A look inside Northwestern Mutual’s new tower reveals sunlit flex spaces, free lunch and a heck of a lake view.

Scroll down for photos!

The amenities are the kind you see at Silicon Valley tech giants: open, flexible workspaces, a state-of-the-art cafeteria providing free lunch, an employee gym. But the view is decidedly Milwaukee: a 360-degree panorama of Lake Michigan and the rest of the city’s skyline.

Northwestern Mutual hopes the perks of working in its glittering 32-floor Tower and Commons, which opened at Mason Street and Prospect Avenue in August 2017, have more Milwaukeeans clamoring to sell life insurance – and employees more excited about their jobs.

Take program productivity consultant Jas Kaur, who has spent the past three years at Northwestern Mutual. Her new 19th-floor workspace is a white-collar haven, with a trendy open concept, an adjustable standing desk and a cubicle with removable dividers to foster collaboration with coworkers. “This has really been an upgrade,” Kaur says. “Throughout my whole career, I would say that this is one of the best and most innovative spaces I’ve worked in.”

In the middle of Kaur’s floor is a collection of couches and chairs that make up its “flex space,” an area where workers can take their laptops and enjoy the sunlight streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows. (Blinds can be pulled down to block glare.) Wall-to-wall whiteboards are in the southwest corner of her floor, and meeting rooms with red or green lights showing availability are throughout. When Kaur needs a break, she can do a puzzle in her team’s central hub or grab an Americano at her floor’s coffee machine.

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The Tower and Commons’ amenities extend beyond office floors. Outdoor, lunchtime summer concerts featured top-flight local artists, and there are often speakers in the first-floor auditorium.

Each of these perks was studied and deliberate, according to Cal Schattschneider, vice president of campus planning and operations for Northwestern Mutual. Schattschneider and his team conducted focus groups, interviewed employees and reviewed research articles to figure out which conditions and amenities help employees do their best work.

“We found flexible work spaces and sunlight to be important for employee motivation, so that’s what we focused on with the Tower and Commons,” Schattschneider says. “And, of course, catered lunch, but we’ve been providing that for years.”

If there’s a dark side to onsite gyms, cafeterias and other reasons to not go home, it’s one well documented in Silicon Valley: burnout. Many employees at Northwestern Mutual work on commission, and workplace websites like Glassdoor include many complaints of long hours (but also note their monetary rewards).

Nevertheless, new employees such as senior data analytics analyst Kurtis Witzlsteiner were attracted to the building during their job searches and are happy working for Northwestern Mutual and in the Tower and Commons.

“I love all the natural light, and I’ve found that it really is a supportive environment,” he says. “They want us to work where we feel comfortable, so we can really work wherever we want.”

Silicon Valley, Milwaukee’s coming for you.


Doors Open

THE FIRST FLOOR of the Tower and Commons, 805 E. Mason St., is open to the public and welcomes visitors. The eastern area is filled with open chairs and tables, a 40-foot fireplace and a Starbucks, making it perfect for impromptu meetings. A virtual museum showcasing company history is also on this open floor, as are displays of the architecture of Northwestern Mutual’s other buildings Downtown. And if you need more culture after visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum, a collection of Wisconsin-tied artists’ work can be found at the building’s Giving Gallery. The gardens outside are also a great place for a picnic.


Photos of the Interior of Northwestern Mutual’s New Tower

photo by Randy Scherkenbach

photo by Randy Scherkenbach

photo by Randy Scherkenbach

photo by Randy Scherkenbach

Jas Kaur at work; Photo by Randy Scherkenbach

Employee gym with a lake view; Photo by Randy Scherkenbach


“Uncommon Commons” appears in the December 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop or find the December issue on newsstands, starting Dec. 3.

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