Zywave’s new office attracts millennials


Wauwatosa, Wis. — Zywave Inc. Chief Executive Officer David O’Brien had a simple request for developer Tom Irgens when they were discussing plans for the company’s new headquarters.


“He said, ‘I want to be the house in the neighborhood where the kids don’t want to leave,'” Irgens recalled.


So, “the kids,” Zywave’s employees, including millennials and their older colleagues, have new offices that include open, flexible spaces to help encourage working together; large windows to provide lots of natural light; an expansive lounge area, including an outdoor patio and green space that O’Brien likens to a “front lawn.”


Zywave’s new offices were designed in part to help the software development firm compete for younger tech workers, including those who often prefer working downtown.


The company, which produces software for the insurance industry, has nearly 300 of its 400 employees based at the headquarters, located at the Milwaukee County Research Park east of Highway 45 and south of W. Watertown Plank Road.


Zywave has been based in Wauwatosa since its 1995 launch. It started in an office building on N. Mayfair Road and moved in 2008 to the research park’s Mayfair Woods building, 10700 W. Research Drive.


The company moved June 1 to the new Meadowland Research and Technology Center, 10100 W. Innovation Drive. The four-story, 148,800-square-foot Meadowland center is one of the last developments at the research park, which is nearly full.


Zywave moved because the growing firm needs more space. It is leasing about 73,700 square feet, mainly on the top two floors. (Meadowland so far has one other tenant, OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc., which is leasing just over 27,800 square feet).


O’Brien said he considered other locations. Some of the firm’s younger employees wanted Zywave to move to downtown Milwaukee, an approach taken in recent years by other suburban companies, such as HSA Bank, which moved from Glendale to Schlitz Park, and Plunkett Raysich Architects, which moved from Park Place business park, north of W. Good Hope Road, to Water Street in Walker’s Point.


But Wauwatosa’s central location for most employees led to Zywave’s decision to stay in that community, which is seeing a growing number of high-end apartments aimed at millennials.


The Irgens firm, where Tom Irgens is vice president, developed both Meadowland and Mayfair Woods.


After Zywave decided to remain at the research park, O’Brien told Irgens he didn’t want to move to another building similar to Mayfair Woods.


Meadowland, designed by Kahler Slater, definitely is different.


While each Zywave employee has a personal work area, the offices include a lot of spaces that are open for employees to use for group tasks, or for individuals to get a different work environment.


There’s also a 5,000-square-foot employee lounge and cafe, including a bar area and outdoor patio, on Meadowland’s first floor. Those spaces help encourage working together.


“We want employees to get up, walk down the stairs and collide with each other,” O’Brien said. “Ideas can get generated.”


The patio has already been used for several outdoor meetings, he said.


“It’s difficult when you have a gorgeous day, and you have to spend time in a big glass house,” O’Brien said.


The new building provides a more productive workspace by having Zywave’s operations on two floors, compared to three floors at Mayfair Woods. Also, the Meadowland floors are connected by an open staircase.


“It feels like one space,” O’Brien said.


Meadowland also benefits from a rear parking structure. It provides covered parking spaces and eliminates the need for a large parking lot — instead allowing room to create the “front lawn” green space, which includes a walking path and outdoor seating.


The two-level parking structure is being financed through $5 million provided through a city tax incremental financing district. Those funds will come from property taxes generated by the $23.5 million Meadowland development.


For Zywave, the new headquarters is helping the company maintain its “work hard, play hard culture,” O’Brien said.


“It can be kind of exhausting at times,” he said. “But it drives results.”


To view the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, visit http://www.jsonline.com/story/money/business/2016/08/09/zywaves-new-office-attracts-millennials/88307086/