Time Warner Cable, Wisconsin

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Project Information


  • Call Center
  • Dining
  • Open Office


  • Easy Options Capability
  • Performance Environments: Change Management
  • Z-Axis

When you think of a call center, would the term "Zen-like" ever come to mind? Well, that's how one Time Warner Cable employee described their new environment. And that makes VP/General Manager Mike Fox very pleased.

Mr. Fox and his facilities team are firm believers that happy employees result in happy customers—and that providing a supportive environment in their new division headquarters would be critical. "We wanted to create a welcoming place that would be enjoyable to come to and efficient to work in, with 5-star amenities to make it as pleasant as possible," he says, adding that in their previous space, the call center people had been "packed in like sardines."

"From the very beginning they were adamant that whatever we did had to be the very best for their employees." recalls Jodie Sharkey, Sales Representative at Interior Investments, the Wisconsin Herman Miller dealership that worked with Time Warner Cable on the project.

"They not only wanted a 'state of the art' facility, they wanted to make a statement to the community," adds Monique Robinson, Global Account Manager at Herman Miller: "Time Warner Cable is the employer of choice in the Fox Valley region."

As Interior Investments Designer Sarah Raab Lerche explains, "Mike's vision was lots of open space where employees could collaborate and interact every day, and where informal conversations could take place in impromptu meeting areas in corridors and stairwells. They wanted to create their own community that would attract workers of all types and ages."

Time Warner was moving from six buildings into one, and the 30,000 sq. ft. call center was to be its focal point, the first thing visitors would see upon entering the facility. So how it looked was every bit as important as how it functioned.

Bettye Russell, Herman Miller Workplace Strategist, Strategic Account Team, whose expertise is in call centers, says, "It's a difficult job; people are pretty much 'tethered' to their workstations eight hours a day. So the space needs to be supportive not just ergonomically, but emotionally and aesthetically as well."

Russell knows nothing meets the particular demands of a call center better than Herman Miller's Resolve system. "It really offers everything a call center needs," she explains. "Density is always an issue, and its unique angles mean more workstations can fit into any given space. It's ideal for teamwork and it can be reconfigured quickly when needs change. Its poles beautifully support today's technology and the screens work well not only as design elements, but also to delineate different work areas.

"Best of all, it's very open and transparent, which allow natural light to come through. So it's a soothing environment, yet high energy at the same time. Plus, it's a really good product; even with all the use it gets, it will last for a very long time."

For all those reasons, Resolve was indeed a perfect fit for Time Warner. A variety of nature images and patterns on the rolling screens help new employees see where their particular team resides. Pole lighting provides a lit pathway throughout the space. Mirrors were also used effectively (they remind people to smile), while varied heights created a more interesting look and enabled supervisors to see their staff.

"There's nothing linear about Resolve, and that's one of the things we really like about it," says Mr. Fox. "Everything blends and curves, which gives the space a softer, more natural ambience."

"Although noise is often an issue with call centers, Resolve has excellent acoustics," adds Raab Lerche, who used subtle shades of blues and greens to create a refreshing backdrop for the soft white of the workstations themselves.

A dramatic view of the call center was achieved in several ways: it's positioned three feet lower than the first floor and a cantilevered overlook on the second floor extends out over the area so people can look down on it from above. On the first floor, a twelve-foot high glass wall along the central atrium separates it from public spaces but doesn't block any of the natural light.

Because maximizing that light was crucial, Raab Lerche came up with an innovative layout, which was to start the Resolve workstations at the windows, then go toward the epicenter, where the managers and common areas were located. "In too many cases, the higher up the ladder you are, the better the office. But we kind of turned that upside down," says Mr. Fox.

Amenities such as a lactation room for mothers and a "quiet" room for reading provide needed respites from the sometimes hectic pace on the floor. They also have a game room where employees can relieve stress at the Ping Pong table.

Again, it's all about the people.

Herman Miller's Z-Axis enabled the design team to deal with many critical issues at the planning stage, which saved time, hassles, and money. "For example, when they were trying to decide on furniture for the administration offices, we were able to do product comparisons using Z-Axis," says Ms. Sharkey. "That way, they didn't have the problem of deciding on something, then finding out later it wouldn't work with their technology or they couldn't afford it. We also provided really good 3-D renderings of the entire call center ahead of time so they could visualize what it would all look like."

Although at first it appeared their budget wouldn't allow it, Mr. Fox knew what he wanted for the administration offices: My Studio. "It blended in so well with the Resolve curves and fit in with our 'natural' feel overall," he says. "We really liked the openness with all the glass."

The team used Herman Miller's Easy Options capability to make sure Time Warner got what they needed at a price they could afford. For example, says Raab Lerche, "We had used maple and birch woods throughout the facility and wanted to incorporate the warmth of the wood into the workstations, too. Veneer didn't fit into the budget, but maple laminate did. And although it wasn't available as a standard for work surfaces in both Resolve and My Studio, Easy Options allowed us to substitute a standard Meridian maple laminate, which we then used on the tables in these spaces, too."

As for seating, they chose Aeron as a workplace standard for task chairs throughout, while Celeste seating with arms worked perfectly in training areas. Caper chairs on casters were selected for cafeteria because they move easily and can be stacked quickly and efficiently.

In preparing for the move, another Herman Miller team was called in to help: Workplace Change Management. "We provided a very comprehensive and detailed roadmap that told them everything they needed to know about managing their changes, from identifying key messages to support their business drivers to developing overall protocols," says Holly Kriger, Workplace Knowledge Consultant.

"This was absolutely invaluable to us," says Mr. Fox. "They showed us how to be most effective: What are the steps to a successful move? What do we do first? When do we put out what type of message; how do we communicate it and how often do we communicate it? We all know this, but they've got it down to a science: on day 60 you do this; on day 50 you do this, and so on."

"They also wanted to get people involved in the process, so that was another key area of focus," adds Kriger. "For example, we held leadership workshops to help stakeholders identify and prioritize their own factors for success. So they knew where to invest their efforts and what tactics to employ to get others involved."

"Time Warner is a great example of a client who did all the right things," comments Bettye Russell. "They didn't just talk about supporting their employees, they did it."

The move itself, says Mr. Fox, "went flawlessly. Our facilities people did a phenomenal job. After we set up those first 80 workstations, it was like dominos falling into place."

Now that they're settled in they're finding everything is turning out as planned. "It's wonderful," says Mr. Fox. "I see people on a daily basis that I used to see once every couple of weeks. If you're a proponent of management by walking around, this is big.

"One thing we didn't want was to look ostentatious," he summarizes about their new headquarters, which is also in the process of becoming LEED certified. "We didn't want it to be so over the top that people would think we spent a trillion dollars just to make ourselves look good. But that didn't happen at all. We ended up with a very nice building that's also very functional. Although the call center has the 'buzz' of lots people on the phones, it actually is quite a Zen-like environment. And our employees are very happy."