When Centene, a major national healthcare insurance company, needed an East Coast Headquarters to keep up with rapid growth in the region, one goal was clear: the company wanted to create the best campus on the East Coast to attract and retain top-tier tech talent. The company came to the project with a passion to fully engage with the Charlotte community and a drive to make this campus a success. In the process, the goal – to create the best campus on the East Coast – led Centene in an unexpected direction, transforming its paradigm into a new way of working for an evolving future. LS3P began working with Centene in February of 2020. At that time, the company was accustomed to fairly traditional office spaces, including a standard commercial floor plate with dense clusters of work stations and a building template that could work for any site. During the interview stage, LS3P and Centene engaged in a “what if” conversation that began to turn the traditional workplace model on its head, using 11” x 17” foam core models that the interviewers could move around as they asked questions. LS3P presented a modern concept, one that nestled into and connected with its site; LS3P was hired quickly to spearhead the design, and the work began in earnest. Knowing When to Pivot The world changed rapidly between early February and late March of 2020, and LS3P’s first massing studies presentation for Centene on March 22 was the firm’s first virtual presentation as teams transitioned to remote work. The accelerated schedule never slowed, and the core and shell design was largely complete by May 1. At this stage the building envelope was contracted from the schematic design documents, and design development continued apace. Envisioning a Workplace for the Modern Era In the ensuing months, as the design proceeded briskly, a clearer picture began to emerge about the future of work. Companies worldwide were navigating a foundational shift in how and where work gets done. Centene’s leadership and internal stakeholders such as the Human Resources team began to explore what an engaged, energetic staff expects in a modern workplace. The campus is 10 miles outside of Charlotte’s Uptown/South End core; if employees are commuting to the office, what should they find when they arrive that inspires innovation, supports collaboration, and creates an exciting culture? The team realized the importance of intentional incentives to draw people into the office as a means to build and sustain a vibrant company culture. The core and shell of the buildings was already set, but it was clear that a pivot was in order for the workplace concept inside. Building in Flexibility The design team shifted quickly, transforming the company’s traditional floor plate into a new concept with nests of neighborhoods and collaborative spaces. By re-orienting the design off-grid to create opportunities for chance interactions, creative collisions, active circulation, and collaboration, the team created a much more flexible work environment with a “living room” atmosphere. The spaces are cohesive, but look like they were designed by a different hand for variety. The new plan also reduces assigned seating by half, shifting from a “plugged in workstation” mindset to a “work anywhere on campus” mindset. Centene invested heavily in wireless technology and well-designed outdoor workspaces so that employees can work from a seat in the central courtyard as seamlessly as at workstation inside. An array of campus amenities includes a food hall, top-of-the-line fitness center, and onsite health clinic as well as greenways and outdoor workspaces. Evolving Ways of Working This workplace transformation wasn’t just physical. In designing spaces to draw people into the office and make it worth their while to be there, Centene completely readjusted its narrative on how employees work. The company has shifted its internal policies, allowing employees and teams to decide how to work and introducing flexible days and collaborative in-office days. Alongside this shift, a free address model accommodates more people without impacting the quality of the workplace. Unassigned desking creates flexibility and fluidity over the course of the workday or over the course of a project; this flexibility extends all the way to the C-Suite. In the face of fast-moving challenges, Centene chose to do the important work involved in “doing the right thing, not the easy thing.” The resulting headquarters campus marks a new chapter in the company’s history, laying the foundation for lasting benefits for the company and its employees through innovation, inspiration, and collaboration. About Nathan, Paul, and Phil Principal Nathan Daniel, AIA, LEED AP serves as the firm’s Workplace Practice Leader. He excels developing and maintaining long, productive relationships with clients. He is responsible for the design of the overall project vision in multiple project sectors, including corporate commercial, faith, hospitality, and mixed-use developments. Nathan’s role is one of leadership and guidance, leading the project team from visioning through project completion. He is also a mediator, helping to foster trust and respect between the stakeholders. Nathan recently oversaw the completion of the new Elevation Church global headquarters in Ballantyne and AvidXchange’s new headquarters at the Music Factory just outside of uptown Charlotte. Nathan is the Principal in Charge for the new Centene East Coast Headquarters campus in Charlotte, NC. Associate Principal Paul Koska, AIA, LEED GA, offers a breadth of experience in corporate office, commercial mixed-use, and wellness projects. His projects are often complex in terms of design, coordination, and mix of uses and have diverse and extensive project teams. Paul is involved from the earliest phases of project development, producing visual imagery and modeling to convey project concepts. As an integral part of a project team, he carries out the work plan of the project leader and translates design intent into construction documentation. Paul also communicates and coordinates with subconsultants and jurisdictional authorities. His energetic and positive personality bring momentum to the team’s success. As a former member of a municipal planning and development department, Paul understands how to build a partnership to resolve issues during the review of development and construction plans. Paul is the Project Manager for the new Centene East Coast Headquarters in Charlotte, NC. Associate Principal and Senior Designer Phil Oliver, LEED AP, approaches each project with a wealth of experience in designing large-scale domestic and international urban projects. As the lead designer, Phil organizes and directs collaborative design teams across many disciplines to translate owner and user needs into an integrated project program. Using his knowledge of advanced building materials, intelligent building systems, and sustainability, he provides design solutions that yield lasting value for his clients. He believes the only constant in design is change and understands that each positive outcome is part of an evolutionary process which involves the client, the design team, and the community at large. Phil has worked in the Middle East and across the Pacific Rim, most notably in Korea, Vietnam, and China. In addition to his commercial mixed-use projects, he has extensive experience in corporate office, hospitality, sports and entertainment, aviation, and multifamily design. He has served as visiting design critic for the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, University of Minnesota, and Iowa State University, and his projects have earned professional awards and international recognitions. Phil is one of the lead project designers for the new Centene East Coast Headquarters campus in Charlotte, NC.