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Office Space

Where drinking on the job is encouraged

About the author

Alina Dizik is a freelance journalist who covers consumer trends, careers, lifestyle and small business for national publications. Her work appears in the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Men's Journal and BBC.

  • Getting thirsty?

    If you aren’t thirsty when you first enter MillerCoors corporate offices in Chicago, you will be soon.

    Spend a little time here, and you may find yourself craving a sip of one of the brewing giant’s 35 beers, including the classic Miller Lite or its Blue Moon artisanal-style brew. For a company looking to differentiate itself, marketing is everything and MillerCoors starts in the reception area with a life-size nostalgic beer truck.

    Sports stadium seats from events the company has sponsored line the space. Look closely: The chandeliers are made of recycled glass beer bottles and the art from recycled aluminum.

    The 400-person corporate offices of the company (an almost six-year-old joint venture between UK-based SABMiller and US-based Molson Coors Brewing) house mostly marketing, communications, human resources employees and senior executives. After work, a large rooftop bar allows anyone from advertising executives to local nonprofits to taste free beer on tap while catching up with a MillerCoors employee.

    “At the end of the day we’re very focused on the business,” said Kelli Watson, an internal communications manager at the company. “Our goal is to sell beer and then sell more beer.”

    Does the office space work to further the company goals? Click on the arrow above to see for yourself. (Images: Jason Little)

  • Go ahead, pour a pint at work

    Every weekday at 17:00 the rooftop bar opens for two hours of optional schmoozing. Staff can taste brands under the company umbrella, including Leinenkugel, a craft brew. Managers recommend that employees consume only one drink per hour, along with water, said facility manager Julie Bizer, who manages the bar area.

    “At 7 o’clock [19:00] we pull the beer and the lights blink just like in a typical bar,” said Bizer who stays a couple of times a week to chat with colleagues. “It’s not about the party, but it’s about understanding what our beer is.” Employees who don’t imbibe are not left out —soft drinks and bottled water are also offered.

    The corporate bar is also used for events and in the summer, employees are treated to barbecues on the rooftop terrace.

  • Designed to attract young talent

    Some sections of the 12-floor 166,000-foot space look more like a technology start-up than a 150-year-old beer company. This is a purposeful attempt by MillerCoors to attract and keep young talent. But, it might be more show than actual fun: the video games and foosball tables go unused, said Bizer.

    “I think [playing games] is old news,” she said. On the other hand, the comfortable couches in the game area have become a preferred spot for less formal meetings.

  • Crafty redesign

    Three years ago, MillerCoors redesigned one of the building’s 12 floors, to become 10th & Blake, the company’s craft beer division. It is the fastest growing part of the company. Along with a brew room, the floor has black leather booth seating and its own smaller bar with weekly happy hours.

  • Culture within a culture

    “We have a separate entrance, but it says MillerCoors on all of our paychecks,” said Lisa Zimmer (pictured) who works with the craft beer brands. Employees who are part of the craft beer division must pass the first level Ciserone exam to becoming a beer sommelier.

  • Brewing loyalty

    To help employees get a sense of the complex brewing process, Zimmer, an outreach specialist at 10th & Blake, hosts 35 brew classes per year. Entire departments attend and use the three-hour class as a teambuilding activity while learning the craft of beermaking.

    Fortunately for newbie brewers, taste is not a priority: “I can’t say much of [the beer] is super awesome,” said Zimmer. There are recipes to help employees emulate the most popular brands such as Blue Moon. After mixing ingredients such as hops and malted wheat in a workshop, the beer is allowed to ferment by adding yeast. Employees return after about a week for a taste test and bring the finished beer to their desks.

  • Open office quirks

    Cubicle walls rise up halfway to allow for more face-to-face communication when standing, but still offer privacy while sitting. On most floors, white noise machines help block out the distinctly audible conversation of an open office, said Fizer.

    Despite the open plan, employees say it’s easy to feel isolated from other departments because there are so many floors. “There are not as many opportunities for people to see each other, because of the way of the way the building is structured,” said Watson, who makes it a point to attend company-wide happy hours to mingle.

  • Every detail considered

    Most of the 12 floors have themes such as Miller Lite or Innovations displayed on murals and an area for coffee and snacks. Hallways are meant to resemble a brewery and are kept clean of artwork. They are also rounded intentionally to resemble a brewery.

    “We don’t have a lot of square rooms or flat walls, so you tend to run into people,” said Kozina.

  • Can decor really attract talent?

    The company completely redesigned its interior in 2009 and the revamp has helped attract and keep young employees looking to work in lively, urban environments.

    “We want our brands to take precedence,” said Kozina. “It’s tasteful but apparent.”

    Building the office overlooking the Chicago River cost a reported $21.8m, including helicoptering this copper beer kettle to the building and lowering it through the roof and down a winding staircase. A tour of the building after a final round interview can help convince a candidate to take the job, said Kozina. Potential employees “really get a kick out of the space.”