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Omaha Magazine

CoBank’s Workspace

Jan 18, 2024 11:29AM ● By Tamsen Butler
cobank Where Collaboration Meets Flexibility CoBank’s Workspace b2b ferbuary 2024 in the office

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

CoBank’s Workspace [9 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Two words recur frequently when speaking with anyone involved with CoBank’s new workspace: collaboration and flexibility. The local leaders of Omaha’s cooperative financial institution serving rural industries realized as their lease was ending that it might be time to create a workspace more conducive to the post-pandemic way of working.

“COVID changed the way we worked,” Marcus Wilhelm, CoBank’s regional president, said. “We now have a heavy hybrid model,” he added, explaining that since so many people work remotely, they no longer needed all the space their previous location on 138th and FNB Parkway had. They went from an office space of an estimated 8,500 square feet to around 5,500 square feet in the new space on Capitol Avenue.

Downsizing was a challenge for which SCOPPA architecture principal and co-founder Daniel Bolt was prepared. He quickly realized that there were plenty of spaces CoBank’s people didn’t frequently utilize, such as a large conference room that basically took up space and wasn’t used very often. He also noticed that storage took up a large portion of the space throughout the office. It didn’t take long for everyone involved to come to the same conclusion: “We had to ditch all the storage,” Bolt said. 

Wilhelm enthusiastically agreed that a more efficient space could translate into less storage, so when they made the move, they eliminated a great deal of items that were in storage. The new office makes better use of the space and only boasts one main storage room and a mail room adjacent to receptionist Colleen Schmidt’s desk. The small mail room is kept tidy and well organized, devoid of clutter. 

Design Consultant Amber Gustafson with Colliers International also had a hand in helping create the new, efficient office. “They wanted to create a space that was inviting and could host all the employees at one time, which was tricky to do in their previous space,” sje said. “Then, they wanted to have some space for hybrid employees.” 

Beyond needing a flexible workspace that encouraged collaboration, the leadership at CoBank wanted one important feature: natural light. The new office has an abundance of it spilling in from the large windows, granting everyone from cubicle dwellers to private office folks ample outdoor light. The space is inviting, with numerous breakout rooms of varying sizes. The thought put into the breakout rooms is obvious. For example, easy-to-use tablets are stationed outside each room, which make it simple to reserve them. The positioning of webcams and monitors help remote participants feel as though they’re part of the conversation instead of just having a partial view of the participants in the room.

Above, an exposed ceiling and linear baffles help make the space feel more open while helping control the noise level. Below, patchwork carpet features a design reminiscent of the view of farmland seen from an aerial view. Art displayed throughout the space references farmland, while breakout rooms feature names with nods to agriculture.

An inviting “living room” area features couches and a coffee table. A suspended light fixture hangs in the center of it all. “We tried to make it relaxing and comfortable,” Wilhelm said. “It’s smack in the middle of everything that’s going on.” He enjoys being able to relax in the space while inviting collaboration. Indeed, the living room is Wilhelm’s favorite feature of the new office, although the eye-catching wooden wall in the entry also sits toward the top of his list. 

“We took a risk,” Wilhelm admitted. “Will this work? Is this type of work here to stay? We built the space with flexibility that will allow us to convert it back to a traditional workspace if we need to.” But with this thoughtfully designed space, and the current trend of hybrid work, it’s likely CoBank’s new office will serve its purpose for years to come.

CoBank, SCOPPA, and Colliers were all involved in creating this flexible space of collaboration. For more information, visit cobank.comscoppaarch.com, and colliers.com/en/united-states/cities/omaha.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2024 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, 
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