At the cornerstone of our organization are Aqueduct’s core values: Learn, Teach, Care, and Impact. It’s the driving force behind how we recruit, cultivate talent, evolve our employee programs, and build the foundation of our culture. Aqueduct thrives because we bring together like-minded individuals who have a passion for making themselves, those around them, our customers, and our community better. Prior to the pandemic, Aqueduct was utilizing technologies that lent to a hybrid work environment. Most employees were in the office 1-2 days a week, as the majority of our time was spent supporting our customers’ initiatives and working in the field. However, we couldn’t deny the fact that the office provided specific functions needed for us to conduct our business.
LOSING THE UNSTRUCTURED MANNER OF WORK
Once COVID hit and we went fully remote, our customers and our business partners evolved, as well as the industry. A silver lining in the chaos was the ability for some of us to adjust to a better quality of life; spend more time with family, learn better ways for us to be individually productive, and become experts in video conferencing and virtual meetings. However, we lost some of the benefits of working with others in an unstructured manner. This “unstructured manner” is where some of the best development and organizational improvement takes place. It’s in the ability to have an informal conversation while grabbing coffee, venting about an issue of the day that could result in the next great idea, as well as the ability to gauge body language in a discussion. It also creates a better forum for introverts to participate in group communication, mentoring, and learning from one another. Outside of the office, we discovered that our kids were better off with in-person learning and the need for social interaction, which they weren’t getting during COVID. While adults may be more resilient to a changed environment, the reality was that we weren’t learning, teaching, caring, or having enough impact in the same magnitude as before.
EVALUATING FUTURE NEEDS
As those of us at Aqueduct, and many others in our industry, started to assess the return-to-work model, we had several considerations to take into account. Most important was the necessity to determine what was next for us with both our Waltham, MA headquarters and our West Warwick, RI office leases coming to an end in early 2023.
We knew our future office would need to look and feel very different for our changed organization, while still providing the functions that our business needed to operate. For example, parts of our business focus on the integration of complex infrastructure that requires engineering design, configuration, staging, and testing. During COVID, we made significant investments to expand our warehousing and large-scale deployment capabilities with our distribution partners out of California and Texas. While that allowed us to continue to facilitate our national and global projects, there was still a pressing need to be able to bring equipment into our main offices. Pre-COVID, our customers’ traditional mode of operation was to receive equipment and have our engineering team stage and configure at their locations. However, most of them had either begun the process of downsizing their office footprints and had restrictions on who could be onsite, or they moved to a hybrid model where they were not always there to receive equipment. This pushed the responsibility back on us.
With all this in mind, we made a list of requirements:
- A nurturing space where teams could come together, collaborate, and kindle personal relationships.
- A warm and welcoming atmosphere for our business partners and customers.
- Expanded capabilities for large freight shipments, a data center that could support power, cooling, and security while we stood up customer infrastructure, and a space to package and deliver the equipment and get it out the door, fast.
- Options where employees can feel the most productive, whether this meant a desk, a huddle room, a conference room, or the tranquil sounds of working within nature.
- Ready for the low and high occupancy days of the week and provide spaces conducive to learning and teaching.
- A hallmark of where Aqueduct has been, where it will continue to be, and a look toward the future.
While others were de-investing in office space, corporate culture, and managing out of fear, we pushed full steam ahead with significant investment for the next phase of our organization. We opened our new Headquarters in Canton, MA in March to much fanfare. We set the bar high on what we wanted and needed and boy, did we knock it out of the park!
We got our loading docks, our staging rooms, training environments, every type of collaboration experience you can imagine, socializing areas, a gym, and we even got the great outdoors right inside the office (yes, you read that right). So, here’s to getting to the next level of Learning, Teaching, Caring, and Impact.
Today, the office is bustling with team members, customers, and business partners, all working in our space. We hope you have an opportunity to come by and experience our world with us.