Let there be light

Let there be light
Insight Brand & Marketing Studio’s rooftop in Charlottetown, P.E.I. | Photography: Kristen Binns

Flex spaces, productive workplaces

THE SHINY SHINDIGS of Silicon Valley seem awfully far away from Atlantic Canada, but let’s set the record straight. Do you want three beers on tap? How about a treadmill desk? Maybe a gym? We combed the coast for the coolest office spaces in the four Atlantic provinces and uncovered some outstanding outfits, featuring video game consoles, wellness rooms and giant slides (yes, giant slides).

Free snacks and beer are great work perks, but there’s a lot more to the potato chip than meets the eye. According to a recent study by Steelcase, employee engagement skyrockets when staff have control over their workspace: The simple act of letting an employee use a standing desk or sit on a couch can increase engagement by 14 to 88 per cent.

Open door policies in meritocratic businesses are increasingly common and office spaces are shifting with it. Increased access to digital tools, areas for collaboration, and a positive work environment not only foster good work but also effectively lengthen the amount of time that people are happy to stay with their current employer.

So, what is the common denominator among these diverse office spaces? Sunshine!

Whether it’s a bold new build or a creative redesign, natural light and green environments were commonly identified as workplace priorities. And that’s just the starting point for the exciting spaces revealed on the follow pages. If you’re gaga for Google’s campus, you’ll love these Atlantic Canadian offices boosting productivity with parties and peanuts.

Insight Brand & Marketing Studio

The welcome wagon is permanently parked at Insight. The Charlottetown marketing company moved into their new office in March 2017 and they wanted everyone from the delivery guy to the top client to feel at home. In fact, it’s so welcoming many of the staff’s families come to enjoy lunch together on one of two patios and some employees even use the space for game nights with friends. The warm creative space is intentionally flexible with a mix of modern furniture and antiques with green pops of inspiration. The design and online teams work together in “the pit” which promotes collaboration and creativity; the web developers, video production and brand managers have their own offices, all of which have a view. Insight encourages change and takes pitches from the staff on a regular basis; staff choose their own hours, too. There’s always a beer in the fridge to have craft beer on the deck, lots of coffee and they bring in lunch for the team.

Click on the image above to view more photos of Insight | Photography: Kristen Binns

McInnes Cooper

The Charlottetown arm of one of the largest business law firms in the country moved into their shiny new space in 2016. The 19th century building at 141 Kent Street has been everything from a pharmacy to a Sam The Record Man but was empty for the majority of the 2000s. The task of transforming the 1881 building to its former splendor was daunting (its last big reno was in the ‘70s). Design firm Nine Yard Studio amalgamated the historic features of the building with modern industrial steel and reworked the space to utilize every inch of the office, expanding it from one floor to three. Moving into the space in January 2016 after more than 20 years in their old office was a literal breath of fresh air for employees. Natural light and fresh breezes were incorporated into the design—all the windows open and exchangers bring in outside air to rejuvenate tired staff. McInnes Cooper occupies the top three floors of the building; their space includes a second floor balcony for hosting events and daily meetings when the sun is shining, as well as a small balcony for private meetings or just to enjoy the panoramic views of Charlottetown’s bustling waterfront.

Click on the image above to view more photos of McInnes Cooper | Photography: Julian Parkinson

Brainworks Razor

The 2017 relocation of this Moncton marketing firm was the impetus for collaboration between Shawn LeBlanc of Designers Den and the creative team at BrainWorks Razor. Together they fashioned a balanced, functional space suitable for late-night brainstorming sessions, but also for events— the modular walls and movable desks make room for parties (last year they threw a Kentucky Derby party for 50) and each employee was given a choice between office or open workspace, complete with standing desks. The modern space pops with historic barn board and a 1965 Triumph 500 Speed Twin motorcycle. Natural light is important (and accentuated in the choice of glass walls), but coffee is king at Brainworks. The centerpiece of the office is the Grind Time Café, the brainchild of lead copywriter Marc Basque (who was a barista in another life). The Café is replete with tea and coffee, including Millenia Tea, Chemex and hand-pressed espresso. The kitchen has a stocked pantry with fresh fruit, Nela’s Kitchen frozen meals from Rothesay, a full wine rack and three taps with alternating local beers.

Click on the image above to view more photos of Brainworks Razor | Photography: Nick Staples

EMPLOYEES: 260   |   FOOTPRINT: 38,000 sq. ft.

