Employee benefits provider Unum Group is working on a $42 million renovation of its Portland campus to modernize the working environment for its roughly 3,000 local employees.

Executives of the company, which is based in Tennessee but has major operations in Portland, said they also plan to consolidate Unum’s local workforce from three buildings down to two, and free up the third building for leasing to other businesses.

One of the biggest changes resulting from the workplace overhaul is that instead of assigned desks, the majority of Unum employees will utilize unassigned “flex” workspaces that will change depending on the project or team to which they are assigned, the executives said.

“The investment here is about creating a workspace that’s bright, vibrant (and) flexible,” Unum U.S. CEO Mike Simonds said. “Most employees are going to end up over time in free, unassigned desks, so literally who you’re sitting next to and who you’re going to be connected with, and who you’re going to cross paths with during the day is going to change day to day.”

415,000 SQUARE FEET OF SPACE

Overall, the company hopes to better attract and retain workers of all generations with the more modern and flexible work environment, while making smarter use of the existing space, he said. Unum’s primary business is offering long-term disability insurance to workers, although it has branched out recently into other areas of employee benefits.

The three-phase renovation project is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year, Simonds said. In all, 415,000 square feet of office space will be reconfigured to the more flexible design. The general contractor on the project is Consigli Construction Co. of Portland.

The first phase, completed in March, renovated 115,000 square feet of space in one of the three office buildings. Unum increased worker visibility by adding more windows and glass walls, built a variety of meeting and collaborative spaces of various sizes, and assigned wall lockers and laptops to its now free-floating workers in the completed phase.

“We’re creating an open area for employees to meet, eat, collaborate and collide,” said Richard Meadows, assistant vice president of corporate real estate at Unum.

The company made other changes designed to improve worker comfort and wellness, such as adding desks that can be adjusted for standing or sitting, wellness rooms for stretching and meditation, and areas with treadmill desks that allow employees to exercise while working.

Under the redesign, Unum executives no longer will be cloistered in their own offices. They will be sharing space in the open workplace “neighborhoods” alongside other employees, Meadows said. Meanwhile, the number of meeting rooms for group discussions and activities will be increased by more than 50 percent to a total of 92 rooms.

“All our executives are coming out of their offices,” he said.

The redesign will allow Unum to fit more workers into less space, Meadows said. For example, the space renovated in Phase One used to accommodate about 500 workers, and now it can fit more than 800.

THIRD BUILDING OFFERED FOR LEASE

When the renovation project is finished, it will leave one of Unum’s three large office buildings on the Portland campus vacant. Simonds, the CEO, said the company plans to offer that building for lease to other area businesses. If at some point in the future Unum needs additional capacity in Portland, it can always reclaim some or all of that space.

“Last year, we did $1.1 billion of new sales,” Simonds said. “We’ve entered the dental and vision benefits business, we’ve entered the medical stop-loss business, all in the last 18 months. … So we definitely have plans to continue to grow our operation.”

This story was updated at 1 p.m. on April 13 to correct Mike Simonds title.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jcraiganderson

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