When renovating its office to embrace activity based working, Millward Brown Singapore designed its office to engage its employees’ five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.
“If you have heard of the saying, ‘happy people equals happy clients’, then you would agree it is extremely important to have happy, engaged and productive employees,” said Sujatha Maniya, Millward Brown’s human resource director for Southeast Asia.
“There has been a lot of studies to find out if the five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste and smell – have the power to influence how we perceive the world and how we remember experiences.”
Hence, when designing the office with all five senses in mind, Millward Brown hoped its staff would be able to contribute towards the organisation’s success by being happier, more productive and engaged.
“We believe that we have to push boundaries when it comes to offering value to our clients and our corporate values are strongly embedded in our design.”
As “bold” is one of the company’s values, it is used as a central focal point of the office design.
Bright, bold colours are used in high-impact areas of the office, stimulating creativity and engaging the sense of sight.
“Studies have also shown that focusing on natural light can help improve employee mood and productivity.”
As such, the outside world is kept in sight, regardless of which part of the office an employee is sitting. Another important element added to its environment was artwork and greenery.
While moving to an activity based workplace meant that no one had their own desk anymore and meeting spaces and workstations are typically shared, Millward Brown recognises that different work activities call for different work environments.
It took into consideration the sense of sound, creating quiet zones for those who wanted to focus on getting a client presentation.
By doing so, it made sure that those in need of focus are not disturbed by the phone ringing or group conversations.
“Every alternative work space and meeting room is multi-purposed built for group discussion, one-on-one catch ups, individual focus work, etc.”
With the addition of collaborative tools, writeable surfaces and different types of furniture, employees are encouraged to move around and make optimal use of the space.
“Employees now get to choose the workspace that best suits their planned day, hence, boosting collaboration and team work.
“It was not easy for our senior management team to give up their space, but by doing this they have embraced and endorsed the change in culture.”
To add more texture to the office space and evoke a sense of touch, accent colours were added to the carpets which connect with the walls, and textured wood and stone surfaces were used for walls, pillars and collaboration tables.
“Every piece of furniture was selected not just to match the design of the office or functionality, but because they were made from soft, plush materials.”
When it comes to the sense of taste, the first thing that comes to mind is the pantry.
Boasting a well-stocked pantry to keep energy levels up throughout the day, apart from the standard biscuits, healthier options such as multi-grain bread, high-fibre cereal, and fruit and nuts can also be found there.
“We also host the occasional ice-cream, celebratory lunch party or healthy cooking lessons.”
To make the normal coffee and lunch sessions more enjoyable, the pantry is designed to look and feel like a café, allowing employees to momentarily forget they are in the office.
“The office pantry is also designed as an eat, work and play area and it has become the heart and soul of the office where everyone gathers, not just for training and meetings, but for interaction with colleagues and clients.”
When talking about the sense of smell, it is “not about having a recognisable perfume associated with a space, but giving your employees the option to define what the ‘smell of the place’ is like to them”.
“If you want the smell to stick, you have to give it an identity!
“All the physical elements are about staying true to our culture and company ethos; it is about employees coming to work and being invigorated by their physical surroundings and we have achieved this in our new office.”
One of the reasons Millward Brown has been successful with the transformation of its office is because it has involved its employees in the entire process.
“We ran focus groups with our employees, took their feedback and managed the communication through regular meetings.”
As a result of the journey being a partnership between the company and its employees, “every individual feels they have played a part in creating this fantastic workspace”.
“So remember to involve your people because you need their commitment to make it work.
“One other advice, as Alan Watts (British-born American philosopher) says, ‘The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance’.”