DBS reimagines workspaces for the hybrid era

Erwin Chong is spearheading the bank’s pioneering approach to hybrid workspaces, emphasising employee-centric design and collaboration.
By: | May 8, 2024

DBS Bank has emerged as a trailblazer in reshaping the employee experience amidst the rise of hybrid work. Their strategy? Designing workspaces centred around their people, not the other way around.

The mastermind behind DBS’ innovative workspace strategy is Erwin Chong, Group Head of Corporate Real Estate Strategy and Administration at DBS Bank, who shed light on the bank’s approach at HR Tech Festival Asia 2024.

Gone are the conventional rows of desks; instead, DBS has introduced JoySpaces – activity-based work environments meticulously tailored with employee input. These spaces cater to diverse work styles, offering quiet zones for focused tasks, collaborative areas for brainstorming, and social spaces to connect with colleagues.

Chong told HRM Asia, “Our workspaces are key enablers of our transformation, and we have evolved our offices to nurture the right cultural shifts.”

“In 2016, we began developing JoySpaces or activity-based workspaces which break away from traditional concepts of the office. Through involving employees in the co-design process, we helped them navigate through this change while providing flexibility and choice in where and how they work in the office.”

To address the challenges of hybrid work, DBS established a cross-functional regional Future of Work Taskforce in 2020. Through research, surveys, and even playful simulations, they discovered that face-to-face interaction remained vital for collaboration, while employees also craved dedicated wellness spaces and areas for causal connections.

He elaborated, “We implemented a series of transformation initiatives to realise the ways of working in the new normal, such as hybrid and flexible work arrangements and further redesign of workspaces, among others. Following the adoption of a permanent hybrid work model in February 2021, with all employees given the flexibility to work remotely up to 40% of the time, we evolved our JoySpaces programmes to ensure that employees continued to collaborate effectively and foster meaningful connections whilst operation in a hybrid work environment.”

Embracing experimentation as a guiding principle, DBS piloted pop-up spaces such as special ideation rooms to gauge employee response. The success of these experiments led to their permanent integration, with features designed to spark creativity and enhance feelings of rejuvenation.

“From the experiments, we learned that nine in 10 employees felt recharged after using wellness spaces and that different individuals recharge differently,” Chong highlighted. Consequently, DBS introduced dedicated wellness spaces across their offices, catering to various needs and fostering a psychologically safe environment for employees.

Beyond individual needs, DBS’ JoySpace concept fosters a more unified approach to work, breaking down department silos and aligning with their Managing through Journeys initiative. This approach places customer journeys at the core of the business, necessitating seamless collaboration across units.

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He concluded, “Ultimately, we know thoughtfully designed offices can be the heartbeat of DBS’ culture as they serve to bring our employees together to work, live and play. The key is that our office cannot be a replica of other organisations’ workspaces. We are ‘employee-obsessed’, and prioritise their needs by crafting unique, employee-centric workspaces that foster collaboration and connection.”

“Through co-creation, we empower them to shape their environment, ensuring it meets their diverse needs. This approach is the key to our success in building spaces that truly resonate and thrive.”