Among the many "firsts" this revamped space in Singapore has introduced to employees is the concept of hot desking where even senior management gets to sit anywhere.
Moving on from an admittedly more "conventional" concept, OMRON's new office space welcomes change, with the introduction of hot desking and a hybrid work arrangement. In setting up this new office space, employee feedback was put at the forefront on all matters, ranging from policy changes to preferred snacks.
In an interview with OMRON's Colin Lim, General Manager, Human Resources Management and Helen Tan, Manager- Environment, Sustainability & Employee Engagement, Arina Sofiah learns how the space presents newly-introduced features to encourage communication & collaboration in the workforce, and more, including how Lim likes to work in the pantry to be more approachable to employees.
Q Walk us through the thought process when conceptualising this office space - what was your vision for this new space? How involved were your employees in this process?
Inspired by our continuous endeavour to strengthen 'communication & collaboration' (COCO), we decided to give a deeper review of our workspaces across Asia Pacific.
This was not only an essential move to cope with the new work environment dynamics put forth by COVID-19 but also an important step ahead for workstyle transformation at OMRON which aims at bringing more convenience, flexibility, openness, and a psychologically safe work environment for employees based on stronger bonds of communication and collaboration.
One of the notable facilities that we reviewed as a part of it was our Singapore office (the headquarters for OMRON in Asia Pacific). Post spending 15 years in OMRON in a conventional setup, the team felt that it was high time to think about realising the COCO concept here and think of ways to make it better. The journey started with conducting new office feasibility studies as well as grasping the new and progressive design concepts.
We collated and took into consideration the feedback of the core management team as well as other employees which divulged important observations such as – most of them felt that the current office setup was outdated & cluttered, the meeting rooms needed an upgrade to be in sync with current work practices, the amenities around were uninspiring and lacked modern facilities, etc. This helped us a lot in pinpointing the specific concern areas.
Lim and Tan with Veronica Teh, Executive- Environment, Sustainability & Employee Engagement.
One of the most important conclusions of the review was – we were definitely in need of creating a new “Funtastic” COCO-based workplace for our employees! A place where all of us feel happy, more creative, and of course more proud of being a part of OMRON.
This was translated into three major objectives to drive the conceptualisation of the new office space :
- Workplace transformation: This focused on relocation and renovation to ensure we re-adapt and re-strategise per the new workstyle during and beyond pandemic, and also set up the right environment for delivering a more engaging environment to our employees not only with internal stakeholders but also with external stakeholders (customers, business partners, etc.) in alignment with the business needs.
- Workstyle digitalisation: This encompassed the utilisation of digital technologies to bring in more work process efficiencies at the new workplace. The goal was to reconsider all basic to advanced processes including the way we had been utilising our office space (including document storage).
- Work-life balance enhancement: Here the focus was to have not only modern and appropriate amenities, but also renewed policies that help our employees lead a safer and happier life at OMRON as well as enjoy the right balance with their personal and family needs.
Every single employee was made a part of the change management. They were all continually engaged and kept informed through emails, surveys, and briefing sessions. Their say was taken for all major and minor decisions ranging from office space location, design, size, and policy changes (e.g flexi-work arrangements, hot desks, etc.) to voting for the meeting room names, their favourite design or colour, beverage and snacks wish list for the new office pantry, to name just a few.
Q How exactly does the design bring the concept of communication & collaboration to life?
The new office design signifies some remarkable as well as first-of-its-kind changes (across OMRON offices worldwide) in sync with its concept of communication & collaboration.
One of the most notable ones is the roll-out of the concept of hot desking. We challenged ourselves to change the mindset of the top management as well as employees to accept and adapt to this new workstyle culture where none of the employees will have their own dedicated rooms or cubicles (including the senior management). Everyone can sit anywhere to work. Phone booths are available for employees to use, especially when they require some privacy to take calls or meetings.
Not only hot desks, but the new office also has many interesting collaboration areas where employees can sit and work, and have an informal chat, discussion, or meeting with their team & other colleagues. The spacious and more welcoming pantries are also equipped with a freshly ground coffee machine, drinks, and snacks aimed at refreshing employees and further encouraging informal bonding amongst them. Going a level up, the office also has an entertainment room equipped with Nintendo switch and board games to allow employees to take much-needed breaks and unwind. All areas are installed with flexible furniture which allows reconfiguration and a change in arrangements at any point in time.
Last but not least, the design lives up to the execution of the new three days of work-from-home / two days of work-from-office policy. With an inviting new and safer work environment, employees feel motivated and encouraged to spend certain time in the office which we feel is very important to strengthen team bonding based on human interactions while carrying along with the virtual practices and protocols to keep them safe from the ongoing pandemic.
Q Overall, how do you hope this space would help with the company culture, engagement, and productivity?
The workplace transformation, workstyle digitalisation, and promotion of work-life balance at the new office show our commitment to improving the well-being of employees and pave the way for future work trends that are necessary to address business needs. For instance, top management, as well as employees from different divisions, are sitting shoulder to shoulder with our employees – which we believe will definitely lead to the breaking of silos and better engagement, resonance, and communication, showing our commitment to an open culture and diversity, equity & inclusion.
The new concept of collaboration areas is also leading to enhancement in productivity. Another small mention which we wish to make here is the provision of ergonomic desks & chairs in the office. This is a small yet important value addition that will give us greater results in ensuring better welfare, greater happiness levels, and higher productivity amongst employees.
Q On a broader note - how does this office space convey what OMRON stands for as an employer & a brand?
OMRON strives to be known as a progressive employer with a safe & happy work environment conducive to creating meaningful connections and encouraging creative thinking to foster innovation. The goal is to give a free rein to their 'can do' spirit. The new office certainly lives up to this vision. It signifies that we are working to create an environment where employees with diverse personal qualities, skills, and experiences can be empowered to create new value together while gaining satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment from their work.
Q What advice would you give other companies that are planning on redesigning their office spaces to cater to the new way of work?
Here are a few of them :
- Be bold and innovative with your design & ideas.
- Employee involvement is the key! They are the most important part of the company. Hence, it is essential to hear their views and reflect them in the whole process.
- Strong support and commitment from top management are also very important to ensure a successful conclusion. This needs a well-thought-out homework based on logical thinking and a clear indication of the long-term return on investment.
Q To end on a personal note - what is your favourite feature/spot in the office, and why?
Lim: "The pantry! I like to work in the pantry area because this is the spot where I feel most at ease and as an HR practitioner, sitting and working at the pantry allows me to be more approachable to employees, giving immense opportunities to make deeper and livelier bonds."
Image / Provided