LOCATION: New York, New York
A&D FIRM: Studio Tractor
SQUARE FEET: 26,000
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 4
BUSINESS PRIORITIES: Promoting Knowledge Sharing, Increasing Efficiency, Attracting and Retaining Talent
Follow Harry’s journey from a headquarters that hindered its growth to a workplace where people and the business are prospering.
Harry’s former headquarters was a lot like a college dorm—chaotic and fun but not exactly a place where you could focus. The 3,000-square-foot loft in New York’s SoHo neighborhood served the men’s grooming start-up well when it was just the two founders—Jeff Raider and Warby Parker alum Andy Katz-Mayfield—and a handful of employees. But Harry’s staff quickly outgrew the office, which was basically one large workroom, where business analysts squinted at spreadsheets alongside chatty customer service representatives, and product samples and packing materials spilled over into the reception area.
“It was hectic,” recalls Scott Newlin, Harry’s Design Director. “All of that energy is great for momentum, but it also hurts your day-to-day when you’re just trying to have a phone conversation and you can’t.”
Plagued by the pervasive hum of conversation and activity, people sought refuge in the outside hallway and stairwells for private conversations and phone calls. Meetings were another issue. With only two conference rooms to share, people were forced to gather in the freight elevator.
“We were meeting there in the depths of winter, wearing our winter jackets and sitting at a little cardboard table set up in the middle,” says Jeff Raider, Harry’s Co-Founder and Co-CEO. “At that point, we knew we needed more shared space.”
It was more than just the inconvenience of meeting in an elevator that drove the company to seek new accommodations. Harry’s office was inhibiting the collaborative creativity that helped the start-up grow from two guys with an idea for improving the shaving experience to a booming business competing with established industry giants.
“Very few individual people in our company can see a project from start to finish,” says Raider. “It almost always involves a team effort. But in our old space, we were constrained. We had to dedicate the vast majority of the office to individual workspaces and desks, which didn’t leave lots of room for people to get together.”
The office was impeding employees’ efficiency, too. Hours were lost sending emails back and forth to schedule meetings. And with limited storage—located far away from the workspace—people were running in circles to complete simple tasks.
Many employees had learned how to cope with the pitfalls of an outgrown office, but for new people and prospective hires, these small annoyances seemed overwhelming.
“We had a couple of people come in that were interested in working for the company,” says Newlin, “but with the buzz and energy of the old space, they had second thoughts about whether they would be able to work in an environment like that.”
The time had come for a new facility and a new way of thinking about the workplace. After a prospective visit to Herman Miller’s Chicago showroom, in 2014, Harry’s leadership believed Herman Miller’s Living Office could help them better understand the ways their people worked, identify the types of settings that would support their activities, and create a workplace where anyone would be proud to spend his or her workday. The company engaged Brooklyn-based Studio Tractor to get going on its new 26,000-square-foot space.
To begin this journey, Herman Miller guided Harry’s through the Living Office Discovery Process℠, which helps companies identify and clarify their Purpose, Business Priorities, Character, and Activities. Using insights from the discovery process, an organization can work with its design partners to prioritize the types of settings that will best support its people and its business, and create an office landscape with the right mix of these spaces. The resulting workplace provides better support for people’s activities and needs and helps the organization express its brand.
Leaders from Harry’s kicked off the process by identifying key organizational goals that they hoped the new workplace would help them advance. These included promoting knowledge sharing, increasing efficiency, and attracting and retaining top talent.
Next, employee focus groups met to identify aspects of the organization’s character—deciding whether it was more formal or informal, more uniform or diverse—and identified and prioritized daily work activities. The focus groups uncovered a few surprises along the way.
The first revelation was the staff’s desire for the organization—and their office—to have a more formal character. After working in a chaotic open plan office that didn’t support their activities, Harry’s employees craved more structure, organization, and efficiency.
“As a group that is working in a small space that has no real walls or boundaries or areas for specific tasks—literally just an open plan—I think that what ends up happening is you kind of feel like you’re grasping for structure,” says Newlin. “Private offices start sounding nice at that point.”
A second and equally important discovery was that their space wasn’t supporting the full range of activities people were doing throughout the day—creating new products, answering emails and phone calls, having quick chats and longer conversations, and solving problems together, to name a few.
“Through the discovery process, we really broke our activities and floorplan down into numbers,” says Newlin. “We need this number of conference rooms, we need this number of one-on-one chat rooms, this number of lounge areas where you could put your laptop on your lap and just work.”
The insights that emerged from the process helped Harry’s and its design team transform the new office into a diverse landscape with settings they could be confident would support a full range of activities—no easy feat in the new space. “At 26,000 square feet, the trick is to make sure the space doesn’t look like a ghost town,” says Mark Kolodziejczak, an architect at Studio Tractor. “With Living Office, you have different settings that support different activities. The settings are dispersed, but they allow activities to happen in meaningful proximity to one another.”
