Form meets function

Artist's impression of the new GSK headquarters, due to be completed in mid-2017
Driven by changing organisational styles and priorities, the modern workplace of today features more communal spaces and flexible work stations than ever before. HRM Asia gains access to some of the most contemporary offices in the region.

Clean lines, smart technology, green areas, trendy interiors and wide, open spaces – these are some elements of the modern work space.

Boasting these features are three multi-billion dollar corporations: pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK); imaging and optical solutions provider Canon; and travel website Tripadvisor, each seamlessly combining contemporary form with high-tech functionalities.

One-stop hub

Paul Rogers, Vice President and Head of Asia, Worldwide Real Estate and Facilities, GSK, says the organisation’s aim for its new Asian headquarters, slated to be completed in mid-2017, is to create a unique space where its various teams and businesses can work together and collaborate more closely in one location.

The result will be a dedicated S$77 million eight-story complex at Singapore’s One-North business district, measuring almost 15,000 square meters and able to house up to 1,000 employees.

The new hub features a number of spaces and environments to support a range of working styles, preferences and activities.

“By offering different types of environments, we give people plenty of choice for collaboration, focused work, brainstorming or taking a strategic recovery, which will improve our productivity and creativity,” says Rogers.

Canon Singapore’s new office shares the same goal of becoming a one-stop-shop, incorporating every facility and business function under one roof in the name of promoting teamwork across the organisation.

The imaging solutions multinational recently moved its South and Southeast Asian headquarters from Keppel Bay Tower in Harbourfront to Galaxis in One-North, investing S$20 million in the new home.

Kensaku Konishi, President and CEO of Canon Singapore, says the new premises, which have 44% more real estate, allows the company to implement its vision of a modern work space in line with its corporate values.

“We believe that creating a comfortable and safe-working environment goes a long way in promoting staff engagement and, in turn, enables greater productivity and efficiency – to do more, yet work less,” says Konishi.

Canon Singapore's new offices at Galaxis , One-North

Tripadvisor Singapore also believes employees’ physical space contributes significantly to their overall wellbeing.

“A lot of thought went into the interior concept of our office as we believe that a well-designed office with interesting spaces helps to inspire creativity and make employees happier, more satisfied and more engaged,” says Chris Koh, Regional Manager of “Office Experience” in Asia-Pacific for TripAdvisor.

The trendy office, which is located in downtown Singapore, measures just under 1,400 square metres and can accommodate up to 150 people.

It features four main meeting rooms named after popular holiday destinations like Santorini, Bora Bora, Sentosa and Ao Nang; smaller meeting and director rooms named after iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House, Taj Mahal, and the Statue of Liberty, and four breakout areas.

“We place great importance on workplace design as we want our employees to feel empowered, energised, and happy to come to work and to be here,” shares Koh.

Open spaces

One striking similarity between all three new offices is their focus on communal and flexible working areas, and the de-emphasising of divisions and departments.

Andrew Epaphroditus Tay, Director of Health and Productivity (Singapore) at GSK, says the new building’s layout is based on an open-plan and hot-desking concept, where employees are not assigned to any one desk, but are strongly encouraged and permitted to sit in different parts of the building at different times.

“This ‘ice-breaking’ seating concept facilitates conversations among employees from different business functions, paving the way for easier collaboration,” said Tay.

“GSK’s open-plan working design removes unnecessary cubicles, partitions and visual barriers, creating a spacious environment that feels more open, bright and energised, with a good ‘buzz’ in the central collaborative zones, enhancing creativity and productivity,” he added.

TripAdvisor Singapore

Tripadvisor subscribes to the same design philosophy.

“We broke off from traditional office norms by doing away with cubicle space and creating an open-concept layout that promotes movement and communication among colleagues throughout the day,” Koh shares.

“This design also manifests in plenty of natural light streaming into our workspace which not only brightens the area, but also creates conducive surroundings that can help spur creativity and generate dynamic thinking,” he says.

Canon, too, designed an environment that aims to be conducive for conversation and teamwork.

“The workplace’s open layout facilitates open communication and interaction between employees throughout the day. Flexible seating arrangements and collaboration areas were designed to encourage bonding and interaction among staff across all departments,” says Konishi.

One look at the new Galaxis office and the first impression is indeed about how bright and open the place is.

Among the key features are three large, brightly-lit cafeterias where employees can dine, or just simply hang out with colleagues.

“Our internal staff survey showed that more than 70% of staff are appreciative of the modern communal spaces,” says Konishi.

