A hybrid solution
Guidehouse builds flexible HQ in McLean
Guidehouse’s leadership had in mind many of the perks that some employees now demand when the global management consulting firm began its search for a new headquarters in 2019.
Those included more flexible spaces, access to the outdoors, and technologies to support remote work and meetings. The firm also was growing. With a substantial workforce already located in Northern Virginia, Guidehouse — a management consultancy formed when Veritas Capital acquired PricewaterhouseCoopers’ public sector arm in 2018 — had also acquired Chicago-based Navigant Consulting.
Access to Guidehouse’s previous D.C.-based home near the White House was becoming untenable with street closures, says Chief Operating Officer Charles Beard. The company needed proximity to federal clients, but it also needed access to an airport to support its global growth. Access to health care was also key.
Washington Dulles International Airport and Inova Health System — for which Beard serves as a board member — were key drivers in Guidehouse’s decision to move its base to Fairfax County. Announced in May 2021, the move includes a $12.7 million investment spread over two floors, representing about 75,000 square feet, at 1676 International Drive in McLean.
Guidehouse originally forecast the move would bring more than 900 jobs for a total of 1,550 employees headquartered at the new Tysons-area location, but Beard says that number could increase. In October 2021, Guidehouse completed the acquisition of Dovel Technologies, which offers technical services, including data analytics and artificial intelligence, for health, life sciences and public safety clients.
Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Beard says Dovel’s acquisition adds about 2,000 employees, some of whom are located throughout the Washington, D.C., metro region and could relocate to the new headquarters. The added workforce gives Guidehouse technical services capabilities, including increased access to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “priority client” the National Institutes of Health. Guidehouse employs more than 10,000 people worldwide.
Not counting data centers, Guidehouse’s move represents one of the largest economic development deals in Northern Virginia for 2021, according to Virginia Economic Development Partnership data. VEDP assisted the county’s economic development authority in securing the project, and Guidehouse is eligible for benefits from the state’s Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit for bringing new, full-time jobs to the commonwealth.
Fairfax County Economic Development Authority President and CEO Victor Hoskins says smaller lease sizes like Guidehouse’s represent a growing trend that the county — and others — are taking note of. Previously, companies would lease about 250,000 to 300,000 square feet for about 1,500 employees. But now, “they’re leasing a lot less space for the same amount of jobs,” Hoskins says.
That seems to be part of Guidehouse’s original design, however. With employees no longer coming into the office five days a week, there was less need for dedicated offices and desks. There are only about 180 desks per floor, and those seats are doubled when counting other collaboration spaces, says Catherine Morrison, Guidehouse’s director of corporate real estate.
What employees did need was collaboration space, and the pandemic accelerated a move toward more adaptive, modular spaces, another area that Guidehouse had already been working on.
Executives describe the new headquarters as more like a branch, a place to support remote work with amenities to visit as needed, “like going to a Starbucks, but a private Starbucks,” Morrison says.
The new office space opened in January, though swing space in the building was available for employees prior to then. Though supply chain issues were a factor, Morrison says, Guidehouse worked closely with contractors, who anticipated delays, to order some materials early.
Hybrid work also can keep people off the region’s busy roads, which fits with the company’s sustainability goals, Beard says, adding he wants people to see the office as a “lifeboat.” He has also touted the headquarters’ proximity to nearby dining and child-care options.
“We’ve all gotten accustomed to meeting with one another virtually and we’ve watched young babies become young toddlers, and we know them by name as much as we know their parents by name,” Beard says. “We don’t want to lose that, so the office space will also be a place for gathering, for bringing our extended work families together on occasion.”