MISSISSAUGA — They tried it at Marriott head office in Bethesda, Md., to great acclaim and positive feedback. When Don Cleary, now president of Marriott Hotels in Canada, worked at Marriott's Asian office, they implemented a similar open office layout. And now the idea of an open concept paperless office with cleaner lines, flexible space and right to light has come to Marriott Canada.
Cleary said they did a lot of research when they tried the new layout in Asia, and determined it actually enhances productivity. “There's great engagement and collaboration opportunities,” Cleary told CLN during a tour of the new facilities. “We can have pop up meeting rooms, or get together at The Hub over a cup of coffee. People who work here love it.”
Marriott needed to renovate and expand its office space on Matheson Blvd. in east Mississauga, as the number of staff has grown from 50 to about 200 with the acquisition of Delta and Starwood. While the renovation has been in the planning stage for about two years, the actual construction took three or four months. During that time, staff relocated to the old Delta offices in downtown Toronto, where Marriott still had a lease.
The new 14,000-square-foot office, designed by Stantec Architecture, turns traditional office design on its head. Where the old design had executive offices around the perimeter windows and service departments on the inside, the new office layout aims to provide natural light to all offices. The service departments have desks lined up, with no dividers between them, to make the best use of light from exterior windows. The executive offices are the interior ones, but they have opaque glass doors so the president and VPs can also have their share of light.
Desks can be raised or lowered, depending on whether the employee wants to work in a sitting or standing position. Tanima Kazi, program specialist, said she likes to start her day sitting at her desk, but sometimes it is easier to type standing up. “I never thought I wanted it for myself, but now I think [the mobile desk] is just awesome.”
“Sitting is the new smoking,” added Sabrina Bhangoo, director of pubic relations for Marriott Canada, referring to the many studies that point out the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Another advantage of the open space is the opportunity to get to know people from different departments. “The design department never interacted with the P.R. department” said Bhangoo. “Now we can learn so much about other parts of the company.
Beside each desk is a multifunctional piece of furniture that looks like a bench seating with red upholstery. There's a shallow drawer for employees to store personal belongings, and a one-drawer filing cabinet. That's the sum total of the space allowed for storage — part of the drive towards a paperless office.
“We've completely digitized everything,” said Kazi. “Whether I'm at work or at home, it doesn't make a difference.” Dual monitors also help make files accessible.
Many of the employees are home based, and there are “hot desks” for the times when they want to work in the office environment. When the president and vice-presidents are out of the office, their offices are available for meetings.
“There's no hierarchy — the executives have an open-door policy,” said Bhangoo.
The expanded space features several meeting rooms. Two of the larger meeting rooms can be combined and then opened up into a communal space for hands-on town hall meetings. “We used to have to move offsite to one of our hotels, but now we can do it here and we can do it more often,” Cleary said.
Cleary noted that his favourite place is The Hub, an area with a kitchen, dining room and living room, where employees can come and chill out.
There's even a room with a long couch where employees can go and have a nap.
“Elements of what we are doing here are similar to what we are doing in our hotels and lobbies. People like the communal aspect — the new generation prefers that style of working,” Cleary said.