Building a Beverage Space That Creates Connections

Mathematica OfficeNothing says modern in the office like an open floor plan. That doesn’t mean an open environment is right for every organization, however. Mathematica Policy Research is one such company.

Founded in 1958 by a group of Princeton mathematicians, the company is a groundbreaking leader in social policy research. Mathematica workers are primarily engaged in research and data analysis to help government agencies, foundations, and universities make informed decisions in wide-ranging policy areas from early childhood and education to health, labor, and international development. And the nature of the work makes privacy paramount.

“It’s a very traditional office environment,” says Patty Fenner, director of administrative services, referring to Mathematica’s headquarters in Princeton, N.J. “The work is focused, intense, and quiet, so our researchers feel strongly about keeping their private offices.”

Gathering Place

Consequently, when growth made it necessary for Mathematica to expand within it’s three-story headquarters, there was no question that just about all 68 employees in the expansion space would retain four walls and a door.

Beyond that requirement, however, company officials were open to ideas for encouraging greater interaction.

As Mathematica’s office drinks provider, Mars Drinks was eager to help improve office interactions. 100% dedicated to the workplace, we’ve conducted research to support customers in creating environments where collaboration, well-being, productivity, and engagement thrive.

With Mathematica’s goals in mind - supporting productive work, creating an engaging environment, and enabling collaboration - KSS Architects of Princeton created an activity hub that included a 1,800 square foot multipurpose room that could serve as a resource for employees on all three floors. Large enough to hold up to 150 people, the space is equipped with operable partitions that allow it to accommodate multiple smaller groups when needed.

“We envisioned it as a versatile gathering place,” says Sheila Nall, director of interior design for KSS Architects. “The idea was that it could be used as a training room, a conference center, a meeting area, a space to hold parties - just about any reason people might want to come together.”

The Commons

But would it be used as intended? People, after all, were content with private offices and were hardly clamoring for something that would lure them out.

So KSS added a draw—an elaborate beverage area just across the hall from the multipurpose room.

Called “The Commons,” the 1,200 square-foot space serves multiple key functions: it’s part break room, part collaboration zone, and part alternative work area. There’s a high table surrounded by stools, small tables that seat four to six, and a well-stocked coffee bar featuring a generous beverage selection from MARS DRINKS. The variety of taste and choice is a unique strength of the MARS DRINKS solution and catered to the demands of the Mathematica workforce.

Two sets of glass doors lead from the multipurpose room into The Commons, resulting in a flow that makes the two spaces feel like one. To make The Commons even more of a destination, KSS set up an adjacent game room appointed with a pool table, video game player, bistro tables, and soft seating.

“The Commons was quite a departure for Mathematica, so we weren’t sure how people would respond,” says Nall of KSS. “The answer is better than we had hoped. Spontaneous meetings pop up. People come in with a laptop to work alone. Coworkers gather over a beverage. Mathematica’s workers have embraced the space in a way that surpasses our expectations.”

“People love it,” Fenner says. “The Commons has become a gathering spot before and after activities in the multipurpose room—just as we had expected. But it’s used for so much more—socializing, individual work, meetings, parties, happy hours. The data analytics group even hosts an occasional game night. It gives us a chance to spend time with colleagues in a casual, inviting environment.”

Mars Drinks is proud to provide coffee, tea, hot chocolate and specialty drinks for all these occasions, ensuring a hassle free drinks solution that works consistently and efficiently whether people are connecting over pop-up meetings or social events.

Extra Appeal Through Beverages

Drinks are undeniably a big part of workplace culture, says Fenner, whose three decades of experience at Mathematica have convinced her that amenities can make a big difference in employee satisfaction. “I swear there are people who work from home most of the time who come into the office on Friday just because of the great coffee and because it’s free bagel day.”

That being the case, Fenner is quite sure the taste and choice of the beverages provided by Mars Drinks play a pivotal role in elevating the appeal of The Commons. The key connecting spot in the room is the single-serve Mars Drinks machine, which dispenses coffee and tea, as well as specialty drinks like hot chocolate, espresso, and cappuccino.

According to Fenner this is the best coffee service Mathematica has had. Mathematica also uses Mars Drinks brewers in the pantries distributed throughout its headquarters. With no seating, the pantries are designed as quick-stop coffee stations. Even so, the broad beverage selection seems to have turned them into something more.

“People don’t just grab and go,” Fenner says. “They linger and connect. For instance, every morning at the same time, I can count on finding the same group of IT guys hanging out in the first-floor pantry, solving their problems over a cup of coffee. It’s a ritual for them.”