Working on a holiday mood
YOU know the high that you get when you go on a holiday? The staff at TripAdvisor are on that constant high, thanks to the design of their office at Cross Street.
"People really enjoy working here, it is like being on a vacation while working," says Lewis Ng, TripAdvisor's commercial director for business listings.
Designed by Kyoob-id, the office has plenty of travel elements in it. "The world is one big playground. We want to emulate a fun environment akin to a travel experience," says Maggie Yeo, Kyoob-id's associate director.
The fun starts when you step into the office. Strips of light-oak timber stretch across the reception ceiling to create a larger-than-life bird cage. A large pair of eyes stares back at you, but that is just Ollie the owl, TripAdvisor's brand mascot, welcoming you into the office.
"The owl icon is not only a feature wall for the reception area, but also separates the reception and the meeting rooms behind it," says Tiwe Tan, Kyoob-id's senior designer.
The office gets views of Raffles Place, Clarke Quay and the Marina Bay area, so most of the workstations are placed along the circumference to let staff enjoy these views. Meetings and managers' rooms are in the central core.
Just so that no one forgets this is the office of the world's largest travel site, there are always reminders. Instead of plain glass walls, the managers' rooms have frosted decals of well-known travel icons, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Leaning Tower of Pisa on them.
Glass partitions that separate the different departments have stickers that resemble passport stamps. Some meeting rooms are named after renowned island destinations such as Bora Bora and Santorini, which are also winners in TripAdvisor's 2013 Travellers' Choice Islands awards.
Even the carpet is not spared, with directional and speed-limit icons worked into the design. And, of course, it would make sense for the office to have a map of the world. This is at the pantry, where a world map collage reminiscent of a travel scrapbook is emblazoned on the wall. Another wall has been set aside for staff to put up their framed travel pictures.
The office may have been designed by Kyoob-id, but the 90-strong staff from TripAdvisor played a role too. The company held a photo competition, and two of the best photos of Singapore's skyline have been printed on the walls.
The directional signs come with quirky names such as Smart Connections and A Click Away From Happiness that were thought up by the staff. The names point to the Mobile Partnerships and Cost Per Click teams respectively.
Before they moved into this office two months ago, staff were asked for their feedback on what they wanted in their new office. Among the wants were height-adjustable tables, a better stocked pantry, a recreation room and shower area which are now all in place.
Mr Ng notes that his colleagues are now spending more time in the office. For example, there are many food joints around the office, but most are choosing to do takeaway meals so they can lunch in the recreation room.
"I see more people staying back in the office to do non-work stuff, which is good, since we encourage bonding among staff," he says.
An office to live in
Warner Music Singapore
SAVE for a sign at the entrance, and a wall covered with photographs of musicians, it is hard to tell that this is the Singapore office of Warner Music.
The space near Bukit Merah feels more like that of a design or advertising agency. It is a far cry from the company's previous office, which was bigger, but had the typical cubicle-and-partitioned wall combination.
Warner Music Singapore's general manager Simon Nasser says, "the office now has a more homely feel".
He would know. Mr Nasser worked with interior design firm Forward 50 on the new look, without revealing anything to his staff in Singapore or to his superiors in Hong Kong.
"Everyone had a pleasant surprise when we moved in four months ago," says Mr Nasser. The office has a chic industrial look - think cement and brick walls, mixed with steel and wood.
"I was confident that people would like it, since this is similar to my home. And they all love coming over to my place," quips Mr Nasser.
The office was also shortlisted this year for the Herman Miller Most Liveable Office Award.
Forward 50 director Christopher Kwek had a clear idea of how he wanted the office to be.
"Since this is the office for a music company, it would have been easy to put music symbols around the space. But that is so cliched and overdone," he says.
Instead, he focused on using materials to bring life to the space. Cement flooring and walls all around give the office a raw feel.
To add interest to the reception area, Mr Kwek created a feature wall out of recycled railway sleepers, that is adjacent to a brick wall.
The breakout area by the reception, with its mix of mid-century furniture pieces and a hanging, bespoke TV console that resembles a fireplace, could easily be mistaken for a living room rather than a space for discussions. It also doesn't help that the pantry area, with a bright orange Smeg fridge, is next to it.
The initial idea was for the office to not have any rooms, but Mr Kwek advised otherwise.
"This was the first time that I had to suggest the need for rooms," he says. There are only two here - a glass-enclosed one for Mr Nasser, and the second which is the meeting room.
Mr Kwek did away with the typical conference table, and had a table made of African mahogany in its place. "It is narrower than the usual width, so everyone can get closer in a meeting," he says.
Mr Nasser chose pieces for his office, such as a stainless steel beaded curtain, which he bought from the now-defunct Ink Bar.
The remaining staff sit in an open area, with workstations arranged in a boomerang configuration, "to encourage more mingling", says Mr Kwek.
