By Wendell Hutson, Staff Reporter, Chicago Business Journal | Mar 7, 2022
For two years now, office employees have been working remotely during the coronavirus crisis, making it hard for some employers to effectively use their office space.
But the pandemic did not stop Chicago-based Axiom Consulting Partners LLC from doubling its office size at 200 W. Adams St. The sole tenant on the building's 29th floor, the company increased its footprint to 20,000 square feet from 10,000 square feet.
Axiom also has a lease option to absorb the remaining 5,000 square feet on the floor, which Garrett Sheridan, the firm's president and managing partner, said it will probably end up doing. Renovations are taking place on its additional office space and is expected to be complete by July.
“We have experienced significant growth (25%) in the last couple of years, and the work we do with clients requires a lot of collaboration,” Sheridan told the Chicago Business Journal. “And what we found is that we work best when we are in spaces that facilitate that collaboration.”
He added, “We are not thinking about the next two years (of growth). We are thinking about the next seven to 10 years.”
Also contributing to Axiom’s expansion, Sheridan said, is that landlords are more open to cutting deals that are attractive to tenants, again due to the pandemic.
“Ours was very fair with us considering we’ve been a good tenant for the last 10 years,” he said.
Currently, Axiom has 53 employees, 20% of whom are working at the office on a regular basis with the rest working a hybrid schedule.
“I expect us to hire up to eight more employees this year as our growth continues,” said Sheridan. “We had encouraged employees to come back into the office, but now we are asking them to work three days a week from the office if they can.”
Before the pandemic, there were two employees per office, but Aixom is now using empty offices to reduce the amount of time two people share space. Employees can now reserve an empty office to do a Zoom or phone conference or to just do work independently.
“A lot of employees were nervous about sharing an office with someone who might not be vaccinated, so we asked employees to get vaccinated, although we do not mandate it,” Sheridan said. “Those employees (who are) not vaccinated, we encourage them to work from home. And we are concerned about sending unvaccinated employees to meet with a client too. (Last) Monday, we dropped the mask requirement for employees the same time as the city of Chicago, but masks are required when employees are in public spaces at the office.”
Garrett said employers will need to get creative with their office space, especially since many of them are locked into long-term leases.
“Companies need to reimagine what the office should look like because you don’t need the same footprint used pre-pandemic,” Sheridan added.
For example, he suggested employers consider reconfiguring their space to include more conference rooms and leisure areas with open space, as opposed to enclosed break rooms.
“There was a time when everybody wanted to work close, but that has changed, and it’s going to be a while before employees feel safe again at the office,” he said.