New York City’s fast-growing HR tech company, Justworks, recently completed the design of a 100,000 sq ft office in West Chelsea, Manhattan.
In 2018, the company moved into a 60,000 sq ft suite in the Starrett-Lehigh building at 601 West 26th. Within eleven months, it added another 40,000 sq ft on the same floor to accommodate growth and create additional space for meetings, focused work, and social events. Natural light and sprawling views of the Hudson River are an added bonus throughout.
Employees executed the design in-house, inspired by Justworks’ core values of camaraderie, openness, grit, integrity, and simplicity, as well as a goal to maximize collaboration across different departments. The project, led by Sarah Henochowicz and Yesenia Paredes with support from Mike Trinidad, Niko Gerena, and Senior Brand Designer Lindsey Fisher, showcases the company’s entrepreneurial spirit while providing a modern and professional work environment for its 450+ employees.
When was the project completed?
2018 – 2019
How much space (SF)?
100,000 SF (gross)
Was this new or renovated space?
SF per person?
Given roughly 450 employees, we are currently at 222 SF per person.
How many employees?
What is the average daily population?
Is there a mobile work or work from home policy? If so, what percent of employees are remote workers?
Yes, Justworks has a remote work policy, so the percent WFH is variable day by day. We do not have a policy for permanent remote employees.
Describe workspace types.
The space is primarily an open plan. There are 43 conference rooms of varying sizes that can accommodate everything from 1-on-1 catch-ups to departmental meetings of 50+ employees. All-hands, which Justworks has held weekly since it was just starting out with 4-5 people, is now held in the main floor sales area.
What kind of meeting spaces are provided?
Conference rooms, open collaboration spaces, training rooms, event spaces
What other kinds of support space or amenity spaces are provided?
Phone booths, breakout areas, semi-private spaces, wellness room, mothers room, game room, library
What are the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?
Starrett Lehigh Building 601 W 26th St, NY, NY 10001
Was the “C” Suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?
Yes, but in our case, it was the VP’s. They were surveyed on the needs and wants of their departments.
What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?
Company Surveys, Executive Surveys, Visioning sessions with key stakeholders.
Was there any other kind of employee engagement activities?
The largest way employees were engaged with the buildout was through a company-wide participatory budgeting initiative. This idea came from Isaac Oates, our CEO, and was sparked from NYC’s own participatory budget initiative.
Were any change management initiatives employed?
We definitely took the opportunity to implement a new structure and add changes to the daily operations, for instance, adding a conference room management system (robin rooms), a more robust recycling system and ramping up our physical security.
Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.
Tackling the sound issue was pretty much a trial and error thing. We tried a few different methods before we found the right option for us.
Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?
Yes, we used the opportunity of extra large spaces to broaden our employee wellness program, added a bookable wellness room and partner with the building on additional efforts.
Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?
Yes. We were faced with a sizable echo and sound leakage issue, one that is common for large spaces with high ceilings and concrete floors. We worked with NYC Soundproofing to address the issue.
White noise generators create more privacy and less disruption from conversations in open spaces.
For specific examples, please describe the product, how it was used, and if it solved any specific problem.
Sound Proofing: we found a solution through New York Soundproofing by using a mixture of fabric sound panels, curtains & white noise throughout the space.
What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?
Brand Colors, typeface, logo’s, 24/7 advertisement turned into a neon sign.
What is the most unique feature of the new space?
The large floor plates, having everyone on the same floor in an uninterrupted space is a powerful visual. It makes you feel like you’re part of something special that’s growing and reminds us we are in a very special time for a mid-stage company like ours when we can still all be together (on the same floor).
Our conference room names are—believe it or not—dreamt up by an algorithm that combines Crayola colors with quirky animals. Rooms like Periwinkle Platypus, Strawberry Badger, and Watermelon Jackalope border the main work areas. Each room features asymmetrical splashes of color and matching character illustrations by artist Mike Shea.
Justworks’ design team collaborated with artist Gavin Snider to illustrate a mural that frames one of the office’s breakout spaces. The wall captures a series of New York City scenes and structures alongside Justworks’ platform icons. Other recognizable brand elements are also featured elsewhere throughout the office, including in an original work by artist Bill Rebholz.
The company also brought one of its famous NYC Subway campaigns to life, creating a retro neon sign that highlights Justworks’ 24/7 Support and around-the-clock energy in the office.
Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?
Yes. We have incorporated some spaces and areas to promote this, like a bookable wellness room with mediation pillows from Mndfl, the most comfortable sofa from Article, some greenery and dimmable lighting.
What kinds of technology products were used?
Our open floor plan makes use of a custom wayfinding system and uniform signage throughout that was designed by our in-house design team.
Conference Room Management – Robin Rooms software synced with Google Calendar and Amazon fire tablets.
If the company relocated to a new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?
For the first phase of the buildout, we relocated a little over 300 people into 60k square feet. During this phase, the most difficult aspect was the commute from transportation. To solve for this we offer a shuttle service to major transportation hubs and fully covered CitiBike memberships for our employees.
The second phase was an expansion project that ended in January 2019. We added an additional roughly 40k SF. The most difficult aspect for this phase was getting around 100k SF, as can be expected, is that you need a few extra minutes to get to your meetings. We wanted to make sure the amenities were consistent and employees had communal areas they could gather.
Four kitchens throughout provide people plenty of snacks, cold brew coffee, and kombucha on tap, plus additional space to socialize and bond with their teammates.
How did the company communicate about the changes and moves?
Communication around the renovation occurred mostly via email, slack and periodic updates with visuals at our company all-hands meetings.
Right before we moved in January of 2018, we held our Winter Formal in our soon-to-be new office. This was the moment people were really excited about the move. Once you visited the space it was hard not to love it.
If a change management program was in place, what were the most successful strategies?
I would say all of our strategies were pretty successful. We made sure to tweak them along the way as needed to keep up with the needs and demands of how the space was used. This changes with headcount. With a growing organization, you are always evolving!
Photography Courtesy of Tom Pietrasik, Justworks