Health is happiness

Health and wellness are two other considerations that these organisations have when drawing their office floorplans.

GSK will be incorporating many design elements and amenities in the new headquarters aimed at promoting the company’s health and wellbeing initiatives.

Tay says the organisation plans to encourage increased movement and healthy eating among the workforce, as well as mental health and resilience.

“The building has been designed so that employees are encouraged to take the main staircase situated in the centre of the building instead of using the elevators, which are located at the far end. Also, by placing the shared discussion areas near the central stairwell, employees are again encouraged to utilise the stairs,” he explains.

There will also be an outdoor walking trail with access to the Singapore Park Connector.

Adjustable sit-stand desks will also be provided for employees. Koh says standing desks have been shown to burn more calories, improve productivity and reduce the risk of metabolic diseases and high cholesterol levels.

“These workstations and other ergonomic considerations will support healthy working habits,” he says.

The Canon Galaxis office features a “Health Corner” on each level, where employees can kick back and unwind.

“These are rest areas for employees to get some ‘shut-eye’, relax in or even do simple stretches,” Konishi shares. “We plan to add more health equipment, such as dumbbells and massagers in the near future.”

Tripadvisor also has a company policy that promotes healthy lifestyles among its workforce.

The office pantry is stocked with healthy snacks, mineral water, juices and vitamin water. On Tuesdays, the company provides freshly-cut fruit in the pantry, and on Thursdays, employees can enjoy lunch together.

“We encourage healthy living, with height-adjustable desks that offer the team the option to stand while they work or to sit comfortably on an office chair or on a gym ball. We also ensure the availability of shower facilities for those who like to jog or cycle to work,” says Koh.

Smart and green

Beyond aesthetics, a large part of Canon’s investment in its new office went into the implementation of cutting-edge technology.

The office is enabled with enhanced security features such as a face-recognition system that ensures a safe and secure work environment.

Staff feedback also led to the development of an in-house resource reservation system, allowing employees to book meeting rooms, cafes and other function rooms without conflict, which was previously a recurring pain point.

The Galaxis hub is also part of the organisation’s green outlook, highlighting its values of sustainability and environmental awareness. Traditional wastebaskets have been replaced by small personal baskets, and cabinet space has been reduced to discourage unnecessary printing and ultimately reduce paper wastage by 30%. Employees are also encouraged to sort their waste disposal into different recycling categories.

An employee working in one of Canon's three cafes

Office lighting is also programmed to be switched off during lunch hours, and after work. This way the organisation is not only energy-efficient, but it also encourages employees to have work-life balance.

“As a Platinum Green Mark building, our office is designed to meet all green efficiency standards, from the furniture to the paint, wallpaper, electrical gadgets and more that we use. Lighting and air-conditioning units used are also approved energy-saving models, all of which helps us reduce our carbon footprint,” says Konishi.

Unconventional décor

A funky and fresh interior can also play a significant role in motivating employees and spurring creativity.

The Tripadvisor office certainly falls into this category, reflecting the global nature of the company and its business.

Koh says connectivity and travel were two themes the company wanted to incorporate into the office design because that is exactly what its online services aim to do – connect travellers from all over the world.

“We wanted a fun environment akin to a great travel experience so colleagues feel like they’re on a great trip when they come to work every day,” he explains.

Using an eclectic blend of materials, furnishings, bright colours and accents, the office combines global and local elements.

This is most evident in the four cosy soundproof kiosks located at each corner of the office, designed to resemble London’s iconic red telephone booths.

Each booth is named after the direction they face in Singapore, (“Marina Bay”, “Raffles Place”, “Chinatown” and “Clarke Quay”) and allows employees to have privacy when they are on phone calls or video conferences, without having to occupy an entire conference room.

“We picked bright colours and integrated a modern vibe to encourage fun, energy, innovation, and a positive atmosphere where everyone can get together and brainstorm ideas,” Koh adds.

How workplace design impacts talent attraction

Studies have shown that well-designed and well-thought out work spaces can determine how successful a company is at attracting the best talent.

A 2015 report from The Human Spaces, an online community dedicated to the study of workplace design, titled The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, revealed that 33% of all respondents believed the style of an employer’s office influenced their decision on whether or not to take up an opportunity there.

The report also showed that office environment and design were important across many parts of Asia. More than 60% of workers in India, Indonesia and The Philippines all stated that workplace design significantly influenced their career decision-making process.

The Human Spaces global study of 7,600 office workers, across 16 countries, examined the impact of physical office environments on employee wellbeing.

 

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