The ONE coolest thing I learned about United Way this week: Our office is more than a “sweet space”


Valerie West
Digital Engagement Specialist
United Way for Southeastern Michigan

When I interviewed for my position as the Digital Engagement Specialist, (you know, I “play” on the Internet every day), the first thing I noticed was the office space. Clean. Modern. Open. There were few embedded offices or dreaded cubicles. Natural light spilled into the suites. I was in awe, and I hadn’t even sat down for the Q&A.

Prior to this position, I worked in print journalism. Newspaper journalists are proud of their humble workspaces. Forget what you’ve seen in some movies. Newsrooms are not high-tech offices filled with men who look like Clark Kent. (OK, we actually did have one dude who looked like Superman). But in reality, newsrooms actually resemble a library with a stomach bug. By this, I mean, newsrooms look like a library that regurgitated all of its contents coupled with "days-old" pizza boxes into a hoarder’s dream hovel. We were an inventive crew, though. Did you know that pop bottles can be a cost-efficient measure to collect water from leaky roofs?

So, when I left my newsroom digs for an office in downtown Detroit, it was pretty inspiring to look out over Woodward from the United Way windows. To prove it, camera crews came in about a month after I started working here to film our space. I tried to hide. I was having one of those “I feel really short with frizzy hair” days. Just as I failed at taming my mane, I also failed at hiding from the camera crews.

Despite my own qualms about being filmed, this video from SmithGroupJJR captures the essence of the Workplace of the Future. I never saw the old United Way office. From what I’ve heard, it was less than efficient and full of wasted square footage -- thirteen floors worth of it.

Now, in our Campus Martius home, I have the opportunity to easily collaborate with fellow co-workers. We can sit anywhere, meet anywhere and better yet, work from home part-time. On some level, I think this theme translates to more than just an office. It is a metaphor for collaboration. We stress this in our work and in the community. We can’t make change happen alone in our silos.

“The space is designed to accelerate our work.” Mike Brennan says in the video. (Click here to read more about what Mike has to say about our “Workplace of the Future” on his blog). How true that is.

And that’s The ONE coolest thing I learned about United Way this week: Our office is more than a "sweet space."

It elevates our work, shaping policy and progress. It helps us attract talent, retain talent and work together at completing our goals.

It’s not hard to be inspired when you love where you work and love what you do. United Way for Southeastern Michigan makes it easy to do both. But you can do more than watch the video to see what I am talking about. I’d like to invite you to come see my Workplace of the Future in person. We host periodic tours so that you see our space and learn more about all of the initiatives we work on – from Education to Income to Basic Needs. If you are interested in attending one of these Learn United tours, just drop me an email!