When Igloo Software, an intranet platform company, outgrew its old office space at Frederick and Weber Streets in Kitchener, it didn’t have far to look to find a new home.
Dan Latendre, CEO, polled his team of 70 to find out where they wanted to be based: Downtown Kitchener, or the David Johnston Research and Technology Park?
“It was unanimous to stay in downtown Kitchener,” Latendre said. “It has a cool vibe, and it’s easy to get people into, and out of, the airport.”
“We have a lot of employees who don’t actually drive to work, and live in the downtown core,” added Christine Ley, Director of Human Resources, who led the design of the new office project. “They had a vested interest in staying local as well.”
Latendre and the Igloo team picked 55 King St. W. at Ontario Street strategically. The large, 10-storey building already houses NetSuite, and gives Igloo expansion options. The Igloo name will replace TD on the side of the building.
“We looked at Waterloo space,” Latendre said. “There were a lot of empty [BlackBerry] buildings, but they all felt so cubical. It didn’t work for us.”
Latendre knows that moving offices can incredibly stressful on a team, just as it is for a family. Because his team has been growing at a rate of 70 per cent a year for the last two years, it was important for him to find a spot the company could grow into instead of looking to move again in the near future.
“We engaged with our employees as much as possible in regards to the layout of the office,” Ley said. “It’s an important part of feeling at home in the new space as well — having a hand in your new second home.”
How the company is spread across the office was strategic.
There are a lot of formal and casual meeting spots that accommodate both standing and sitting. The Igloo team spent roughly $1 million in leaseholder improvements to map the corporate culture, physical culture and digital culture in the new setting.
The space is bright and open, with lots of whiteboards and chalkboards to allow ideas to grow anywhere. It is designed to be young and fun, but also functional.
“We wanted everyone’s space to feel approachable,” Latendre said. “Sometimes I walk into my office and people are already using it for a meeting.”
Ley and Latendre have received a lot of positive feedback from the team.
They are still making the house a home. There are small details to finalize. Some boxes still sit in corners waiting to be unpacked. The meeting rooms, named after the original NHL hockey teams, are still being organized.
And there are some challenges for the team in the new space: a lack of parking, and a sense of discomfort with the lack of hustle and bustle downtown after work hours.
Latendre has had female staff ask to be accompanied at night for the walk up the street to the Market Square parking garage.
“It kind of makes companies second guess about moving here,” Latendre said. “We’re all working hard to make a tech hub here. It’s about making the area safe for our employees who are working late on flex hours.”
Both Latendre and Ley want their staff to feel safe coming in to work at any hour day or night. The flexible schedule the team works on means staff may be leaving the office at 10 p.m. or 1 a.m.
“It’s about our employees,” Latendre said. “A company is nothing without our employees.”
Summer may officially be over, but event season is in full swing . . .I see and hear that: This Saturday, Sept. 26, boasts something for everyone in Waterloo Region. Head down to Downtown Kitchener for the 25th Word on the Street festival. The event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. celebrates books and authors. Well-known authors such as Terry Fallis, Kenneth Oppel and Andrew Pyper will be reading from their new books. Arts and crafts, book sales and celebrity readings will take place at The Kitchener Market (300 King St. E.) and Kitchener City Hall (200 King St. W.) Head down to the Kitchener Market Piazza at 2 p.m. to catch yours truly reading The Tweedles Go Online, by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Marie Lafrance . . . If celebrating makers is more your thing, then head to Emmanuel Village (1250 Weber St. E., Kitchener) for Etsy: Made in Canada. The free event, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is your chance to meet and purchase from your favourite Etsy vendors who create in your own backyard . . . This Saturday is also National Learn to Code Day, and Ladies Learning Code, presented by Facebook, is teaching Data Insights with Python for Beginners. The donate-what-you-can class runs 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Magnet Forensics (Unit 2 – 156 Columbia St., Waterloo).