The walls of the new Thrive Global HQ are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with a rainbow-hued selection of books. “For me, nothing is warmer than books,” explains Arianna Huffington. “We’re a digital company, but books bring that warmth and humanity.”
Partnering with HQ by WeWork to transform an 8,000-square-foot loft in SoHo, the Thrive team created an office where the concept of warmth and humanity can coexist with a professional atmosphere. Helmed by WeWork chief creative officer Adam Kimmel, the design team worked to navigate that balance over the course of six months.
The goal? “To create a space [that has] everyone here inspired to be creative, do meaningful work and collaborate, and also support their overall well-being. And to make it feel like a home,” says Huffington.
A mix of furniture, including vintage items and even some pieces from Huffington’s personal collection, creates visual interest and promotes that homey feeling. Artwork from Huffington’s daughter, Isabella, is peppered throughout, bringing a personal touch. There’s even an espresso bar situated directly by the entry—a hospitality necessity for Huffington. “I’m Greek; I can hear my mother’s voice saying, ‘someone’s arrived, and they’re not eating or drinking anything,’” she says.
But beyond just crafting a comfortable environment, the space had to be healthy. For Thrive Global, a wellness startup dedicated to helping people lead less stressful, more productive lives through business consulting and its own digital content, its employee’s well-being was at the forefront. Working closely with the WeWork team to identify the company’s needs (a list that included increased flexibility and a distinct identity for the office), the company kept wellness top of mind throughout the design. This played out in many ways.
First, the style. “The materials are natural and unpretentious yet elegant. We mixed unfinished wood and terrazzo and included colors that evoke happiness and balance,” says Kimmel. Bright, cheery colors (a far cry from most corporate offices) further lighten the workspace.
“Science shows that having natural light is really important, so we have a lot of windows and a lot of light, which people love,” explains Huffington, noting the added attention to detail in the plush rugs and fun lighting.
Second to style is the layout. Thrive’s HQ is best defined by its variety; there is a big table where people can eat lunch or bring their laptops to work together, but there are also conference rooms (named after philosophers and practitioners of Thrive values, like Lao Tzu or Marcus Aurelius) and phone rooms for privacy. There’s a recording studio where employees can interview guests. There’s even a wellness room, which includes a space for new parents to pump milk and a Metronap nap pod. With a privacy visor and noise-canceling headphones, the nap pod helps Thrive workers recharge if, for example, they are running low on sleep or are suffering from jet lag.
“Part of our principles and our philosophy is the recognition that when people are exhausted, their performance is diminished,” notes Huffington. “There is no trade-off between well-being and performance; the more recharged people are, the better they work. [We want you] to feel that we are here to support you if you are working here.”
In this way, Thrive offers its employees a plethora of options. “What we found when we researched burnout is that people need a combination of open spaces where they can collaborate and private spaces where they can do deep work,” says Huffington. By giving people the opportunity to not only choose their workspace but also switch it up throughout the day, Thrive is tackling the problem of unproductivity in the workplace head-on.
And it does so without skimping on style.
“Think about the language of typical corporate design and avoid it,” says Kimmel of how to create a stylish office. “Incorporate homey elements, such as one single dining table instead of lots of tables that remind you of a cafeteria. Create a richness with a mix of materials. Use cushions that are actually comfortable. Bringing a little color to a space can be very uplifting.”
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