How often do you see a slide in an office space, that leads you from one floor straight down to another?
For TIME Dotcom’s employees in Shah Alam, it’s every day. What makes it better, is that the slide has a meaning behind it.
In an exclusive to Human Resources, Wan Ezrin Sazli Wan Zahari, Chief People Officer, and Sharif-Sharmizi Shahimi, Project Manager, Culture & Creative, shared the main reason behind its installation. It was a form of symbolism. They said: “[It is] a sign to show to all employees that the culture and way of work of the organisation has changed (and of course, also to add more fun in the working space!).
“We also wanted to provide an office that was not only comfortable to work in, but could help inspire them into the next big thing!”
Ezrin and Sharmizi also delved further into the entire office concept, in this interview with Priya Sunil. Here’s what they had to say.
Q. What spurred your company’s decision to create this office concept?
Previously, the office arrangement in TIME was very much in line with the general setup of any corporate office; cubicles for the general employees and offices for the managers and general managers, inadvertently encouraging people to work in silos.
When Afzal Abdul Rahim, our current Commander-in-Chief, came aboard in 2008 to turnarouod the business, one of his first initiatives to shake people’s mindset was to change the physical workspace, moving our corporate Office from Kuala Lumpur to its current site in Glenmarie, Shah Alam. This shakeup was the first of many to reinvent TIME from a corporate entity to a more entrepreneur setup.
In the first two years, from 2008 to 2010, the business was solely focused on ensuring the organisation turns a profit from “red to black”, and we achieved that goal in October 2010 in what the Malaysian market terms as “the most stunning business turnaround in Malaysian corporate history”.
During that time, we slowly started to remove barriers, dismantling cubicles and installing long tables to encourage managers and employees to sit together with their teams. There was little to demarcate different divisions, with only an imaginary line separating each division and department. This encouraged conversation and interaction between divisions.
Once the business had sorted itself out, the next thing was to look into reinventing ourselves in terms of our office layout and structure. Our core fibre backbone was based in Glenmarie, and we knew it would incur a significant cost to move our core infrastructure.
The current building, though adequate in terms of accommodating our current headcount at the time, was in need of a major refit and rebrand as it did not reflect our new corporate identity, especially when we adopted magenta as our brand’s corporate colour!
Hence, TdC Reinvent was developed as an answer to the questions above, with every renovation, movement and ideation guided from it, even now as we move into 2019 and beyond. Its main criteria was simple: to challenge ourselves on what is the norms of an office environment and reinvent it, from moving to a closed office to an open office, encouraging our sales and enterprise team to practise hot seating, establishing areas that serve specific purposes. For example, an idea room, library, cafeteria, etc.
And of course, we installed a spiralling slide in the main lobby, and the main reason for that was Symbolism – a sign to show to all employees that the culture and way of work of the organisation has changed (and of course, also to add more fun in the working space!). We also wanted to provide an office that was not only comfortable to work in, but could help inspire them into the next big thing!
Q. How does creating an innovative and interactive workplace help with the company culture?
One of the major issues that affected TIME before the transformation was the difficulty in getting people from different departments and divisions to work together, especially when it concerned the development of new products and services. When we launched our new corporate identity, we established new shared values: “Bold”, “Can-Do” and “Quick-Bold” in terms of challenging the norms of how a company should operate and present itself, Can-Do in the face of ever-increasing risks and challenges and finally, being Quick in an industry where if you made a miscalculated first step, you faced being left behind, not only by competitors, but also by customers and consumers.
These values were important in developing the company culture, and were already being inculcated to our employees through a series of workshops and programs. But to initiate change was easy, the difficult part was getting it to stick and people to be on-board with the new brand and values.
Hence, an easier way of hastening that change is to physically change the office in-line with the values, forcing everyone to change together with the office environment. It is a drastic way of doing things, but it works!
Currently, we are in the midst of finalising our development plans for the TIME office in the next 5 to 10 years, incorporating lessons we have learned from past experiences and our ideas and thoughts on what the TIME office should look and function like. We hope that once this is finalised, it will not only reflect the values that we have strived to build, but also allow our employees to have a campus they would be proud of!
Q. Does having an engaging office space help improve productivity, and why?
A by-product of bringing down walls and opening up the office is that it actually encourages interactions between people, which in turn gets everyone to open up and share their ideas with a much larger group of people than was initially intended. As our office floor is open from end to end, it is quite easy to throw an idea (literally) from one end to the other!
And it is not surprising to find people from different divisions and departments huddle together in one area to discuss and brainstorm ideas. Though we have meeting and discussion rooms where a more formal setting is required, we’ve also placed huddle spaces in and around the office for people to come together and meet, and that extend to our cafe, where employees can enjoy a drink while discussing and working together! As our managers, heads of departments and divisions sit together with the working level, this also helps foster camaraderie and togetherness within the group.
Another advantage of an open office space is the lack of obstacles from going from one division to the next, as there literally is none! Hence, if a problem were to surface or if clarification was needed quickly from one department or division, it is easy to connect to the person you really need.
Q. What advice would you give other companies that are planning on redecorating their offices?
With any office realignment and restructuring, be prepared to listen to people and gauge their feedback against the company’s wants and needs. Each department and division have their own necessary requirements. For instance, procurement, finance, internal audit and more, and it always helps to ensure their needs are met so difficulties do not arise with regards to expansions and realignment in the future.
Don’t redecorate just for the sake of redecorating; every renovation must have a purpose, with the main criteria that everyone should consider is to reinforce the company and brand values accurately in the office, actively reminding employees that they are in the company zone and as Employee Brand Ambassadors, they have an important duty to expand the company’s message to all in the organisation.
Ultimately, however, as with any redecorating, it helps to ask others on how they first started out their renovation before proceeding with yours. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and always seek the opinions of others, even if they do not agree or dovetail with yours! Because as with any renovation project, you are not renovating for yourself; you are renovating on behalf of the company, and the company is nothing without the people behind it!
Photos / provided