Design

OFFICE CRUSH: A tour of CaseWare’s colourful “Google-ish” workspace

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine as part of a series of three colourful workspaces in Ottawa.

By SARAH BROWN

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen
Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

The new CaseWare offices are a far cry from the basement home office in which chief software architect Andrew Coles began his career three decades ago. In the ensuing years, his company has been bought out, changed names, and moved seven times to keep up with exponential employee growth. By 2011, Coles, who lives in Orleans, was looking for an east-end space big enough to accommodate the company for the long haul. It came as a complete surprise when he discovered his dream space at the St. Laurent Centre. “I was like, right, there is no way I’m moving into a mall,” says Coles with a laugh.

He changed his tune quickly once he started looking at the benefits — affordable rent, free parking, access to public transit, “and stress-free shopping at Christmas,” he says jokingly. Coles teamed up with designer Sarah Oakley of Parallel 45 to transform the former call centre into a vibrant open-concept office, complete with that tech-sector must-have — a games room.

By the Numbers…

CaseWare
Type of business: Data-analysis software

Number of employees: 100

Square footage: 34,300

Design: Parallel 45

Cost: About $2.5 million

Timeline: January 2011–October 2011

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen
Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

What was the impetus for change?
We just ran out of space. We were so squeezed that we were taking over closets for meeting rooms. We looked at renting more space on another floor of the building we were in, but we wanted to keep everyone together.

What are the key elements of the new look?
Colour and openness. We wanted the office to be Google-ish, if you will. When people come to visit, they say it reminds them of the offices in the [Silicon] Valley. You spend so many hours at work, why have drab furnishings? We wanted it to be fun.

Does this workspace make employees more productive?
I think so. It’s a real morale booster. A funky office environment makes you want to come to work. Clients are also impressed, which is important. We held a tech conference here recently, and people kept saying things like “What a fun place! Maybe I should apply here.”

How does the design match your company philosophy?
It captures the sense of fun. We’ve worked with Parallel 45 before, so they know what we’re all about.

Which room has given you the most bang for the buck?
People love the kitchen and the games room. Really, though, what most of us appreciate is not being packed in like we were before. It also cost a bag of cash to raise the ceilings, but it feels so much more open.

How do you justify such a big investment?
I have no regrets. None whatsoever. We have an 11-year lease, so we’re here for a long time. And there’s lots of room to grow. That was built into the plan, because in the tech world, it can be tricky to project how big or small you’re going to be from year to year.

Click on the thumbnails for a virtual tour of the Caseware office