“Immersive Care” in Office Design

“Immersive Care” in Office Design

On In Construction Update

An Interview with Grant Barnhill.


In a climate where hospitality-driven office design has grown in popularity, Denver-based Shift Workspaces is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. “We want our members to feel cared for and experience concierge-level service across the board,” says founder Grant Barnhill.


Later this year, Shift will open its doors on a third location, designed in partnership with Clutch Design Studio. To understand their pioneering focus on hospitality-driven office design, we looked back to the beginning:


“If you were to work in the ideal office, what would it look like?”


This question, which Barnhill posed to a small group in late 2010, prompted him to launch what is now Shift Workspaces—a coworking firm that combines personalized, concierge-level service with a passion for community to deliver a more meaningful workspace experience.


Today, that model – one Barnhill affectionately refers to as “immersive care” – drives Shift’s every move, from space and amenities to event, wellness, and food and beverage programming. It’s about more than soft chairs and luxe finishes.


Keep reading for our interview with Barnhill, and to learn more about his philosophy, how it translates to office design, and their newest location—an eclectic, art and hospitality-driven space in downtown Littleton designed with Clutch Design Studio.


Photography by Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Can you tell me about the genesis of Shift Workspaces?


“Prior to founding Shift Workspaces, I was a partner in the multifamily real estate firm Boutique Apartments. We had a small team working out of one of the buildings we owned—it was a cool space, but it was spread out and disjointed. I sent an email to the team asking what they would want in an ideal office, and then, based on their responses, I compiled a list of 52 amenities. This included things you’d expect – a workout area, showers, a kitchen, etc. It also included things you wouldn’t expect, including a meditation room, outdoor seating, community events and much more.


We needed about 3,000 square feet but found a 16,000 square foot building to purchase on Corona Street, so I started looking into shared office environments. At the time, WeWork didn’t exist and shared offices were mostly mom and pop spots with few amenities.


Over the following year, I visited 50+ shared office concepts across the US and abroad, making note of what worked and what didn’t. I also looked to hotels and the concierge experience. Shift has evolved over time but it started with that email … very organic.”


Rendering by Clutch Design Studio for Shift Workspace’s new location in Littleton.

Are there specific restaurants or hotels you looked to for inspiration?


“Yes! The Rosewood [Hotel] in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is the first one that comes to mind. I first stayed there in 2011 and, over the course of a few trips, got to know the food and beverage director quite well. He has an incredible grasp on intuitive customer service, more than anyone I had ever met.


I also looked to Bobby Stuckey and his approach to hospitality. I paid a lot of attention to how I felt in both Bobby’s restaurants and the Rosewood and worked backward from there to create an environment where people felt valued.”


Note: Bobby Stuckey is the Owner and Master Sommelier of Frasca Food and Wine Group in Boulder.


Rendering by Clutch Design Studio for Shift Workspace’s new location in Littleton.

In what ways has your service approach shaped the environments you create?


“The idea of ‘immersive care’ is important to us. We want our members to feel cared for and experience concierge-level service across the board and we want to create an environment where you can bring your whole self to work.


Our shared workspace communities operate more like a hotel than a traditional office environment with meditation rooms, massage rooms, bars, outdoor workspaces, ergonomic furnishings, bike repair centers, meeting areas, yoga and fitness classes, and a gourmet food and beverage program. We even have a ‘Culinary Concierge’ who hosts events that bring our members together—anything from a sushi rolling class to the Five Points Film Festival, all at no charge. It’s a very high-touch environment and we have great member participation.”


What attracted you to your newest location?


“What I love most about Main Street is that many of the businesses, like Shift, are locally owned. We also know that our members want a refined, upscale environment with great walkable amenities like restaurants, yoga studios and boutique shops, which is why Littleton is the perfect environment for our clientele.”


Rendering by Clutch Design Studio for Shift Workspace’s new location in Littleton.


Will the design of the new Shift be a departure from previous locations? If so, in what ways?


“We treat each space as a work of art. In fact, each shared workspace is thoughtfully designed to reflect the context of the building and its surroundings.


Shift Littleton will be more distinctive than our other locations with a focus on creating an arts-oriented environment. I’ve already taken a few art buying trips to Oaxaca and met with a group of artists that create large format, socially-conscious murals. They’re bringing that flavor to Colorado with a commissioned piece at our Littleton location that will depict how our mission, vision and values come to life.


We’ve also hired artist Chris Merrick, who did some work at our Bannock location, for a collection of large-scale art installations that celebrate Littleton’s history. The space will be lush and creative. I’m really excited about how it’s unfolding.”


Rendering by Clutch Design Studio for Shift Workspace’s new location in Littleton.


Would you say that hospitality-driven office design is a trend or a movement?


“It’s beyond a trend. It’s more of an evolution in how people work. We’ve been defined by the work ethos of the industrial revolution for more than 100 years. But that’s shifting. People don’t want to spend time in offices with long hallways and no light.


At the same time, they’re seeking a separation between home and office. People want connection. They want to feel like they’re part of something and can plug into a culture.  It’s hard to get that at home.”


Rendering by Clutch Design Studio for Shift Workspace’s new location in Littleton.

What has been your greatest challenge in translating your service approach to a physical space?


“The key is to make it comfortable with a good mix of collaborative, public space and private space. Yes, people are seeking a blend of home and work, but they also want it to be professional.”


In what other ways does your service approach play into your business?


“Most people don’t know this but we’re a Certified B-Corporation, which means compete not to just be the best in the world, but the best for the world. We’ve also taken proactive steps to ensure our buildings are carbon neutral.  The reason for this is because we wanted to create a company that could be a model for social change—to balance profits with purpose and use business as a course for good. But it took a tremendous amount of time to figure out our carbon footprint, and how we could offset it.


We also donate 1% of our gross revenue to local non-profits who are tackling key issues around at-risk youth, education and environment. This year, we joined 1% For The Planet, and continue to find ways that we can initiate the change we’d like to see in our community.”



To learn more about Shift Workspaces, visit their website.

And follow us on Instagram for in-progress photos and construction updates.

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