“Work is not a place; it’s something you do.”
This is the maxim that guides Steve Nicholson. The senior director of real estate strategy and operations for Citrix is on a mission to shape the flexible office of the not-so-distant future, and it’s no accident that he’s doing so at a company known for creating cloud-computing software that enables mobile work styles. Together, he and the company are perfectly suited to espouse ideas that deemphasize the importance of the workplace and introduce the possibility of “the office of anywhere.”
Certain tasks and discussions are simply better done in person, though, so even as Citrix helps companies challenge the concept of the traditional office with its software, it still needs offices of its own in which its employees can meet and collaborate when they need to. Enabling flexibility in these spaces while still making them places where employees feel compelled to go is one of Nicholson’s main goals, and to accomplish it, he gets to have a little fun. His most recent project, the transformation of an abandoned Raleigh, North Carolina, warehouse into an ultramodern 172,000-square-foot office headquarters, is meant to revitalize the area’s warehouse district and push the envelope of what an office can be.
Spurred by the acquisition of locally based ShareFile, Citrix’s move to North Carolina is meant to attract and retain workers from the state’s blossoming talent pool. The average age of ShareFile’s employees is 27, and they want to be able to live, work, and play all in the same general area.
Raleigh is a city on the rise, and the excitement there is palpable—residents randomly treat the new headquarters’ contractors to beers, Nicholson says. Citrix’s project signals further growth, and the company is investing significantly in the operation, promising that it will create 337 new jobs over the next five years. The city has embraced Citrix, and the company wants to reciprocate by creating a great place to work that also reflects the history of its unique site.
The location, the former Dillon Supply Warehouse, is a single-story 50,000-square-foot structure that, with the installation of drilled piles, will house an additional three floors, providing a seating capacity of approximately 900. Steel used to arrive there from the railroad, so Citrix is constructing conference tables from the old rail tracks, and to create the conference rooms themselves, the firm is having builders gut and weld together the shipping containers on site. The containers will actually be positioned to look like they’re suspended from
a crane, further tying the building to its former use. By repurposing many of its site’s materials in this way, the new headquarters will honor its roots while also edging closer to its goal of LEED Gold certification.
The project won’t just incorporate the old, though; it will also include indoor racquetball and basketball courts, a yoga facility, a café, a rooftop bocce court, and a 55-foot-wide living wall with a water feature below it. These amenities are meant to increase employee retention and make the staff evangelists for Citrix who will create the buzz to attract new workers.
And of course, as a cutting-edge tech company, Citrix is also intent on integrating emergent ideas and products into its office. “It’s pushing the limits of technology because we’re trying to take things right to the edge,” Nicholson says. “We’re not satisfied with things that are absolutely fully vetted.” Nicholson hopes to keep work and workers untethered, and he outlines a scenario in which an employee could take a tablet into an open-area “innovation zone” with an LED screen on the wall and have a meeting right there with a small group of people.
Technology will also make Citrix’s new headquarters more comfortable. It will be a smart building, with sensors installed throughout various zones to regulate lighting, temperature, fresh-air levels, and energy use. A central monitoring system will oversee each zone, and if employees come in after hours, they will be able to ventilate and change the temperature of specific rooms with the push of a button.
Citrix is even leveraging its own technology to increase the office’s collaborative potential. Simply having Wi-Fi readily available everywhere, including areas such as the café or the bocce court, allows for organic, impromptu interaction and productivity in less-traditional work spaces—and this, in turn, spurs creativity and a freer exchange of ideas. Plus, on the second floor, a college amphitheater-like space with stadium seating includes large projection screens that evoke the feeling of a student gathering.
When Citrix announced its plans to move to Raleigh, it piqued the interest of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit education and research establishment focusing on land use that enhances the environment. The institute invited Nicholson to be a panelist, and he revealed some of the considerations that were involved in choosing downtown Raleigh, explaining why Citrix considered it a future tier-one city. Determining what a tier-one site is and then building what Citrix calls “purpose-built environments,” where introverts and extroverts are able to work in harmony, is all part of the design process. Work may not be a place, but if one has to work somewhere, Citrix will make it special.