All work and no play makes for very unhappy employees these days. Such is certainly not the case for Hamilton Insurance Group which puts an emphasis on balancing the productivity of its hard-working staff with the need to recharge and refresh.
“Hamilton embraces a culture of modern technology, open communication and collaboration with all of their staff and clients, and wanted their new offices to reflect this,” explained senior interior designer Dawn Dunstan of Linberg and Simmons who were challenged to create a dynamic and exciting open-plan office for 44 staff members. “Hamilton is progressive and forward thinking and the space needed to fit the company’s mission—‘We’re writing the future of risk’—and to live their First Principles¬: Be Smart, Be Sensible, Be Open and Be More.
“To support the open communication and free flow of ideas within the office space, we demolished all of the existing traditional style multi-offices,” she continued. “Instead we created an open office plan that removes any stigma of hierarchy and creates the feeling of belonging to a team where all members are treated equally and sit side by side in the same size workstations.
“We also created recreational areas that help to stimulate the staff’s creativity and innovation, as well as nurture business relationships with their clients in nontraditional ways. This effectively enables the type of corporate culture that Hamilton is establishing.”
While an open plan can be advantageous for many reasons, there is often a need for private meetings and conversations within the office environment—and striking that balance was important in this design. “One of the challenges of having such an open office plan is that it is hard to have a private conversation,” said Dunstan. “To aid with this, we installed a sound-masking system throughout. For situations when more private collaboration and meetings are necessary, we created a variety of areas where staff could go to meet in meeting rooms, break out ‘pods’ in the open plan and smaller telephone rooms for private telephone calls.”
With necessary spaces allocated, the next important aspect of the design was incorporating as much natural light as possible into the expansive 13,264-square-foot office area. “It was very important to the client that the office be bright, airy and spacious. Linberg and Simmons made sure that all staff have a view of the outside and access to natural light. The fronts of the offices and meeting rooms are all glass, allowing the natural light to spill though to the office interior and keeping all of the space bright.”
What isn’t so apparent is the sheer amount of impressive new technology that Dunstan was thrilled to include in the project. In the main boardroom a 22-foot custom-designed conference table includes built-in microphones and individual audio visual (A/V) and power points in concealed drawers around the table edge. A 90-inch TV screen is built into a sophisticated A/V wall with back-painted glass. And to literally top it off, a custom wood ceiling-tile system controls the acoustics in the room with its micro-perforated surface and acoustic fabric backing that function to absorb and dissipate the sound. Other smaller meeting rooms were just as impressive.
“The company is very technology driven so the office design incorporates elements of technology throughout that both enhance Hamilton’s way of doing business and the comfort of their staff,” said Dunstan. “These include sophisticated A/V rooms that offer video conferencing, audio conferencing and multiple display panels for training and collaborating; a surround sound system, sound-masking system and panel touch televisions throughout; meeting room schedulers and an interactive globe in the reception area.”
The interactive globe is designed to be both a wow element in the reception area as well as a fully functional tool for company presentations. “It is a large spherical display system with touch screen capabilities that allows Hamilton to make presentations to visitors on events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, tornadoes and volcanic eruptions,” explained the designer. “Again showing Hamilton’s progressive thinking, this is the first Pufferfish globe to be installed in the North American region for this purpose.”
Clients and visitors to Hamilton Insurance Group and its reinsurance operations, Hamilton Re, would be wise to come early to their meetings as the lobby features an equally unique putting green—believed to be the first of its kind in Bermuda. “Creating an indoor minigolf area in an office environment was a really exciting and new design element for me,” said Dunstan. “We tried to create a fairly realistic minigolf area, mimicking a real course with rolling hills, a water feature, a bunker, planting and two putting greens. [Visitors] are given a putter and are welcome to play a bit of golf while they wait for their meetings. Staff can enjoy a couple of holes during fun office appreciation events or with their clients.”
The reception area also features a coffee bar equipped with an espresso machine and visitors are treated to specialty coffees made by a fully trained coffee barista. To the left of the coffee bar is a less obvious games room where staff are encouraged to play as hard as they work.
“The games room is another example of how Hamilton promotes doing business in a fun and modern environment,” she said. “Staff work long hours so are encouraged to take breaks to relax and recharge.”
The room includes a skee ball table and a video machine with old-school favourites like Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Galaga. In the adjacent room, a conventional-looking conference table converts to a regulation-sized ping pong table for friendly games between staff members.
Healthy living was also a driving factor in the design. Other in-house amenities include a large kitchen and dining lounge with outdoor patio, a bicycle rack for up to 10 bikes, staff lockers to store workout gear and a changing room with shower access. And all are conveniently located next to the office space.
“These areas are greatly appreciated by both staff and clients,” said Dunstan. “The areas are well used and have proven to be an effective tool in building relationships internally and externally.”
No office is complete without beautiful artwork on the walls, and for Hamilton the focus was on supporting local artists. For the reception area, artist Lexi Correia was
commissioned to create semi-abstract work reflecting the fun collaborative areas in the office including the minigolf section, coffee bar, games room and even the gumball machine.
Throughout the main office area are digitally enhanced photos by Pierangelo Lanfranchini and Graeme Outerbridge, featuring recognisable images of Bermuda in a nontraditional style, along with photographs by Antoine Hunt featuring serene images of nature in Bermuda.
“There was willingness by Hamilton to do things differently and this allowed us to be very creative with our design,” concluded Dunstan. “I really enjoyed the entire design process, coming up with fresh ideas on creating a space that would offer something completely different than any other office that we had designed before.”