Employees now have formal Meeting Spaces, where they can present to potential investors; small Coves for informal conversations; and bustling Hives, where customer service representatives can power through emails or have quick chats with colleagues. In the Clubhouse Setting, graphic designers can easily create together. And if a task requires quiet, people can camp out in Havens—enclosed rooms that are perfect for making phone calls or thinking through problems.
With all of this variety and the freedom to work in the settings that best suit their needs, Harry’s employees were excited to move into the new space. But the true test came six months later, when Herman Miller checked in to determine if these settings were actually helping the staff connect more easily and be more efficient. To do this, Herman Miller conducted robust on-site research, using a variety of methods, including observation and extensive surveys among leadership and staff.
Wrote one employee in a survey, “The new layout allows for free communication with colleagues from all departments. But it’s comfortable and quiet enough to keep you focused.”
Settings aren’t the only things helping people work better together. The hallways and open areas that cover 58 percent of the floorplan are also encouraging people to connect. These connective spaces furnished purposefully with Public Office Landscape café tables and Social Chairs, give people many more opportunities to move about, bump into one another, and share ideas than they had at their former office, where only 37 percent of the layout was dedicated to circulation.
“In the last space, I felt like people weren’t moving because there weren’t options, or they were moving out of desperation,” says Rachel Peck, Staff Manager. “Here, there are options and flexibility.”
At the beginning of the project, Harry’s leadership team had identified “increasing efficiency” as an important business driver. This priority was closely tied to the staff’s desire for a more seamless and structured work flow, which they expressed during the discovery process. The organized, efficient new floorplan is making this a reality.
“We have our marketing team sitting next to our customer acquisition team, who, on a day-to-day basis, have dozens of conversations,” says Newlin. “I think this really allowed a more streamlined approach to the way they work. It also has allowed us to take less time in between certain tasks.”
The employee survey shows that people are noticing this new level of efficiency. Only 29 percent of people thought their old office helped them work productively, but now 70 percent think the new space is helping them do their jobs faster and better.
When you walk into Harry’s new home—open and vibrant, without the chaos—it’s easy to believe that the new space will help the company move the dial forward on its third business priority: attracting and retaining top talent. Anyone visiting the space will get a clear understanding of the type of company it houses. Harry’s brand and culture are evident in the overall design as well as in the small details—from a display area featuring photography from their online magazine, Five O’Clock, brightly colored razors, and bottles of shaving cream and lotion, to a pop of blue from the company’s logo on the legs of Layout Studio tables.
“I’ll meet somebody who I think might be a great fit for Harry’s, and my next step is always, ‘Come to our office. Just come check us out,’” says Raider. “I think because we are so proud of our space, it speaks for itself for all who come here. They’re like, ‘Whoa, this is cool. It’s well designed, it’s open, it’s collaborative.’ The brand immediately comes to life.”
Peck agreed. “Every time I bring a visitor or guest in here, people are impressed with the space. That’s really nice to finally be in a grown-up space where it feels good to bring friends, candidates, and investors.”
The employee survey also underscores this sentiment. Before the move only 47 percent of employees were proud to bring visitors to the office. In the new space, 98 percent say they feel a sense of pride when they bring someone to visit.
With its new workplace, Harry’s is fulfilling more than just their business needs—they’re also fulfilling people’s fundamental needs, such as security and autonomy. When an office allows for work to get done in a comfortable, intuitive way, people can worry less about the basics and focus more. Newlin can already see this happening in their new office. “You can walk into this space and know exactly what you need to do during the day, where you’re supposed to work, and where you can store things,” he says.
People feel like their need for autonomy is being fulfilled by their having a choice of settings and the freedom to work in the ones that suit them best. Survey findings confirm this: 83 percent of employees said that they have the tools and resources they need to do their work and 60 percent said that they have the ability to choose where they can work within the office. Newlin is already seeing a positive effect on employee satisfaction. “We have more spaces where people can work without being impeded by private conversations,” he says. “People seem to feel happier in the spaces where they work.”
This improvement in employee morale is substantiated by the results of Harry’s Leesman Survey, which measures workplace effectiveness and employees’ satisfaction with it. While Harry’s previous accommodations garnered a mediocre 48.4 out of 100, its new headquarters received a 71.9—nearly 12 points higher than the Leesman Global Benchmark of 60.1
It’s not that Harry’s new workplace is perfect—they’ve had to order additional furniture to support their growing staff and make a few adjustments to the layout to better suit work flow. But that’s what Living Office is about. It’s a system for creating work environments with a variety of purposeful settings that are capable of adapting as naturally as the people who occupy them.
“In many ways, I feel like we really do have a Living Office,” says Raider. “I know the word ‘living’ has multiple meanings. I think one is it’s an office that we feel like we can live in and that accentuates action and vibrancy in the way that we interact. The other thing is that it can constantly evolve, and you can learn. And that’s very much aligned with how we think about growing our business. We’re really excited to continue to make this a Living Office.”