Baxter International’s moving of its IT operations into a new facility signaled a new direction toward an open, collaborative way of working. A more progressive look also allows Baxter to compete effectively for highly skilled workers. A seamless blend of My Studio and Vivo workstations in its Vernon Hills facility sets the tone for, Baxter’s new image and culture. Baxter International’s new Vernon Hills facility is a refreshing sign of growth and change for the medical device and specialty pharmaceutical company. With its bright, contemporary look and blend of Vivo and My Studio workstations, the facility signals that transformation is under way at Baxter.
For several years, however, when Baxter was consolidating real estate and filling pockets of empty space in its headquarters facility, it looked to Herman Miller for different resources than the Prospects workstation upon which the company was standardized. “We helped with density studies and suggested efficient ways to use existing space,” says Jim Giobbia, Herman Miller account development manager. “We conducted learning seminars on issues such as ergonomics, sustainability, diversity, and workplace trends.”
For example, Betty Hase, Herman Miller workplace strategist, led a group of Baxter decision makers through a Business Realities Banner exercise to help the company sort through its priorities and envision its future course. From that exercise, several issues emerged.
First, the organization sought a fresh image and a look that reflected its progressive new direction. A spectacular redesign of its Deerfield headquarters lobby had already begun to define the new Baxter, yet some of its facilities still needed updating.
Second, with several major healthcare companies located along the nearby I-294 corridor, competition was fierce for a new generation of highly skilled employees. Baxter’s workplace needed to project an image consistent with its years of innovation and industry leadership.
And third, Baxter wanted the design of its facility to support and even drive that spirit of change. It wanted to encourage a more collaborative way of working and to bring its leaders closer to the teams they manage. Based on Hase’s banner exercise, the company also knew it needed to accommodate the divergent expectations of several generations of workers, from the collaborative but workstation-oriented Boomers to the mobile, tech-savvy Millennials.
When a major consolidation of all Baxter’s IT operations into a facility in Vernon Hills was announced, the facilities team was educated and ready to move forward.
The new Vernon Hills facility, designed by the NELSON group, is light filled, crisp, and egalitarian. A sky-bright “Baxter blue” and rich caramel accents blend with a patterned beige carpet and creamy cladding on the workstations. Directors and managers are located in clusters of My Studio workstations near the teams they oversee. “With the My Studio we could offer people some privacy and a door without building drywall offices,” says Kristen Drewke, director of Facilities Planning.
With the same finishes, frosted glass, and design details, the surrounding Vivo workstations share not only the same look, but also many of the design concepts of My Studio workstations. They have the same outward-bound orientation, so users face the “streetside” aisle. They have primary and secondary work surfaces, a display area with bookcases, and translucent glass panels that allow light to filter through and that make the workstations seem larger—an important feature since the Vivo workstations are eight square feet smaller than their former Prospects workstations.
“People don’t realize they’re smaller when they sit in them,” says Ms. Drewke. “They comment that the workstations feel more spacious.” And in fact, with bookcases and sliding-door overheads, the Vivo workstations give users an equal amount of work surface space and more storage (8 feet instead of 7.5) than their former workstations. “You get the same great look and many of the functions of the My Studio workstations for half the price,” notes Giobbia.
Private offices are also furnished in wall-hung Vivo product. Although these offices are six square feet smaller than their previous offices, they are more efficient, with generous work surface, storage, and conference space. “Vivo is a cost-effective alternative, and it provides more flexibility, better cable management and more function,” says Ms. Drewke.
Impromptu gathering spaces are scattered throughout the facility and are furnished with items from the Intersect Portfolio—mobile easels, Caper and Celeste seating, mobile Eames tables.
Not surprisingly, Baxter employees questioned the loss of their private offices and the rationale for moving into smaller, more open workstations. Hase and Giobbia regularly met with user groups to orient them to their new workstations and to explain the design concepts behind them.
As Baxter employees moved into their bright, new space, however, opposition died away. “Once they saw the Vivo, they embraced it,” says Ms. Drewke. “I walked through the building yesterday, and one guy was sitting back in this Aeron chair in his Vivo workstation, feet up on the work surface, talking into his Bluetooth headset. And why not? He was doing business. That’s what I want to see.”
Following its successful Vernon Hills installation, Baxter is looking at its other facilities to ensure that they provide a collaborative environment, present a progressive face to outsiders, and nudge its own people toward a new way of working.
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