Linking the Future of Work: LinkedIn’s Omaha Office Reflects Changing StrategySep 29, 2022 03:29PM ● By Dwain Hebda
Photos Provided by Gensler
From the outside, LinkedIn’s Omaha office building is an eye-catching swatch of glass, steel, and brick wedged into the horizon. The freestanding wings—five stories and 100,000 square feet apiece—mirror each other and connect by an enclosed bridge, providing a keyhole of sky between them.
But for as imposing as the structure is from the outside, it’s what’s inside that truly sets the project apart. A radical design draped in the iconography of the region, the space is built to race headlong toward the future of work, whatever shape that may take. It is easily within the top tier of innovative workspaces in the region, and a bell cow for the direction LinkedIn envisions for the modern workplace.
“For me, this project represents the humility of what it means to be a Nebraskan; to do hard work but with people who have fun and really love to be together,” said Kelly Dubisar, principal and design director with San Francisco-based design and architecture firm Gensler, who led the design effort on the Omaha project.
“Creating spaces that allow relationships in that community to flourish was one of the foundational pieces of the project. I think LinkedIn being a company that is really forward-thinking in terms of the workplace was a huge piece of what makes this project really special.”
The building comes chock full of its own vernacular —offering railcars, respite rooms, and deep focus spaces that speak as much to environmental form as to business function. Arguably the most revolutionary of these concepts is a dynamic work environment—future speak for no designated workspaces—designed throughout the office space.
“A dynamic work environment uses a neighborhood seating model, where a collective group of people come to the same area but can move around depending on what they need to do that day,” Dubisar said. “This is something we’ve practiced in our own Gensler office in San Francisco for about six years, so it’s definitely not a new model, but it’s a newer model for tech. [Omaha is] one of the first projects that LinkedIn built coming out of the pandemic that really reflects that attitude.”
In fact, the COVID outbreak of 2020 gets an ironic share of the credit for bringing such innovation to the forefront. The company had developed its radical new vision for its workspaces for some time but was growing so rapidly that there was little opportunity to implement it, settling instead for jamming as many desks into existing workspaces as possible.
But when the pandemic sequestered workers to their homes, the company got an unexpected window of opportunity to advance its new workplace ideas. And good thing too, considering once they got a taste of remote work, many employees wanted to continue it at least part of the time. As a September 2021 LinkedIn article noted, nearly three-fourths of workers overall wanted a remote work option and 87 percent of LinkedIn employees wanted at least some time in the office.
In the face of such information, Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn CEO, considered the decision to adopt a hybrid work model less of a strategy and more about trust.
“We’re building on what we’ve learned […] and taking a simple but powerful approach to how we work: We trust each other to do our best work where it works best for us and our teams,” he wrote on LinkedIn’s site in November. “We’ve learned every individual and every team works differently, so we’re moving away from a one-size-fits-all policy. We’re embracing flexibility with both hybrid and remote roles.
“We’re continuing to invest in amazing workplaces for everyday work and those times when our teams come together.”
Implementing the hybrid work model wasn’t without steep challenges, such as the daily unpredictability of occupancy and a desire to enhance the overall employee experience. As Brett Hautop, former VP of workplace, said in a 2021 LinkedIn article, that’s where the dynamic work environment came in.
“Many people don’t want to feel like they’re leaving the house just to go sit at another desk,” Hautop said. “You’re leaving the house to come do something and feel something with other people. We want to provide many different experiences for many different people with many different needs.”
That LinkedIn’s Omaha office building (which would later open in November 2021) would be the model for the new strategy is especially significant, considering how far behind the curve it was at the outset. Omaha’s (now former) digs were routinely ranked at the bottom of the company’s office portfolio. Dubisar said she took the challenge personally.
“There were a lot of eyes, in terms of the company, on making this project important, elevating it to the status of other projects within their portfolio,” she said. “At the time, Jim Morgensen, LinkedIn’s head of real estate, came out and was a part of our visioning process. We also had several sessions with local employees to really talk about the ethos behind why they worked for LinkedIn; not just about what made the company culture really special, but what about this specific site was really important to them.
“For me, it was an incredibly special project to be able to come back and understand that this [Omaha office] in the middle of the country is way more complex than I think people give it credit for. I think the workplace really reflects that understanding.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.