116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
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A Cedar Rapids company that pushed the boundaries of workplace environments decades before its peers recently opened an 'oasis' entertainment and activity center to help employees re-center, refocus, and re-engage.
GreatAmerica Financial Services, 625 First St. SE, employs about 450 people.
Matt Doty, vice president of corporate communications, said the 6,200-square-foot GreatAmerica Living Space on the first floor of the GreatAmerica Building is a recognition that employee health and well-being are integral to recruitment and retention.
'We have been told by OPN Architects, which was the architect for the project, that nothing like this has been done in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area,' Doty said. 'This type of space is more common on the West Coast where Google and other companies have redesigned their workplace to attract and retain millennials.
'Employees can use this area on breaks to relax or hold an impromptu meeting over the pool table. They also can use it to have a quiet meeting with a client.'
The GreatAmerica Living Space offers a 756-square-foot five-hole putting green, booth seating for 24 people, cafeteria style-seating for 55, a food and beverage kiosk area, pool table, shuffleboard, gaming area with a Wii console and 50-plus-inch television, and four lactation suites equipped with refrigeration and nine lockers.
Two additional televisions fill a wall faced by an accommodating sofa with seating for a dozen or more, with a bar-height counter behind the sofa. Cafe tables and chairs face windows that offer views of the Cedar River.
An enclosed room with wingback chairs, warmer hues, and a digital fireplace provides an area for quiet reading or reflection.
'It is truly a destination,' said Heather Lynxwiler, design architect with OPN. 'The employee entertainment area is intentionally divorced from the individual work stations, conference rooms, and coffee alcoves on each of the six floors above.
'For the space to be successful, though, company leadership understands and embraces that cultural change is crucial. Employees must feel comfortable using the space during work hours as it was intended.'
GreatAmerica employee Angie Schoenfeld said the area is a welcome workplace amenity.
'It's really a wide open space for employees to come down and recharge,' Schoenfeld said.
As GreatAmerica's employment grew over the years, Brenda Taylor said the company really did not have a large space for employees to take a break.
'There's a number of entertainment areas,' Taylor said. 'It's really an enhancement to our building.'
Lynxwiler said OPN has worked on similar workplace redesign projects with John Deere, Kum & Go and Principal Financial in Des Moines.
'We have been going out to companies and saying 'If you want to stay on the cutting edge and hire the best of the best, you have to think about how young people are going to work in the workplace,' Lynxwiler said. 'The younger generation is used to having mobility and being able to work how they want and when they want in a comfortable environment.
'Your work environment needs to reflect your culture and your ability to be mobile and agile for them.'