How BCG is rethinking the workplace at New York's Hudson Yards.

Staff Writer

When Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was looking to create a New York City headquarters with tomorrow in mind, they had a number of simultaneous objectives: How do you make a space inviting? How do you encourage BCG alumni in the area to stop by? To get nonprofit clients to hold board meetings at the new location? To encourage existing consultants on different projects to share ideas? Here’s how BCG did it:

#1: Make a good first impression

When you enter their new Hudson Yards location, one thing’s for certain: it’s a very open space. A concierge in the building offers all the same benefits as a hotel concierge, from assistance with getting a laptop table to advice on what restaurant to take a client. And the views are spectacular, overlooking both downtown and midtown Manhattan.

#2: Make it social

BCG’s headquarters are more than just clusters of offices – they’re also places to network and socialize. To that end, the café has become an important space for employees to work and network. During the week, there are anywhere between 450 and 550 employees spending time in the café area – in a business where consultants typically spend most of their time at the client’s office.

#3: Make it collaborative

The collaborative aspect is especially important in an environment like BCG, particularly since people are coming in from all over: roughly two-thirds of the workforce is mobile. During the week, from Monday to Thursday, people come in from different offices to “replace” all the people who have left . The design was intentionally built with the goal of making it a magnet for consultants, alumni, clients, and other constituents, bringing people together in the name of greater collaboration.

#4: Make it unpredictable

Every floor of the new BCG office building is different. The traffic patterns are different, the furniture is different, even the feel is different, giving the space a kind of unpredictability. Each floor has a different theme that is reflected in the conference rooms. The 43rd floor, for example, is art-themed; there are different manifestations of art throughout the space, including street art. A street artist that used to sneak into the rail yards years ago to create art illegally was now commissioned to produce a massive piece for BCG, bringing things full circle.

#5: Make it functional

At the end of the day, however, it has to be a functional office that works for everyone. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design, as well as the functionality. Take the music-themed room, for example. Everything in this room reflects music in some way, from the record player in the corner to the acoustic panels lining the walls.

BCG also put plenty of soundproofing throughout the building, so people can’t hear from one room into another and meetings aren’t interrupted by noisy phone conversations. Screens outside each room show you who has each room booked – minimizing the risk of conflict. And the furniture is movable, allowing tables and chairs to be moved around to suit people’s needs. Wireless presenting, another hallmark of the new space, means no need for messy cables.

#6: Make it inviting

“For a lot of consultants, Friday is their home base time,” says BCG’s Senior Partner & Managing Director for New York Ross Love. He believes it’s important that these consultants feel at home. The desks devoted to mobile employees each have a tablet, so when you check into a desk for the day, people can track you down. Once you’re checked in, the tablet becomes a photo frame, displaying some of that employee’s photos. It’s a nice way to personalize the space, especially for those employees who are always on the go and aren’t able to bring personal mementos with them.

#7: Make it convenient

Rather than rely on anecdotal data, BCG did a thorough zip code cluster analysis and discovered something interesting: unlike what they’d assumed, their senior partners weren’t typically on the Upper East Side (a Manhattan neighborhood quite far from the Hudson Yards site) and far out in the suburbs. Instead, they found that they were more likely to live in neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

But the company wasn’t just interested in looking at where their employees live now. They were also looking to the future and making an investment in the long term. It’s not enough to know where people are living in 2017; you also have to think about where people will live 15 years from now.

#8: Question Everything

While the Hudson Yards site was on BCG’s shortlist, when all was said and done, BCG had less than a year to complete the design. What’s clear is that BCG had the foresight to determine that Hudson Yards was a viable option, despite being so far away (relatively speaking) from where most corporate offices are based in Manhattan.

It helps that the office was run by someone who was not a native New Yorker. Despite being a visitor to the city for years, Love arrived in January 2015 with a relatively unbiased perspective of the city and its neighborhoods. Native New Yorkers tend to have a preference for their own neighborhoods over others, which makes it difficult for them to see the merits of other areas – so having an outsider’s perspective made all the difference.

What does the new space say about BCG as a firm? “It was a deliberate and authentic statement of our brand. We often say in the consulting world, our competitors roll out world’s best practices to our clients,” explains Love. “We’re not happy with world’s best practice, because everyone’s going to do that, so you’ve got to think about how you competitive differentiate yourself beyond that instead of just following the herd.”

#9: Plan for the Long Haul

Employees know that short-term distractions, like the construction, will go away. “The goal was to make a place that was a destination in and of itself so it didn’t matter where it was,” says Love. “Even though we were in early, you could tell the developers had a vision for the space, and there weren’t new commercial spaces (other than WTC) going up.”