Mount Pleasant, Wis. – When the Olesens of O&H Danish Bakery decided to buy, then redevelop the 2‐acre property next to their flagship store and baking center, that plan eventually became a very good thing for 54 local Johnson Insurance employees.

On June 29, Johnson Insurance moved into its new headquarters at 1103 Hunter Drive, just west of O&H, 5910 Washington Ave. The Olesens' redevelopment of the former Golden Keys restaurant property includes:

Johnson Insurance, part of the $4.8 billion holding company Johnson Financial Group, had spent the previous 11 years farther west in a former auto dealership at 13303 Washington Ave., in Mount Pleasant, a building that had many limitations as an office building.

The new building is quite the opposite and was designed to be more functional and make far better use of space, said company President Joanne Szymaszek.

As just one example, managers' office doors, made of frosted glass, slide into and from the walls instead of swinging inward or outward. That eliminates the need for swaths of door‐swinging space.

Special rooms

On the second floor is the work lounge, a space with casual furniture, brightly colored paintings on the walls and a large magnetic chalkboard.

“This space was designed to be a more collaborative space,” said Margie Lemay, assistant vice president and facilities project manager for Johnson Financial Group. “It's meant to attract — as is the rest of the building … multigenerational talent. So, our goal here is not only for our associates to have a nice place to work, but that we would be a workplace of choice when people are seeking employment in the area.”

The work lounge exemplifies a “resimercial” room, Lemay said, “which is blending residential and commercial into a comfortable space. It's a term that's out there in the industry that's very attractive to the younger generation, the up‐and‐coming, the millennial generation. They feel most productive when they're comfortable, almost like they're sitting at home.”

Not everyone wants to stay seated all the time at the office, and every Johnson Insurance employee has a desk that is easily raised to standing height or lowered at the touch of a button. Szymaszek said the recommendation is that we should stand for 15 minutes of every hour at work.

If staffers want to go to the next level beyond standing, they can use the active office which is equipped with two height‐adjustable walking stations: treadmills with desks.

There is also a wellness room for someone who isn't feeling well, or for nursing mothers, “or just needs a quiet space,” Lemay said.

“And the whole (headquarters) has sound absorption,” Szymaszek said. “We had a lot of discussion around that because there was an echo in the last building, and we're people who are on the phones a lot.”

Let there be light

Lemay said the new Johnson Insurance building was designed “to bring the outside in. So you'll see a lot of larger windows bringing in natural light; it was a big architectural feature.

“You'll also see a lot of glass walls,” which can be moved and reconfigured, Lemay said. “But the main reason was to carry that exterior light in to give our associates and all the occupants the advantage of the natural light — because it's a huge thing for productivity.”

Those interior glass walls all consist of frosted glass. That gives the advantage of privacy. It also lets someone outside a conference room, for example, immediately know the room is either occupied or vacant and available, Janowitz pointed out.

The dividers between work stations are also made of frosted glass, for the same reasons: to give both light and privacy.

Interestingly, even though the square footage of the old and new Johnson Insurance headquarters are nearly identical, perceptions have swung dramatically, said Darlene Janowitz, senior vice president and director of operations.

“If you talk to any of the staff, they would say, ‘We have SO much more room.’ It's more open. And really, we have more conference rooms than we had before; we have more space to get together and train and do things than we had before which, in my eyes, says we're losing space where our staff is sitting. And they don't feel that — they feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have so much more space.’”

Janowitz added, “The environment overall is so much more open that immediately the staff is just more excited about it, and they're talking more to each other, where you would think it would make it a louder environment — and it's not.”

Szymaszek said Johnson Insurance will also invite clients to use the meeting rooms if they would like to. “We're really hoping that this space becomes much more a part of our community — instead of just a Johnson location.”

Article by Michael Burke | The Journal Times