For many people, State Farm’s classic tagline, “like a good neighbor,” is more than a jingle, particularly for those who work at one of its recently established hubs in the Dallas, Atlanta, or Phoenix metropolitan areas. These three corporate campuses put State Farm employees within walking distance of restaurants, retail outlets and, in some cases, residential developments that help them live, work, and play not only with their associates, but also others in the community, too, explains Mike Buelow, State Farm’s assistant vice president of administrative services.
The hubs represent a departure from State Farm’s traditional administrative facilities. At the Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix sites, State Farm shares space with a variety of other occupants, and its offices offer easy access to public transportation. The new facilities allow State Farm to meet customers’ current expectations of 24/7 service and provide after-hours support for the company’s nationwide network of roughly 19,000 insurance agents. They also offer administrative employees environments that help them integrate aspects of their personal and professional lives.
“We saw this as an opportunity to change not only the way we work, but also the places we work. It feels right and aligns with our core values and principles,” Buelow says about the company’s emphasis on accessibility and customer care. “It allows us to match our facilities and their design with the business model we see for the future.”
Executives hope the hubs will also help State Farm attract top talent. Increasingly, potential hires are attracted to office environments that offer more than cookie-cutter cubicles, particularly if their workday doesn’t fit the nine-to-five mold. Oftentimes, these cubicles can obstruct their views of coworkers and the surrounding city.
“We know those in the workforce have options, and we’re looking to recruit and retain the best talent we can,” Buelow says. “We want those environments they’re working in not only to be reflective of the associates, but also to feel right from a community standpoint and from a collaborative standpoint.”
All three hubs are up and running and all are still adding jobs. Each campus already includes multiple divisions, representing a wide variety of advancement options for the thousands of State Farm associates at each site, explains Jeff Samp, director of administrative services.
“From an employment standpoint, as you get into these larger metropolitan areas, somebody comes in as maybe a support-level employee. But providing them access to other opportunities throughout their career, I think, is part of why we started to look at these hubs,” Samp says. “That was an advantage we saw within these larger centers. It gives an individual opportunities throughout their career to move up the ladder without having to relocate.”
It also gives them the opportunity to connect and collaborate with colleagues in ways that State Farm’s traditional facilities, including its corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois, might not have afforded in the past. Small tweaks such as shorter cubicle walls make it easier to see and speak to coworkers. More obvious amenities, such as a wider variety of break rooms, common areas, and conference rooms that can be adapted to suit several scenarios, also encourage creativity and cooperation, explains Terri Reynolds, State Farm’s administrative service director, based at the company’s CityLine facility in the Dallas area.
State Farm employees began moving into the first phase of the 2-million-square-foot CityLine facility in 2015, making it the company’s first hub.
“You see people grabbing coffee and doing mentoring,” Reynolds says. “You see people having lunch with friends. These facilities are very vibrant. In CityLine, we have a plaza area, so you see residents out with their children or with their dogs. There are lots of activities. For example, the on-site yoga studio here does free yoga in the plaza on Saturdays. Those types of activities going on are different than those in the facilities we’ve traditionally operated.”
The CityLine campus, located in Richardson, Texas, also includes a center that hosts college classes, volunteer events, and other functions open to State Farm employees and other community members. These centers are also in operation at the hubs in Atlanta and Phoenix. “We’ve done different things there to just connect differently with the community,” Buelow says. “When I think live, work, and play, that’s one of my favorite examples of how we’ve been able to do that.”
In the buildings themselves, State Farm associates are also more visually connected to the community. The hubs are designed to take advantage of natural light, and as a result, the facilities offer impressive views. Samp’s personal favorite is the vista at the Phoenix-area facility, located in Tempe, Arizona, that overlooks Tempe Town Lake and Sun Devil Stadium. Furniture and finishes also add to the offices’ open and modern feel. “If you think about insurance, you know we deal in risk, and we’re somewhat of a risk-averse organization,” Samp says. “That really manifests itself oftentimes in our finishes and other features in our work environments. We often joke about the State Farm beige. In these new environments, we have a little more out there with colors, finishes, furniture, and the design.”
Though it’s difficult to introduce some of these concepts into State Farm’s existing administrative facilities, many of them are still getting a face-lift. Company executives are seeking ways to extend the best aspects of the hubs into legacy office spaces, including State Farm’s Bloomington headquarters, which was constructed more than 40 years ago.
“Thirty or 40 years ago, the design and architecture was just different,” Buelow says. “But we’re finding the right way of blending what we’ve learned from Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix into some of the other environments that we have at State Farm.”
Those lessons haven’t always been easy to grasp over the past five to six years as the three hub campuses have made their way from the drawing board to reality, Buelow says. But executives are confident that the collaborative effort between construction and design experts on the State Farm staff, outside contractors, and the administrative associates who now use the spaces will reap rewards for customers and employees alike.
“Time will tell,” Buelow says. “But if these features make associates feel good about being there, we know that’s going to translate into the way they interact with our customers, with our agents, and others we do business with. And, if the way these facilities are designed—their feel, their energy, their connectedness to the community—and the way they facilitate collaboration help us provide better, more timely service to our customers, then we can feel very, very accomplished in the work we’ve done.”