Office Space

How ad agency Sid Lee built a flexible workspace to mirror its constantly shifting culture

“It's important not to get too attached to your space. It's about teamwork, and about bringing different cultures and mindsets together”

As vice-president of Sid Lee, Nicolas Van Erum has worked with some of the advertising agency’s biggest clients, including Cirque du Soleil, Adidas and Sport Chek. He showed us how the agency’s Montreal headquarters supports its ever-changing culture. (Photos by LM Chabot)

READ: Sid Lee’s big kick to the cojones »


Sid Lee vice-president Nicolas Van Erum in his shared office

Van Erum, right, shares his office with executive creative director Kristian Manchester. “We wanted to make sure that our teams are always revolving around us, that communication is flowing, that we’re more efficient—that we’re more casual as well,” Van Erum says.


The Green Room at Montreal ad firm Sid Lee

Inside the Green Room is a chair and a locked cabinet that contains a book telling the story of Sid Lee. The cabinet is only unlocked for new employees, who sit in the room and read the company’s history as part of their orientation. “We’re in a business where storytelling is important, where conveying a certain emotion at the right time is important. And sitting in that chair and reading the book is something you remember,” says Van Erum.


The Kubrick Room at Montreal ad firm Sid Lee

Conference rooms are inspired by—and named after—classic Hollywood directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch. “If you’re presenting in the Lynch Room, then you’re creating a certain ambience around the work that you’re presenting, and if you were to be in the Kubrick Room, you’re creating a different ambience.”


Sliding chalkboard doors at Montreal ad agency Sid Lee Sliding chalkboard door at Montreal ad agency Sid Lee

The offices contain constantly changing artwork, including chalk art on blackboard doors. “We’re in a business where things change very, very fast and evolve very, very fast, so it’s important for our environment to evolve with it as well. It’s also important to celebrate our employees’ artwork.”


Montreal ad agency Sid Lee's flexible workspace

Desks can be easily reorganized depending on what projects are underway. “One of the things that’s really important here is not to get too attached to your space,” says Van Erum. “We’re always reconfiguring who sits where with whom. It’s about teamwork, and about bringing different cultures and mind sets together.”


Glass wall in Montreal ad agency Sid Lee

The space’s numerous glass walls are often used in place of whiteboards. “It’s a lot less formal, so it allows you to improvise more.” Nearly all of the offices have windows. “It keeps things loose and, at the same time, I think it breaks down hierarchy.”


Montreal Ad Agency Sid Lee’s bistro area

The office has a “bistro culture,” supported by an actual bistro, says Van Erum. The restaurant offers a free buffet breakfast every day until 8:45 a.m. There’s also a three-course lunch each day for $7 and an afternoon snack that’s announced by e-mail at 3 p.m. (popular offerings like brownies can cause a stampede of 300 employees).