Bob Greenberg can’t wait to show me his favorite chair. The CEO of R/GA is striding around the airy new Manhattan headquarters of his creative agency, yet rather than parading me through the flashier elements of the light-drenched space—the wall of iconic iMacs, his collection of Ducati motorcycles, the centuries-old Chinese Buddhist sculptures—Greenberg is most amped about the office’s Walter Knoll furniture. In fact, when we arrive to a "huddle room" housing one of the pieces, Greenberg kicks back in the chair to demonstrate its comfort, and then stands and even flips it upside-down so he can read off the make and model for me. "Give it a shot," he says with a smile, gesturing me to sit down after he turns it over again. "It’s such a good chair."
Comfort, warmth, openness—Greenberg says R/GA, the firm he founded in 1977, was in dire need of this kind of refresh. The company had outgrown its space six blocks north, a stale set of offices, Greenberg says, that started to feel more like a law firm than a place of creativity. When we checked in last December, R/GA was still developing out the space, focused on creating a "connected office" in partnership with Foster and Partners. Though cranes and construction still surround this building at 450 West 33rd, as part of Fast Company’s Innovation Festival, Greenberg gave a small group attendees a peek at how the 200,000-square-foot office is coming to life—and how he’s focused on all the details, right down to the furniture.
Inside R/GA’s new space are two Matrix-white floors, each the size of a soccer field. Few physical walls separate all the rows of sit/stand desks—most partitions are made of glass, to welcome the sunlight flooding the space. More than 8,000 Ketra light bulbs also line the ceilings, automatically adjusting to create a more natural-feeling atmosphere, even for those not sitting near the windows. And the wired office even features a digital wayfinding system to help employees and guests navigate the sprawl via smartphone.
The changes, Greenberg says, aren’t simply aesthetic. As R/GA now competes for talent not only with other interactive and advertising consultancies and agencies, but also with startups and big technology companies, this new office was apparently essential in lowering the company’s attrition rates. "We’ve gained about 5 [percentage] points in terms of retention [since moving into our new office]," Greenberg boasts.
To keep that figure improving, Greenberg says the company has to constantly assess all the elements of its office and culture, to make it as welcoming as possible, whether that’s the comfort of the Knoll furniture he showed off to me, or even taste of the coffee R/GA serves in its cafe. "We just recently changed our coffee vendor—if this is all meant to [increase our] retention, what if the coffee was bad?" Greenberg says. "Everything has to be looked at."