Take a look inside a real estate giant's stunning Chicago headquarters, with a 16,000 square foot gym and panoramic views of the city
Meghan Morris/Business Insider
- One of Chicago's biggest office buildings recently added a ton of amenities, like a 16,000 square foot gym and meeting space, with panoramic views of the city.
- The Aon Center building now boasts the city's largest amenity space, with a café, games, work space, and more, run by real estate company JLL.
- JLL redesigned the lobby, amenity floor, and its own six-floor headquarters within the building.
- Before the revamp, JLL spent two years surveying and interviewing the 900 employees who worked in the building. That changed how leadership thought about everything from location to design, the head of JLL's workplace strategy practice told Business Insider.
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Chicago's Aon Center might not win any awards for most interesting building from the outside - the 83-floor office building is one gray, long rectangle that towers over Millennium Park.Inside, however, recent renovations now allow employees to exercise, play games, host meetings, and sip lattes with panoramic views of the city from the 70th floor. Later this spring, they'll be able to have cocktails there, too. Advertisement
JLL, the world's second-largest real-estate company, embarked on major upgrades to the building that reshaped common spaces like the lobby and amenities floor, as well as its six-floor headquarters.
Understanding that the workforce was more urbanized than executives thought led the company to stay in the Aon Center, even though the building is farther from commuter trains connected to the suburbs than many other offices.Nolan said JLL undertook the renovations with three principles in mind:
- Agility: Before the renovations, the office floor plan was 80% assigned - employees had cubicles or offices. Now, only 50% is, with the rest of the floorplan dedicated to shared space, like phone booths and small conference rooms. JLL's headcount grew from 900 to 1,400, but the firm still occupies the same six floors, thanks to a smaller per-employee footprint.
- Connection: Employees felt siloed in their previous cubicles or office space, disconnected from the larger company, so the company added a 3,000 square foot lounge. Nolan said it's now common for employees to spend three or four hours working in the club space, rather than at their desks. Two staircases, one in the club and another near reception, are also meant to foster more connection than riding in an elevator.
- Choice: Gone are the cubicles, in are options to work at a rolling desk, private room, conference room, lounge, kitchen, and other areas.
The Aon Center's lobby renovations include more seating and electronic check-in for employees without badges.
JLL's reception area includes work stations for employees and guests, along with a "technology concierge" to handle any conference room issues.Advertisement
No more corner offices: JLL's 36-foot work stations include electronic standing desks and wheels, so they can be configured for any occasion.
JLL prioritized smaller individual and group meeting rooms over large conference rooms, finding the latter were under-utilized.Advertisement
"The Lab" is a conference room with rolling desks that can be configured into smaller "pods" for group work, and an audio/visual system that connects multiple offices.
Open kitchens corrected employees' complaints about the galley-style kitchens.Advertisement
Booths in the kitchen were designed to eliminate noise, providing quiet areas for eating and working.
A two-story club room provides a central working, meeting, and networking spot for JLL employees.Advertisement
Two full-time baristas staff the bar, which also has cold brew and kombucha on tap.
The club can be converted into a 4,000 square foot event space by removing a retractable wall to an open room, largely used for training, next door.Advertisement
Both JLL's office and the Cloud Level offer 360-views of Chicago. The south-facing windows overlook Millennium Park.
Cloud Level: Aon Center's amenities floor is open to all building tenants.Advertisement
Not all work: Cloud Level includes several game options, including pool, Connect Four, and shuffleboard.
Cloud Level includes open space for relaxing and working, as well as private areas to hold meetings.Advertisement
Two libraries offer space to work, meet, and read – the books are real. A separate conference room area has a few rooms of varying sizes for more private meetings.
Peak, the building's fitness center, includes full locker room facilities.Advertisement
Some Aon Center tenants pay their employees' memberships. The rest can pay $120 per year for the gym, which also has a studio for yoga and other group classes.
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