Rosslyn, Virginia, in the heart of suburban Washington, DC, is home to a 35-storey office building that narrows as it reaches the top. Here, close to the Potomac River and taking up floors 25 to 35, Nestlé is locating its new US headquarters, after moving across the country to be closer to its business operations and customers.

At the top of this office space (which covers about 23,000 square metres) where the building is narrower, Nestlé is designing one floor as an open configuration where employees can meet and collaborate. There will also be a chef’s kitchen – it is a food giant, after all – where recipes can be tried out and a coffee bar stocked with the company’s products.


Making connections

Perhaps most eye-catching is a large, oval-shaped staircase connecting the workspace from the 25th floor to the 33rd floor. In short, every design element of the company’s new headquarters signals openness and collaboration – which is exactly the intention.

For example, Nestlé hopes the staircase will encourage employees to use the stairs to connect with colleagues on different floors, according to Dawn Striff, head of corporate real estate and facilities, Nestlé USA. “We want people to feel like the entire building is open to them and that they can move freely throughout the space,” she says.

An open design has become the done thing among modern offices and a forward-looking tenant base. Certainly this type of design, which is meant to encourage collaboration and collegiality, has been around for decades. In recent years, however, it has experienced a revival as millennials have entered the workplace. This demographic, it turns out, do not like walls and cubicles.

Mary-Claire Burick, head of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, says: “One in three workers are millennials now and the environment in which they work and where they work are the type of things they care about. They want to be in a pleasant workspace, they want to be close to transit [Nestlé’s headquarters is very close to a metro stop] and they want great amenities. They have that here.”

Attracting talent

Designing a workspace that would attract the best talent was a priority for Nestlé, says Ms Striff. But the company also had loftier goals, such as promoting a relaxing environment and encouraging a healthy work-life balance. “It’s about allowing employees to work their best and then sending them home in a good state of mind so they can be a good spouse or parent or whatever the situation is,” she adds.

The details to this vision have been carefully planned. Employees will have different locations for certain tasks, such as team-building, to encourage creative thinking and enjoy a change of scenery. There will be hubs off the stairway where employees can grab a drink or a snack, which will also double as informal gathering spots.  

All told, the company is investing $40m in this build-out, in addition to the tenant improvement allowance a landlord typically gives a new tenant. Nestlé is lucky in this regard; in general tenant improvements are generous in the Washington, DC area because it is a strong tenant market right now.

Even if it were not, Nestlé would have gone ahead with its plans, according to Ms Striff, who says: “This design is very important to us.”