It’s not hard to see why Verafin has been on Canada’s Top 100 Employers list three times. Their St. John’s headquarters, designed by Carvel & Helm, just screams teamwork. From the bright accents of Verafin’s signature red to the lack of cubicles (and job titles), the modernly manicured office is ripe for collaboration. Glass-walled meeting spaces, bright boardrooms named after Newfoundland towns, giant whiteboards, comfy chairs with sidearm desks and Skype stations with dual screens combine to create a holistically collaborative environment. A range of workstation options include standing and sitting desks and even massage chairs when you just need a break. Two fully-stocked kitchens overflow with fresh fruit, cereal, popcorn, cookies and chocolate and the beer cart makes its rounds on Friday afternoons for happy hour. Social events are frequent, ranging from barbecues to full-blown music concerts, and there’s been more than one Nerf gun fight in the office. The company provides ample compensation for gym memberships, but there are treadmill desks if you can’t make time to go offsite. Verafin even has a snow-shoeing group trouncing the woodsy trails behind the building.

Click on the image above to view more photos of Verafin | Photography: Chris Crockwell

Grant Thornton LLP

Located on the 10th and 11th floors of the landmark Nova Centre, Grant Thornton’s new Halifax office doesn’t have a bad view, or a corner office. Its four spaces overlooking the Harbour and the Citadel are used for informal work meetings, or just taking in the panoramic views. The design process was a consultative one, organized by the director of operations with input from coworkers and designers. “The right to light” was key for everyone involved. While they’ve only been in the space since December 2017, there’s already been lots of buzz about their celebration space, which has room for 180 partygoers and works well in conjunction with their infamous beer Fridays (which have now become the standard weekend send-off). A giant abacus welcomes visitors in the lobby (an ode to accountants of yore); it’s not only decorative, but functional—in the unlikely event that all the computers break down. This theme is carried into its two kitchenettes where you’ll find healthy snacks as well as smaller iterations of the olde school calculator. The wellness room features soft chairs, cold water and relaxing music for those in need of a peaceful moment during the workday.

Click on the image above to view more photos of Grant Thornton LLP | Photography: Janet Kimber


Redspace moved into the old Nubody’s location at the Sunnyside Mall in 2014. While shades of its former self remain (it has two saunas and a small gym), the candy bar, putting green and giant red slide make it immediately clear that there’s a new corporate culture in town. Thanks to the creative talents of interior design firm design360, this space is as Google-esque as it gets on the East Coast. Primary colours fill the warehouse space, making it feel comfortable and conducive to working together. The majority of REDspace’s clientele are based in the U.S. so while impressing visitors is important, the employee experience was paramount—a decision that has achieved unprecedented levels of productivity. There are a variety of workspaces with communal desks, standing desks and couches so employees are encouraged to move around—ideas can come from anywhere, including the whiteboards which cover any white wall in the office. An array of video game consoles help tired minds rebound and there’s even a putting green on the faux-grass lawn (aren’t all the best deals made on golf courses?). The kitchen’s candy bar is replenished with new treats on a weekly basis, along with oranges and apples. The most recent addition saw an expansion of office spaces and a new outdoor patio with Wi-Fi.

Click on the image above to view more photos of Redspace | Photography: Stacey Cochrane

Revolution Strategy

Revolution’s owner Derek Riedle and his business partner/wife Terri have owned the Creative Soup building in Uptown Saint John for 13 years, housing their marketing firm and cannabis culture publication (Civilized) as well as a film-production company and even a coffee shop. But three years ago, the company wanted an innovative refresh to get those creative juices overflowing. Saint John designer Kim Jakobsen (who also resides in the building) replenished the office with unconventional lighting, sliding barn doors and inventive break-out spaces. Open space was a priority for productivity for the array of writers, photographers and creatives who work at Revolution. Mid-century pendulum chairs set the stage for great morning meetings and there’s a large built-in bar in the oversized boardroom that’s perfect for hosting meetings and events—beer o’clock happens every Friday at 4 p.m. sharp. Dogs are welcome in the office and employees choose their own hours to ensure productivity thrives. Adjacent the reception area, a waiting area is adorned with a historic map of Los Angeles wallpapering a corner of the room, while a giant chalkboard dominates another wall, perfect for brainstorming the next big campaign.

Click on the image above to view more photos of Revolution Strategy | Photography: Dan Culberson


The lobby entrance at Subsea 7 sets the tone for the space and for the work they do— the company provides seabed-to-surface engineering and construction and services around the world. Designed by St. John’s design firm Carvel & Helm, the monolithic front desk gives way to open spaces and fantastic views of Signal Hill and the harbour. The impressive boardroom demands attention with windows spanning the entire side of the building. Glass walls shine and fill the kitchen with natural light pouring over the ample seating, creating an unspoken invitation to socialize over lunch. Most private offices have at least one glass wall, as well as a sitting and standing desk to add variety to a productive workday.

Click on the image above to view more photos of Subsea7 | Photography: Chris Crockwell

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