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Before its big move into the new Paya Lebar Quarter 3 in April this year, global commercial real estate services company’s Singapore team had been working out of three office locations for over 10 years.
What then spurred the company’s decision to move? Speaking to Human Resources Online’s Priya Sunil, Moray Armstrong, Managing Director, CBRE Singapore, says: “In the last few years, the business has grown significantly; Singapore has also evolved into a regional hub for CBRE with key APAC accounts managed out of here and frequent visits by senior executives for client meetings and events.
“(Thus), we realised it was time to bring everyone together in a single location.”
According to Armstrong, the new Singapore HQ, located at Paya Lebar Quarter 3, is a showcase of what CBRE envisions to be the ‘workplace of the future’ – one which the team believes will naturally evolve with business growth while supporting the aspirations of its people. To execute this vision, the management engaged CBRE’s very own project management and workplace strategies teams, who would know best what their own people needed.
Sharing a little on the thoughts behind the new concept, he says: “The notion of what constitutes an office is radically evolving with technology advancements and changing workforce expectations. Today’s workforce is continually seeking enhanced work experiences that increase productivity while boosting the individual worker’s well-being.
CBRE’s workplace strategy takes into consideration the physical environment, tech infrastructure, as well as user needs and experience in totality – a clear reflection of emerging workplace trends.
He adds that with the continued convergence of professional and personal lives, the workplace experience is now viewed as a differentiator in attracting and retaining talent.
“Our new headquarters at Paya Lebar Quarter – the first building in Singapore to register for WELL building certification – is an ideal work-live-play destination which complements our employees’ busy lifestyles while enabling them to focus on delivering exceptional outcomes to our clients.”
In fact, keeping in mind that having healthier employees results in higher productivity, the firm prioritises its employees’ wellness by offering end-of-trip facilities such as shower rooms and sports lockers, ergonomic furniture, and an in-house café which offers healthier food and beverages.
He further adds: “We also understand that the traditional open-plan office environments are not conducive. It is a ‘one-size-fits-nobody’ solution that does not really encourage collaboration and can get quite noisy and distracting. (As such,) spanning some 32,000 square feet on a single floor plate, CBRE’s office is designed with flexibility in mind.”
For instance, the largest common space functions as a café as well as a flexible working area for individual work or group discussions. It can also accommodate up to 300 people for townhalls or events. Armstrong states: “The function of this area has been deliberately blurred and this has served us well.”
The different types of workspaces across the office also effectively facilitate deeper employee engagement and stronger collaboration across teams, and, if one needs to do individual focused work, one can either head to a focus room or the library space where talking is prohibited.
In light of this concept, Armstrong stresses that while flexibility and choice are highly valued by employees, today’s workplaces should also foster dynamic and productive communities where employees collaborate to drive business performance and shape corporate culture. Therefore, he adds, CBRE believes that these two need not be mutually exclusive.
He elaborates: “By creating an innovative and interactive environment, the office can be a delightful place for employees to connect and get work done – whether it’s brainstorming sessions, discussions, project meetings, or individual focused work. To complement our space, we have an exciting lineup of employee engagement initiatives which include festive celebrations, TGIF gatherings, lunchtime talks, workout sessions and our very own talent showcase which is a highlight every year.
“World-class offices today, such as CBRE’s new HQ, is a destination where employees positively look forward to coming to work, to create and work out solutions together for our clients. It is the place where people choose to be, take great pride in and where they will feel a sense of belonging.”
As a testament to that, Armstrong and his team have observed a positive impact on productivity, employee engagement and client servicing, since the move. He shares: “There is a general buzz around the office and in the long term, we expect to see enhanced job satisfaction and higher morale. This positions CBRE well to attract talent; in particular, Millennials, whose evolving career expectations are keenly watched by employers.”
Concluding the interview, he shares some parting advice for other companies looking to re-design or create a new office concept for their employees. “Whether it’s doing refurbishment or building a new office from scratch, it is essential that the project and change management teams engage with employees through interviews, focus group discussions and surveys to determine their actual work patterns, identify pain points and put together wish lists. The team should transmit such valuable information to leaders and the design team.”
Following that, he adds, the designers can then weave end-user feedback into the design process, ensuring that both the organisation’s business and cultural needs are met. “Leaders’ buy-in and endorsement are also critical to prevent last-minute changes and counter-productive work. Hence, it is crucial that the project and change management teams foster a consistent dialogue with all stakeholders – leaders and employees, as well as designers.”
Lastly, he affirms that it is not enough to change the design of the physical space; there is a need to change people’s behavior too.
By involving employees from day one, they become active participants in the change journey; only when they feel a sense of ownership in the process, are they more likely to embrace the workplace design strategy and guarantee the success of your project.
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