “the cave.”

Part of the floorplan is called “The Open Office,” a reconfigurable space that’s designed for multiple functions. There, they can host 150-person events, team-board game tournaments, ping-pong battles, and all-hands company meetings. Instead of filling this area with desks, it’s kept open to accommodate all types of uses.

The full kitchen boasts five different ways to make coffee. Eating and drinking together is a big deal for the team at iStrategy. They wanted to make sure the full team could enjoy their time in the kitchen, so it has a full 22-seat, duel-sided bar with an ice maker, fridge, beverage fridge, and wine fridge. As an added benefit, the bar top is the perfect height for employees to stand and work.

There’s also a workshop, which houses a wealth of tools for building custom hardware to use in creative projects, like a mobile- and internet-operated claw machine for Nickelodeon.

Given that many of its employees bike to work, iStrategyLabs purchased a professional bike tuning stand and toolkit for tune-ups and repairs.

Corbett wants the space to accommodate organic growth. Planning for this included a cable tray that runs on a track around the entire office, suspended from the ceiling. This allows for workstations to go just about anywhere, and for employees to engage with the space in a way that optimizes where and how they work.

iStrategyLabs has tripled in headcount in the past two years. Compared with their old space, Corbett estimates that productivity per employee has increased 10 percent just by being on the same floor, and another 10 percent from employee morale.

Says Maggie Winters, a designer at iStrategy, “It’s inspiring to work in a space that’s (almost) as innovative and fun as the work we’re producing.”

Allowing the employees to interact and fill the environment with their own personal tastes resulted in a comfortable place to work. Local art adorns the walls, and bean bag chairs pepper the office to facilitate a “pro-napping” policy. With no constraints, the employees are free to create new environments based on how they work. Given the dynamic nature of the design, you can’t call the space an office — it really is a lab.

Says Corbett, “The lab is so much more beautiful and useful than my home. I end up hanging out there on the weekend sometimes just for fun.”

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