Love where you work: Inside 7 of Chicago's hottest tech offices

by Michael Hines
July 25, 2018

Loving what you do is important, as is loving where you do it. That’s why these Chicago tech companies have gone above and beyond to design office spaces that encourage collaboration and creativity while also providing plenty of spaces to disconnect and socialize.

 

Narrative Science Chicago office

Narrative Science Chicago office
Design: Charlie Greene Studio — Photography: ©️Tom Harris
Narrative Science Chicago office
Design: Charlie Greene Studio — Photography: ©️Tom Harris
Narrative Science Chicago office
Design: Charlie Greene Studio — Photography: ©️Tom Harris

What they do: Narrative Science helps companies automate data reporting and analysis by using AI-powered natural language generation technology to translate data sets into plain English.

Where they do it: 1 N. Dearborn

Square footage: 40,000

 

What was the most important thing to you in designing the space?

“It was clear that we needed an equal balance of collaborative areas with spaces that are more private,” said CEO Stuart Frankel. “In our new space, everyone has two seats: an assigned desk and another space that is not assigned. I don’t just mean conference rooms, either. There are a ton of informal areas where people can ideate, be creative or relax.

 

What feature of your office do employees love the most, and why?

“We have a lot of great amenities, including a library, private phone booths, a rooftop and cold brew on tap, but I think employees really value the quality and range of experiences our new space provides,” said Frankel. “Our new office balances the serious with the fun. When you walk in, you get the feeling that this is a serious place to work, but there are elements that are clearly designed for unwinding or being social.”

 

Neighborhoods.com Chicago office

Neighborhoods.com Chicago office

Neighborhoods.com Chicago office

What they do: Neighborhoods.com combines home listings with neighborhood-specific content to give budding homeowners a clearer picture of where they’re moving to.

Where they do it: 600 W. Fulton St.

Square footage: 18,000

 

What was the most important thing to you in designing the space?

“We’ve found that in-person collaboration is one of the best ways to foster innovation,” said Director of People Operations Samantha Dahlstrom. “So it was crucial that we build out plenty of space for team members to gather and tackle challenges together. If anyone needs a break, they don’t have to go to a coffee shop for an escape — they can post up in one of our open teaming spaces or at a countertop in our kitchen.”

 

What feature of your office do employees love the most, and why?

“Everyone loves the kitchen,” said Dahlstrom. “It’s where we hold special events, all-hands meetings and impromptu ping pong games on our custom table. The best conversations happen here, whether it’s expanding on an idea from a recent meeting or simply chatting about what’s going on this weekend in the neighborhood.”

 

The Nerdery Chicago office

The Nerdery Chicago office

The Nerdery Chicago office

The Nerdery Chicago office

What they do: The Nerdery is a digital consultancy whose clients include Best Buy, Microsoft and Purina.

Where they do it: 1033 W. Van Buren

Square footage: 24,000

 

What was the most important thing to you in designing the space?

“We wanted our space to be built by nerds for nerds,” said Head of Software Engineering Gregg Walrod. “We created a team called ‘the theme team’ and they were responsible for driving the themes of our conference rooms and the decorations.”

 

What feature of your office do employees love the most, and why?

“I think it is all the tech you find around our office,” said Walrod. “Whether it be the NerdWall [an interactive installation that displays information about employees on a wall], the custom gaming cabinet, the shuffleboard table that keeps score with a Microsoft Kinect or our custom-built dashboard. There are so many things you’ll find throughout the office that are built by our nerds to enhance the space.

 

G2 Crowd Chicago office

G2 Crowd Chicago office

G2 Crowd Chicago office

G2 Crowd Chicago office

What they do: G2 Crowd’s business software and services review platform is designed to give companies additional insight — pulled straight from users — into the pros and cons of tools they’re considering for purchase.

Where they do it: 20 N. Upper Wacker Dr.

Square footage: 23,000

 

What was the most important thing to you in designing the space?

“Our team prioritizes a collaborative work environment,” said President Tim Handorf. “We do not include any individual offices and our conference room spaces are as open as possible.”

 

What feature of your office do employees love the most and why?

“Cold brew coffee on tap is extremely popular,” said Handorf. “If you want to see how quickly some of our team can move, tell them there’s a freshly tapped keg of cold brew.”

 

PHMG Chicago office

PHMG Chicago office

PHMG Chicago office

What they do: PHMG is an audio branding agency that uses creative copywriting, professional voice artistry and custom music to helps businesses improve the caller experience.

Where they do it: 401 N. Michigan Ave.

Square footage: 11,256

 

What was the most important thing to you in designing the space?

“It was hugely important for us to develop a working environment that reflected our product,” said Creative Director Symon Dickinson. “We were inspired by the innovation and modernity of audio branding. The slick, stylish surroundings take influence from our staff’s passions of music and sport, and we’ve incorporated huge amounts of open space to encourage collaborative working and strong colleague relationships. We were also keen to introduce several recreational areas, giving our staff a place to recharge and refresh to encourage new ideas.”

 

What feature of your office do employees love the most, and why?

“The recreational spaces are certainly a big hit — particularly our breakout areas with foosball and ping pong tables, which is perfect for our staff’s competitive nature,” said Head of Talent Acquisition Melanie Francis. “On a Friday night, you’ll always find team members raising a glass to the weekend in our dedicated sports bar, The Goat. And one of the best features of the office actually sits outside it: the panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the stunning Chicago skyline.”

 

bswift Chicago office

bswift Chicago office

bswift Chicago office

What they do: Founded in 1996, bswift builds technology that makes the world of benefits administration easier to navigate for employers, brokers and exchanges.

Where they do it: 10 S. Riverside Plaza

Square footage: Over 100,000

 

What was the most important thing to you in designing the space?

“We wanted to create an inviting and stimulating environment,” said COO Leslie Pontello. “Desks are around the perimeter of the building to give everyone a great view and plenty of natural light, and open seating allows for easy collaboration and provides great support for new employees. We have multiple ‘bCafes’ and over 60 collaboration rooms, which provide a variety of areas to work and socialize. We also have Zen rooms on all floors for employees to take a moment to disconnect.”

 

What feature of your office do employees love the most and why?

“Our employees love the open work space,” said Pontello. “Our ping pong tables, massage chairs and bCafes are just a few other features employees love. Our office intentionally features a lot of open areas, and these spaces have been ideal for our frequent pop-up events, like our recent World Cup viewing party. Each of our employees have different interests and needs, so we make a conscious effort to provide a variety of new features and events and to really diversify our space.”

 

Heretik Chicago office

Heretik Chicago office

Heretik Chicago office

What they do: Built atop Relativity’s flagship e-discovery platform, Heretik uses machine learning to simplify the often-complex contract review process by organizing and analyzing the data within documents.

Where they do it: 205 W. Wacker Dr.

Square footage: 3,000

 

What was the most important thing to you in designing the space?

“We wanted to design a space that we really loved being at,” said CEO Charlie Connor. “We definitely don’t have a traditional setup, but that’s exactly how we wanted it. Our office has lots of character, and there is a story or tradition behind every single thing you see.”

 

What feature of your office do employees love the most, and why?

“We built our office as a team, so every decision was collaborative,” said Connor. “We are most proud of our conference rooms. We named them all after TV attorneys, and each room has a different style and purpose. We had a local Chicago artist, Carolyn Pokorney, create custom portraits of each attorney that hang in each room.”

 

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