Whereas the old office used to have storage for CDs, visitors would be hard-pressed to find a single CD in this office. "We have gone totally digital," says Mr Nasser.
Music is now stored in a computer, and every day, each staff member gets to play music from their personal playlist.
"We all have different tastes in music, but so far, we have not had any problems," he says.
The industrial chic look is going so well with the management office in Hong Kong that Mr Nasser's boss wants to recreate this look for its other offices in the Philippines and Malaysia. There will be competition to see who has the best office. Mr Nasser is unfazed. "I say bring it on."
Lots of wiggle room
AT Roomorama, no one would bat an eyelid if you walk around the office barefooted. In fact, most staff do that, judging from the many pairs of shoes placed at the entrance.
"It is all very cool and casual here," says Cherry Bacolod, Roomorama's marketing and public relations manager.
Since April, the 30-strong staff have been working from this office located on the third storey of a shophouse on Amoy Street. The four-year-old company was founded by Jia En Teo and her husband Federico Folcia, and today is Asia's fastest growing short-term rental platform.
It was Mr Folcia who designed the office. The space is not overly generous but still feels spacious and airy, because of its white walls and an airwell, where natural light streams in. Just like his home in the Toh Tuck area, Mr Folcia recreated a similar look for the office - a mix of modern, minimalist and industrial.
Most of the staff have their workstations in a central area, where a large Roomorama logo is emblazoned on the wall. Roomorama's chief user-experience officer, Josh Kennedy is the man behind the cute graphics seen around the office.
For example, in place of a sign that says "Meeting Room 1", he has drawn graphics of two talk bubbles. On some of the other doors, are graphics of a bicycle and shoe, indicating the respective use of the storerooms.
There's a media wall in the office, where framed articles of Ms Teo and Mr Folcia are put up. The couple sometimes bring their dog, Pato, to the office too.
Actual cinema seating salvaged from the old Capitol Theatre have found their way into a meeting room. Mr Folcia has more of them in his home.
The casual vibe of the office naturally extends into the pantry area, where staff gather for weekly meetings on Monday mornings. "Breakfast is provided, so we all grab some fruit or yogurt before the meeting," says Ms Bacolod.
Just by the side is a foosball table which is actively used. "Sometimes we hold championship games," says Ms Bacolod. On some Fridays, the company holds poker nights.
"The company is young and hip, so naturally the office reflects this too," says Ms Bacolod.
Social hubs take the edge off
DBS Asia Gateway
OFFICE pantries are often a small space, tucked away in a corner, but not at DBS Asia Gateway. Here, they are given prime space, and have taken on a fancy term too.
Called Social Hubs, these areas are spacious, tastefully done up and, in fact, look more attractive than the actual work area.
At DBS Asia Gateway in Toh Guan Road, there are four social hubs, each done up with a different colour theme, such as green and purple.
"The staff really embrace these social hubs. Instead of merely gathering at their desks, they come here," says a DBS spokesman. "Rather than head to the meeting rooms, some choose to have their discussions at the social hubs."
DBS has three offices across Singapore - at Changi Business Park, Marina Bay Financial Centre and at Toh Guan. Social hubs can be found at all three locations.
The bank has about 1,000 employees working at Toh Guan, since September. They span a cross-section of departments from customer service, consumer banking, investment banking to private banking. It is difficult to tell that the office was previously a warehouse space.
"One of the challenges was how to make staff feel they are entering an office rather than a warehouse," says Jessi Ong, senior interior designer at HBO+EMTB. The firm also designed the DBS office at Changi Business Park.
The design team did this by tearing down concrete walls and replacing them with glass ones. Social hubs are placed along the corridor so that staff can look out onto a courtyard and vice versa.
Out of the four social hubs, the red themed one is the largest, as this is where the cafeteria is. Here, townhall meetings can be conducted, via video-conferencing to connect with staff at the two other locations.
Ms Ong says that red represents flowers, so some of the customised furniture resemble trees, as seen on the table legs. There are also meeting rooms here, that have been designed to resemble houses.
Much effort was also placed in doing up the courtyard, which the staff frequently use during the cooler times of the day. A pair of white statues from Chinese artist Gao Xiaowu greet staff as they walk past. At night, the courtyard is lit up by cone- and globe-shaped lights.
Ms Ong says that when it came to designing the office, the team had to keep in mind DBS's tagline: Living, Breathing Asia. "So we incorporated Asian elements, such as a water theme for a department's social hub,"
Elsewhere, there are bird-cage-like lights and dining chairs inspired by kopi-tiam chairs. The bank also worked with a social enterprise, Social Creatives, to design a mural.
DBS staff also got involved with the painting. The bank's new office has gone down well with its staff.
Operations manager Lim Chun Hwa says, "I don't feel so constrained working here, and I appreciate the spaciousness." As a new employee to the company, the social hubs have also come in handy for him.
"There are definitely more opportunities to meet with colleagues from the other departments, unlike in the previous office." TSC
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