OFFICE CRUSH: Futuristic workspace of MD Physician Services emerges from ashes

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine as part of a series of three colourful workspaces in Ottawa.

BY SARAH BROWN

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Photo by Tim Lau

When a small fire led to extensive smoke damage in MD Physician Services’ six-storey office, president and CEO Brian Peters and his team decided to view the setback as an opportunity to redesign and retool for the next decade. Project Phoenix was born. The dramatic cosmetic changes steal the limelight, but Peters is proudest of how the new office works — state-of-the-art communications tools, flexible workstations, and diverse meeting spaces make for a happier and more motivated workforce.

The design team, 4té, that led Project Phoenix used one wall within the building to celebrate the renovation. Here, an artful array of words and sentence fragments highlights the ideas that drove the design. Four key words at the end sum it up perfectly: Small Fire. Lasting Legacy.

By the Numbers…

MD Physician Services

Type of business: Financial management and investment services for Canadian physicians

Number of employees: 600

Square footage: 120,000 on six floors

Design: 4té

Cost: A few million, some of it paid by insurance

Timeline: January 2013–February 2014

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Photo by Tim Lau

What was the impetus for change?
On January 3, 2013, there was a fire on the ground floor. There was a lot of smoke damage. Since everyone was out of the building for the foreseeable future anyway, we thought why not take the opportunity to completely redo the space and retool for the next decade. Project Phoenix was born.

What are the key elements of the new look?
The designers at 4té took us to visit a number of other office spaces as inspiration. We wanted to be modern and functional. The design process was quite collaborative. We had three big meetings at the Hampton Inn over the course of the design so that everyone in the company could see where we were going and vote on their favourite options.

How does the redesign match your company philosophy?
It matches the way we want to be. Financial services can be a very conservative sector, but we feel that we pushed the envelope a bit with this design. I think it helps us retain forward-thinking people.

Does this workspace make employees more productive?
Definitely. If you’re happy, you’re going to be more productive. This space is much more interactive than the old office. You talk to people more; you’re more focused. The combination of the design and all the systems now in place make everyone feel more connected.

Which room has given you the most bang for the buck?
All the spaces get well used, but if I was going to point to one specific room, I’d have to say the Phoenix Bistro. Before the reno, it was a boring high-school-style cafeteria, but it had the makings of a great space.

How do you justify such a big investment?
This renovation has changed the very dynamics around here. We’re already looking at how we can take the lessons we learned here and transfer them to the other offices around the country.

Click on the thumbnails for a virtual tour of the MD Physician Services office:

All photos by Tim Lau

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