Inside the CEO’s office, modern makeover offers flexible work space

May 2, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Interstate Office Products.

In his first months as CEO of Avera Health, Bob Sutton has been focused on leading his organization into the future.

Behind the scenes, a smaller but symbolic project shows he’s already making progress.

Sutton inherited a CEO’s office that looked like one in every classic sense: Think cherry wood, wood blinds and a long, rectangular board table.

“That was very fitting for (my predecessor) John Porter, as a lawyer,” Sutton said. “For me, I wanted to lighten it up.”

Sutton and a team at Avera, including designer Angela Storm, worked with Interstate Office Products designers Kim Ducommun and Kaye Hansen to complete the transformation.

“It was a very traditional office setup,” Ducommun said. “The building itself isn’t super traditional but has a little more of a transitional feel, so we wanted to design something that fit but was a little more modern.”

The project began with swapping out the desk to accommodate how Sutton liked to position his computer and dual monitors. The new desk and computer table were installed near a window, which has wellness benefits, Ducommun said.

“So he can sit or stand and face the windows, and it just changes the whole feel of the space,” she said. “He chose to go with a sit-to-stand desk, which is another important wellness component.”

That fits the CEO’s lifestyle, Storm said.

“For someone like Bob who is always coming and going, he can come in and look at his email without even having to sit down,” she said. “The height-adjustable table fits in seamlessly with the rest of his furniture, which was an important part of the design.”

The desk arrangement is a “win-win,” Sutton said.

“My desk faces outward into the rest of the office, and people can see me through the interior windows from the hallway,” he said. “People know that if they see me in my office, they can pop in and have a conversation. My height-adjustable computer table faces the window, so I can look out at a beautiful view that’s a mix of cityscape and landscape in our location off of the Louise exit on I-229.”

The designers also eliminated a lot of paper and used open cubbies on the desk that feel lighter.

“He still has some paper storage, but not nearly the amount that was there before,” Ducommun said. “It’s just a sign of the times.”

The designers switched out a large conference table for a smaller, round one that seats six.

“It’s a little more intimate, as there’s no one on the end and they’re all facing each other,” Ducommun said. “That was important to him as it’s how he wants to meet with people.”

Another small arrangement of chairs was created in a corner of the office for additional meeting space.

“We actually repurposed the furniture from another space, but he liked the little collaborative area to meet or share documents or talk on a project where you’re using a screen but in a little more casual space,” Ducommun said.

The new meeting spaces are well-used already, Sutton said.

“Today already, I’ve had four meetings in my office,” he said, adding that previously many CEO meetings were held in a conference room in the building.

A television screen mounted on the wall allows participants to view PowerPoints or spreadsheets as a group and allows people off-site to take part in a videoconference.

“In addition, I wanted a couple of conversation areas because I don’t like the feel of talking to someone from behind my desk,” Sutton said. “I like the collegiality of comfortable chairs grouped into a conversation area.”

The finishes in the space were lighter walnut, with sheer window blinds that block bright sun but still filter in light. New light fixtures over the desk and conference table further lightened up the office.

“I’d characterize the look we went with as ‘transitional yet modern.’ It’s updated, fresh and overall it’s very functional,” Storm said.

“The team at Interstate Office Products was very easy to work with. If I said I wanted to try something different in the layout, they would create a new 3-D visual for me to show Bob.”

When it came to accessorizing, Storm asked Sutton to go through his things and identify those that meant the most to him. They added floating shelves for family photos and personal items and worked with Landscape Garden Centers for indoor plants of various sizes and shapes to soften the lines of the furniture.

“We found homes for all of John Porter’s other furniture in the offices of other leaders at Avera as well,” Storm added. “The wall color and carpet were still in great shape, so we were able to repurpose these components of the office decor.”

One piece that stayed: A Harvey Dunn painting of pioneers that was gifted to Avera and specifically to Porter for participation in a health education program.

“Bob loved it and as he says, ‘You can’t go wrong with a Harvey Dunn in South Dakota,’” Storm said.

Sutton also kept a South Dakota theme to his new additions, including a photograph of the state Capitol building taken by longtime law enforcement leader Bob Grandpre and a photograph of Lake Oahe north of Pierre taken by Paul Schiller.

“I have an 1892 map of South Dakota given to me as a gift by my wife,” Sutton added. “And I have gifts presented to me from each of Avera’s six regional facilities at my commissioning ceremony on display. My executive assistant, Gwen Arechigo, made cards that identify the meaning and significance behind each one.”

Now that he has moved into the space, the CEO said he’s enjoying working there.

“I love my new office,” Sutton said. “My door is always open, and that’s conducive to having spontaneous conversations, rather than people always feeling like they need to make an appointment with me. I often begin the day standing at my computer table, and then later in the day I’m usually sitting.”

New line delivers range of settings

When the CEO of Interstate Office Products chooses products for his own office, it’s definitely worth a look.

Gary Gaspar is changing out his own desk this spring for one from the new Mackinac line by Steelcase. The Mackinac furniture was developed in response to the increasing demands on leaders in the workplace.

“Research has shown leaders deal with a tremendous amount of stress in their high-intensity jobs, and the situation appears to be getting worse. It takes a toll on their energy and well-being, which impacts turnover and job performance,” said Kristi Christensen, IOP’s vice president of sales and design.

“From increased competition and demand for creative solutions to collaborating with numerous others and having to shift gears quickly to adjust to the most urgent task of the moment — unfortunately, many office are not keeping pace with the range of settings needed to support the vast variety of needs throughout the day.”

Mackinac was developed to respond to these needs and help executives prioritize by creating “microzones” in the office that support focused work collaboration among several colleagues, privacy for rejuvenation and easy access for learning and socializing all within a compact footprint in a private office or open office floor plan.

The line consists of four components: foundation, work surface, tower and column, and they can be easily adjusted to create different looks depending on clients’ needs.

“My favorite part of the line is the large, height-adjustable cantilevered work surface,” Christensen said. “It creates a visually light, floating surface ideal for collaboration, but it’s also hard working and extremely strong.”

Gaspar also was drawn by the look and functionality.

“There was incredible engineering that went into this to allow a 6-foot surface to be cantilevered to allow for good collaborative dynamics,” he said. “It’s amazing what changing the shape of a surface can do for human dynamics. If we want to sit or stand around it, it’s much more comfortable than if we were each on a different side of the desk.”

The materiality of the line is like no other, Christensen added.

“You can drastically change the appearance by implementing a wide array of finishes. Mackinac is highly customizable, offering a wide range of wood veneers, laminates, back-painted glass, fabrics, paints and solid surface. The possibilities are endless.”

The result is a quiet sophistication that works in a wide range of environments. In Gaspar’s office, the Mackinac work surface is paired with an Umami lounge grouping, Elective Elements storage, i2i, Gesture and QiVi seating.

“It just better supports the way we work today,” Gaspar said. “We don’t need storage for paper documents or a lot of work surface to lay out work because everything is digital. This is a line that better supports technology and collaboration in different settings as you move throughout the day. If you need respite and rejuvenation or focus time, or if there are times you just need to get work done, it supports all of that.”

To learn more about how Interstate Office Products can meet your office needs, visit or call 605-339-0300.

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Inside the CEO’s office, modern makeover offers flexible work space

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