Best Offices Ottawa: A workplace that reveals a company’s culture and personality

IMI
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by IMI - A Global People Company. 
This profile originally appeared in the 2020 Best Offices Ottawa. Read the full magazine here.

IMI

Bold and bright are two obvious descriptors for IMI – A Global People Company’s new office space in Westboro. Funky and functional are two others.

“The workplace should reflect the ethos of the organization,” said president and CEO Rudi Asseer. “If we’re out promoting customer experience, it’s equally important to provide an innovative employee experience.”

Asseer wanted to create a comfortable working environment for his employees that would enable creativity and collaboration.

IMI is a global company that provides technical resources and solutions to the supply chain industry. It deploys more than 2,500 technicians across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to Fortune 500 companies, such as FedEx,Walmart and Amazon. The company is headquartered in Ottawa, but has offices in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Ontario, Calif. All offices have the same look and feel as this one in Westboro.

Given the tremendous growth since moving the headquarters to Ottawa, IMI had to relocate to a larger space this year, doubling its footprint. IMI is now well placed to manage scale for its employees and clients.

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Modernization

The size of the new space was the biggest challenge, as was “taking the ’80s out,” said designer Susan Fijalkowska. “The ’80s were full of curves. We got rid of the big curved wall in the office and squared it up.” Interior walls were removed to create an airy, open-concept design.

Rows of long tables, separated into practical workspaces by low dividers, created a working hub at the centre of the space. Meeting rooms and offices for the managers were built around the outside of the hub and are divided from the main space by glass.

“It feels a lot more like family here. Everyone collaborates together.”

This allows sunlight from the enormous exterior windows to pour through the glass walls, and fill the entire office space with natural light. Plus, windows on the entire north side of the office have a view of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and the Ottawa River.

“My favourite part of this new space is all the natural light, the airiness of the open concept and the fact that the board rooms and offices have glass walls instead of closed doors,” said Alexandra Rodionova, IMI’s brand and culture marketing manager. “This really promotes creativity and collaboration.” Staff use the glass walls as white boards, brainstorming on them with erasable markers.

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Orange is the colour that pops here. IMI’s signature brand colour is highlighted throughout the design in chairs, office dividers, strips in the carpeting and burnt orange accent walls. It’s complemented by grey and off-white tones in the carpeting and main walls. Grey barn board covers the wall behind the reception desk and the structural pillars in the main work area.

This natural design element takes inspiration from the surrounding treed parkland. Stylized paintings and 3D grey plaster deer heads are wall art pieces that tie in the nature theme and are tongue-in-cheek symbols of IMI – a headhunter company.

“It also places it as very Canadian,” added Fijalkowska.

Collaboration

At one end, three private phone booth rooms line the wall. These small workstations offer a quiet space for people to work or make a private call. There is also a comfortable nook with pillows and books where employees can take a break and relax. ABI provided all of IMI’s funky custom furniture.

IMI

“It feels a lot more like family here. Everyone collaborates together,” said Rebecca Rose, IMI’s integrated channel marketing specialist. “There’s space for us to chat, get to know one another, especially in the collaborative spaces. And having that pillow area – people relax and read a book during their lunch breaks or bring their laptop over to work. It’s nice having the option to move around to different areas.”

“People can check out and unplug, and be creative with the space – make it appealing,” said Asseer. “Ottawa is a highly competitive market place. We invested in a space as part of a strategy to attract and retain talent.”

Then there’s the kitchen. It’s big, bright and bold with a long table and chairs, couches, a TV screen, and a mini basketball hoop. Because it is in the corner, large windows on two sides look out on the Parkway and the river. One wall features a huge black-and-white mural, designed and painted by local graffiti artist Robbie Lariviere from Fall Down Gallery.

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“He came in and pulled all the important bits about IMI and its people, and put it all on the wall,” said Fijalkowska.

The kitchen (known as the “Meet Locker”) is a favourite hangout.

“People don’t typically eat lunch at their desks,” said Rose. “Most of us try to meet up for lunch to connect.”

When IMI staff members need a break from sitting at their desks, they can go into the kitchen, make coffee, shoot hoops or play Nintendo games. It’s where employees come together for company meetings, training sessions, team-building exercises and fun activities, such as potlucks, movie nights and cornhole tournaments.

“People are head-down working, getting things done, but we do have that opportunity to step away, explore, rethink, regroup; so that makes it a nice, fun place to work,” said Rodionova. “It really works for the culture and personality of our company.”

IMI is all about people and its culture, and it shows in its office design and layout.

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