Firms come up with new ways of working in office revamps

These include more spaces for staff to collaborate, interact, and greater tech use

Open-concept workstations and meeting rooms for employees to work alone or have discussions at a new workspace being piloted on a floor at Great Eastern’s Great Eastern@Changi building. The insurer will roll out this workspace design to the rest of
Open-concept workstations and meeting rooms for employees to work alone or have discussions at a new workspace being piloted on a floor at Great Eastern’s Great Eastern@Changi building. The insurer will roll out this workspace design to the rest of the organisation over the next two years. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Digital marketing firm First Page Digital’s newly renovated office in Robinson Road includes a recreation area with a basketball arcade machine, as well as more meeting rooms and areas for discussions.
Digital marketing firm First Page Digital’s newly renovated office in Robinson Road includes a recreation area with a basketball arcade machine, as well as more meeting rooms and areas for discussions. PHOTO: FIRST PAGE DIGITAL
DBS Bank’s “joyspaces” come with quiet rooms, areas for open collaboration and social areas. The bank has transformed more than 60 per cent of its global office spaces into joyspaces.
DBS Bank’s “joyspaces” come with quiet rooms, areas for open collaboration and social areas. The bank has transformed more than 60 per cent of its global office spaces into joyspaces. PHOTO: DBS BANK

Meeting rooms awash with natural light, a basketball arcade machine and an alternate-desk arrangement with at least 2m between seats are just some of the features of First Page Digital's newly renovated office.

The digital marketing firm nearly trebled its office space last year, moving from a 2,000 sq ft office to a 5,500 sq ft one.

It is among companies that have renovated or are redesigning their workplaces amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On the cards are more collaborative spaces for workers to make the most of time spent in physical meetings as they gradually return to the workplace in phase three of Singapore's reopening.

First Page Digital completed renovations for its new Robinson Road office in April. Staff returned to work two months later, after phase two started, under an alternate-week roster.

The firm doubled its workforce to 50 last year. It has fewer than 25 staff working in the office on an average day.

General manager Shane Liuw said the new office has more meeting rooms, phone booths and areas for discussions. "Face-to-face human interactions always spark creative and passionate brainstorming sessions. Working from home is no doubt safer but people do tend to hide behind the monitor or camera and not contribute," he noted.

Mr Erwin Chong, group head of corporate real estate strategy and administration at DBS Bank, said there are still parts of the work regime that require people to come together physically to accomplish things, and the design of workplaces will change accordingly in the new normal.

In 2016, the bank started to redesign its offices in Singapore and key overseas markets to create "joyspaces" that include quiet rooms, places for open collaboration and social areas.

"Joyspaces break away from traditional expectations of what an office should look like and offer employees flexibility and choice," said Mr Chong.

DBS has since converted more than 60 per cent of its global office spaces into joyspaces.

It plans to transform the rest of its offices into such spaces over the next two to three years, benefiting all 29,000 employees.

The bank is also exploring virtual collaborative tools to bridge geographical gaps between staff. This will support project-specific and data-driven squads comprising members performing different functions and with different areas of expertise.

Internet of Things and video analytics technology will be deployed as well to better understand space usage and develop these areas.

Insurer Great Eastern has piloted a new workspace on a floor at its Great Eastern@Changi building. It includes video-conferencing facilities, open-concept collaboration spaces and meeting rooms with wireless projection capabilities and motion sensor lights.

Mr James Lee, managing director of group human capital at Great Eastern, said: "Given the successful pilot, we will progressively roll out this new workspace design to the rest of the organisation over the next two years."

Law firm Dentons Rodyk plans to redesign various pockets of its UOB Plaza 1 office within the next 12 months as pilots for a potential office-wide redesign.

Mr Loh Kia Meng, its chief operating officer and senior partner, said: "We are envisioning more open spaces and sharing of workstations and partner rooms. To encourage collaboration and interaction among personnel, we are also considering ideation spaces and more war rooms for litigation and arbitration preparation."

IT-based business solutions provider Fujitsu Asia might reduce its Nexus@one-north office space by up to 50 per cent, as part of its plan to reconfigure the workspace to support more face-to-face discussions and "cross-learning experiences". The revamp will take place progressively from May and benefit more than 500 employees.

Fujitsu Asia president Motohiko Uno said: "The office will not be a space just to work but also a place to connect. Fundamental to the success of this is a corporate culture change based on employee autonomy and trust to maximise team performance and improve productivity."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2021, with the headline Firms come up with new ways of working in office revamps. Subscribe