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05 July 2012
HBO+EMTB has transformed Microsoft’s Singapore office, giving staff the freedom to choose where and how they work.
Where once offices were divided into never-ending rows of grey box-like cubicles, these days, much has changed. Companies are increasingly employing design as a tool in the workplace to attract, retain and nurture talent, while terms like ‘hot-desking’ and ‘breakout areas’ have become part of the everyday office design vocabulary.
Microsoft’s Singapore office, which covers 77,000sqft at 1 Marina Boulevard, has recently undergone a major transformation. The standard office programme has done an about turn and is now a flexible, efficient and comfortable workspace designed to enhance staff creativity, collaboration and productivity.
Tracey Fellows, Area Vice President of Microsoft Asia Pacific comments, “At Microsoft, we actively encourage our employees to work from wherever’s most productive for them – whether that’s in the office, at home or somewhere else. A recent employee survey conducted with Microsoft employees based out of Singapore revealed that 54 per cent of employees reported an increase in productivity levels, 49 per cent confirmed they collaborate more with their colleagues and 77 per cent reported an improvement in their working environment over the previous one.”
Now, staff at Microsoft Singapore no longer have designated desks and instead get to choose from a variety of work settings. These include workbenches, focus rooms, quiet rooms, community areas, discussion areas, counter benches, and calling rooms. There are also informal and formal meeting rooms for larger group discussions.
“It is a complete transformation,” says HBO+EMTB’s Director, Larissa Murphy. “Their previous office could be described as dull. It was a sea of cubicles with some cellular offices, there was no choice on offer to employees of where and how they work, and everyone sat with the same team all day every day, limiting communication.”
With the new flexible and highly mobile workspace, individuals and groups are able “to work in a manner best suited to the task they are undertaking”, says Murphy.
The new office also houses Asia’s first Microsoft Technology Centre, a ‘high-end assembly space’ that allows Microsoft to engage with customers in interactive group presentation and collaborative sessions. It contains a number of showcase and display areas for Microsoft and its partners’ products, as well as meeting rooms and a small auditorium.
Given that this is a Microsoft office, it is no surprise that advanced technology has been well integrated into the design. There are meeting room booking systems with interactive LCD displays outside each room, and these link back to Outlook and mobile phones.
And since all staff are mobile and have laptops, the office has no desktops. Staff can sit anywhere and simply plug in using one simple connection. Mobile phones are also linked to the phone system, making it is easy to find people.
Sustainability also factors strongly in the design. Apart from minimising waste, HBO+EMTB has retained and reused as much of the original fit-out as is possible. This includes virtually all of the ceilings, floor, lights, M&E systems, along with some of the finishes.
“We feel [that] wherever possible, to reuse [what is] existing is more sustainable and cost effective and allows us to spend the money where it is really needed and where it will have the maximum impact,” says Murphy. “As well as reusing [existing materials], we also retained and repainted (or relaminated) existing building fabric, massively cutting down on waste but still creating a new environment.”
The feedback on the new workplace, Murphy says, has been “overwhelmingly positive”.
“Staff love the freedom of choosing where and how they want to work. There have also been many positive comments on the design with the whole space looking lighter, brighter and more energetic. The new amenities that have been provided like the staff cafe and the Microsoft Technology Centre have been seeing a lot of use throughout the day.”
HBO+EMTB has managed to reduce Microsoft Singapore’s space requirements by 15 per cent, but incredibly, the highly efficient space is now able to accommodate the company’s planned growth for the remainder of the lease.
In addition to Singapore, HBO+EMTB has also just completed Microsoft’s new offices in Manila and Kuala Lumpur, and the team is currently working on its Beijing office.