Amid merger talks, Sprint says campus upgrades show commitment to KC

The floor-to-ceiling renovation of Sprint’s central building on its Overland Park campus was meant to not only freshen up the 20-year-old space, but to change the very way employees work.

“The energy and the vibe here now does feel like a totally different company,” said Deeanne King, Sprint’s chief human resources officer, “which is what we wanted.”

This week, the last wave of Sprint employees moved back into the revamped building at 6200 Sprint Parkway, which serves as the heart of the wireless firm’s sprawling campus. The mahogany paneled walls and stuffy carpets that once defined the building have been replaced with modern, oversized sofas, phone booths and open-air conference tables.

Each floor features a central pantry area with free beverages and multiple seating areas for individuals or teams. The first floor is home to a game room and a large common space called The Junction, an homage to Sprint’s roots in the railroad industry.

To redesign the building, Sprint leaned on WeWork, the company known for creating hip coworking spaces for freelancers and entrepreneurs. Japan’s SoftBank Group, the majority owner of Sprint, also owns a stake in WeWork.

The glitzy rehab comes in the middle of Sprint’s effort to merge with T-Mobile, a complicated move that’s fueled uncertainty about the company’s future both in general and in Kansas City specifically. If the $26 billion deal closes, T-Mobile has committed to maintaining a second headquarters in Overland Park for the merged company.

King said T-Mobile is running out of space at its Washington state headquarters and has been supportive of Sprint’s efforts to rework the local campus.

“So I do think it makes a statement about Sprint’s commitment to Kansas City and or the new company,” she said.

Plans for the renovation started before the merger talks. King said the company had not invested enough in facility updates in the roughly 20 years since the campus was opened.

She said the new configuration will help with recruitment and hiring, but should also foster more collaboration among employees.

“These are the people every day that help come up with the ideas on how we’re going to operate differently and create products and services,” she said. “So the investment was needed.”

Sprint recently entered into an agreement to sell its campus to Occidental Management and lease back portions of the campus. That deal has not yet been finalized.

But the renovations are poised to consolidate Sprint workers into fewer buildings, King said.

WeWork removed nearly all the old executive offices and high cubicle walls to create large, open work spaces where employees sit in close proximity: Now, about 1,100 of Sprint’s 5,000 Overland Park employees work in the 6200 building.

That high density is meant to foster collaboration and a sense of community, said Nicolas Rader, head of design services for Powered by We, WeWork’s arm that focuses on corporate office spaces.

“Part of these changes is just to allow the employees to be more connected to each other,” he said.

As part of its contract, WeWork is also staffing the space with a team aimed at improving the work experience. They manage the new kombucha stations and fruit water dispensers that have proved to be a huge hit with employees. But the team will also monitor work spaces and conference rooms, reconfiguring spaces that go underutilized.

WeWork’s team even performs some roles that look more like human resources functions. King said the team can help mangers facilitate tough conversations with employees by preparing spaces in advance and offering communication advice. Likewise, the team created programming around the company’s routine compliance event — a much dreaded annual requirement.

“People brought their computers and it was fun,” King said. “So they elevate experiences.”

Sprint plans to continue updating other parts of its campus in the coming months.

At an outdoor party Thursday afternoon celebrating the new space and the company’s recent 5G launch, Sprint CEO Michel Combes said he’s committed to more improvements on campus.

“There are so many other buildings that we will renovate as well in order to make sure all of you enjoy the place where you are working,” he told employees.

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