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Growing company hits Target in search for new headquarters

PointClickCare launched a search for a new head office in 2014 but didn't have any early success. Target's former headquarters near Pearson Airport in Toronto became available the following year. (Frank Carr)

Target Corp.’s hasty retreat from Canada turned into a strategic opportunity for a fast-growing organization that had outgrown its offices.

PointClickCare Corp., a software company that serves senior-care providers, had staff scattered across Mississauga in temporary spaces. From 300 employees three years ago, the full-time contingent is now 1,000, with many more on contracts.

A search team was set up in 2014 to find space to bring all 10 departments together in one building, but months of looking turned up few suitable leads, says Sarah Bettencourt, PointClickCare’s vice-president of human resources.

The choices were floors in conventional office towers or in factory-style buildings with little natural light. In all of them, there were restrictions on being able to lay out work spaces to provide the collaboration and healthy environment the company encourages, she says. Building its own new headquarters would take a couple of years to complete.

The expanses of windows immediately grabbed PointClickCare's search committee. (Frank Carr)

When the team learned the building that had been Target Canada’s headquarters in a corporate park near Toronto Pearson International Airport was available, “we were actually kind of skeptical until we walked into the space. It really took our breath away as we walked onto the open-plan floors with big windows and saw the potential,” Ms. Bettencourt says.

U.S.-based Target abandoned the building, known as AeroCentre V, and more than 130 stores early last year after a few years of heavy financial losses across the chain in Canada.

Five-year-old, LEED Gold-certified AeroCentre V has won environmental design awards for its floor-to-ceiling operable windows with automated blinds and its pressurized raised floors for mechanicals and ventilation.

Keeping a poker face in the discussions was difficult, Ms. Bettencourt recalls, but the search team had agreed not to let on that they liked the building. “That would have taken away our negotiation potential.”

With its old rented spaces expiring at end of 2015, the company faced the daunting challenge of getting its new building ready for occupancy within about six months. (Wallace Immen for The Globe and Mail)

As soon as the deal closed in June of 2015, timing of the move gained urgency. The move had to be completed by the end of the year, when leases on PointClickCare’s former rented offices in Mississauga ran out. The planning team started working “crazy hours,” says Cynthia Keeshan, director of marketing communications.

Fortunately, although Target moved out in a hurry, “they really cleaned the space nicely before they left,” she says. Hundreds of cubicles left behind had high dividers, which wouldn’t work with the company’s collaborative style, but the desk frames could be repurposed with new tops made to fit them.

A major challenge was colour. “If you can imagine everything in this building was red,” Ms. Keeshan explains. A lot of the walls, floors, light fixtures and even the furnishings were in Target’s corporate colour.

PointClickCare engaged interior design company Circle Design Inc. of Toronto to give suggestions for a colour scheme. To encourage employee engagement in the move, the company allowed teams from each of its departments to choose their preferred colours from a palette of greens, blues and greys and make suggestions about office layouts, Ms. Keeshan says.

PointClickCare worked with interior design company Circle Design Inc. to come up with a colour scheme for the office. Employees had input, too. (Frank Carr)

The building was designed with open floors with few interior divisions, so there was significant latitude in office layout. The location of heating and cooling vents, and electrical and computer connections, could easily be changed because the building has modular raised floors that were originally designed by Toronto’s Sweeny & Co. Architects Inc.

A few of the original spaces were kept in the redesign. Former glass-enclosed offices were redesigned as “huddle areas” with lounge seating where people can gather and discuss ideas, she says. There is also a large town hall space for staff meetings.

One entire area that was formerly a Target gift shop has been redesigned as a “nursing home of the future.” Essentially it’s a mock nursing home where employees will have the opportunity to experience what it’s like being in a senior home and make suggestions about improvements in care.

The building also has a spacious cafeteria area that was upgraded with more seating options so people can set up to work there if they choose. Meals are partly subsidized by the company. There are even takeout dinners for people who have to work late and want to pick up a meal on the way out for the family, Ms. Keeshan says.

The spacious cafeteria area was upgraded with more seating options so people can set up to work there if they choose. (Frank Carr)

There were challenges to build in some of the features the company provides for employees. An in-house gymnasium and wellness centre planned for half of one of the building’s four office floors ran into delays because it required weighty water tanks that couldn’t be placed on top of the building. The water supplies had to be located beneath the building’s parking levels. The gym’s opening will be delayed until the end of February.

Construction and decorating was still being completed when the move-in took place over the week before Christmas.

“We released instructions to all the employees and packing took a week, then on Friday the movers came in and brought everything over on the weekend. Engineers hooked up over 800 monitors at desks during the weekend, and on Monday morning the full staff arrived at the new building to unpack in their new home.”

All employees were invited to a breakfast with company co-founder Mike Wessinger to mark the move.

Staff reaction to the move has been extremely positive, Ms. Bettencourt says.

“The coolest thing is that we’ve now got everybody together. The staff was really divided in three different buildings before. I can sense that this is creating a stronger team feeling.”

Target left behind clean spaces, allowing for a smooth move of PointClickCare's office furniture. (Wallace Immen for The Globe and Mail)

Staff reaction

Jeff Wright: “After 18 years with the company, the last 10 working from home, I am turning my home office into a den and wanting to be at the new office more often, simply because of the energy that the space amplifies. It makes me very proud to swipe my badge at the front door, and I am reminded every day that I am part of something that is world class.”

Rob Petrusevski: “It’s great to have the entire company together again, particularly after coming from three separate office locations. There is a ton of open space with natural light, which is really great, and with so many different ‘huddle’ areas, there is a lot of opportunity for small impromptu meetings. I would describe the new office in three words – open, collaborative and welcoming.”

Robyn Shanks: “Coming from a previous job in the downtown core, I was anxious about feeling secluded in this new space, and not having a car only increased that anxiety. What I learned quickly, though, is that not only is this building spacious, but it provides everything we need right here. From a walking path for lunchtime exercise, to a cafeteria full of choice, this is an energetic space and great for collaboration.

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