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Room to roam in astroturfed office

'GREEN' OFFICE: Spencer Ogden's Eu Tong Sen Street office has an astroturf floor and employees work from round, communal tables.
Room to roam in astroturfed office

FEELS LIKE HOME: The Toy Room at Gushcloud's 501 office features bean bags and a full-length whiteboard wall.


    Oct 14, 2014

    Room to roam in astroturfed office

    IT'S time for a meeting, your boss says.

    So you troop off for the discussion - not to a room with a large, intimidating table, but one filled with snug, brightly coloured bean bags and a full-length whiteboard wall.

    If that room is taken, you head for another that comes with plush couches, a big-screen television set and a surround-sound system.

    With eclectic rooms like these, dull meetings seem to have no place at home-grown influencer marketing firm Gushcloud.

    "The whole space was designed to feel reminiscent of familiar spaces like living rooms, gardens, libraries and even cinemas," said Vincent Ha, co-founder and chief executive.

    "It's a twist to the concept of working from home. We brought home into the office."

    In August, Gushcloud moved into its new premises in Toa Payoh. Called 501, it shares the space with five other media-related companies.

    It joins the growing number of offices in Singapore that have eschewed typical drab and dreary designs, opting instead for more unconventional and welcoming concepts.

    At least four interior design firms My Paper checked with said that demand for dressed-up office spaces has gone up by as much as 80 per cent.

    Meanwhile, in Eu Tong Sen Street, the Asia-Pacific headquarters of energy recruitment specialist Spencer Ogden also sports an unusual design.

    Employees walk on floors that have been fitted with astroturf, or synthetic grass, and work from round, communal tables instead of personal cubicles.

    The office also packs sports equipment such as golf putters and footballs to "encourage movement" while consultants are on wireless headsets, explained design director Bonita Spencer-Percival.

    "We wanted to create an office that would help employees stay active and energised during the workday," she said.

    Mark Hall, a human resource expert, said that a pleasant work environment can go a long way in keeping staff motivated.

    "Working at an office that is conducive and supportive of employee needs can help boost the staff's overall well-being, stimulate inspiration and even increase productivity," noted Mr Hall, who is vice-president and country manager of Kelly Services.

    This can take the form of quiet spots in the office, having a well-stocked pantry or building innovation labs.

    "After all, employees spend a significant amount of time at work, so providing them with a positive environment is important."

    Pointing out that the office space reflects a company's culture and identity, Mr Hall added that many firms in Singapore are redesigning their workspaces to "maintain a strong company branding".

    "This is key to retaining and even attracting talent," he said.

    For home-grown software firm Muvee Technologies, its workspace concept was premised on one thing: Employees need to be comfortable and happy to be able to work well.

    Its renovated premises in Middle Road incorporates design ideas that came from its own staff, including a room for naps and massages, as well as a beach, which was later removed due to cleaning issues.

    "People need to be able to rest when they are tired, be quiet when they need to focus, sit around and have impromptu discussions when they need to," said Terence Swee, founder and CEO of Muvee Technologies.

    While the benefits of having such an environment are "not directly measurable", he noted that when people leave the company, they do miss the office.  

    "Ultimately, it's the people that matter, but the space does help to enable people to collaborate, discuss and enjoy each other's company."