Office layouts, functions and amenities generally have changed dramatically in recent years with many companies using them as a way to attract the younger generation by demonstrating their green credentials, flexible working options and commitment to the overall well-being of their employees.
Hiscox, however, has gone a step further and used bold, new initiatives to clearly demonstrate their commitment to this ethos—some are subtle, some less so. On the less subtle side are dramatic green “living walls” containing over 900 plants, taking up a whole corner area in reception. A second floor-to-ceiling living wall greets you as the elevator doors open onto the main office floor. The plants are constantly watered through a “drip-water” system, and the lighting above is on for 12 hours each day to replicate sunlight. Beneath the living walls in reception are “river rock tumble stools,” which create “fun collaboration space,” says Darcy Robertson, design director at Commercial Interiors Group (CIG).
More subtle nods to the company’s environmentally friendly credentials include the fact that, where possible, they reused and recycled the existing materials. “Hiscox is a very green company so they were cognisant of ‘we don’t want to rip everything out’”, he continues. “The finishes were good; how do we make it Hiscox? How do we make it new? Even some of the millwork here was just re-skinned and the insides of some of the cupboards are the same.”
For the ‘how do we make it Hiscox?’ part, they decided they wanted to see their brand, but not be fully in their brand so instead of red and white everywhere, Robertson brought in little pops of their red in certain locations, including some of the light fixtures and the stitching on the chairs. The red and white acoustic ceiling lighting in reception is particularly unique. Other furnishings and furniture use the company’s secondary colour palette which includes shades of blue, purple and grey. A large video screen, which greets guests on arrival, provides a striking visual into news and events from Hiscox offices around the world, and it also highlights some of their charity work.
Encouraging collaboration was an important part of the design brief so the second-floor office area is light, bright, open and therefore more social than the company’s previous office space. With the exception of the CEO and CFO, no other staff members have their own offices. Everything is purposefully designed to be very accessible and a lot of glass is used to enhance the feeling of space. The workstations, which all have electric sit-stand desks, are positioned at 120 degrees from each other, so while no one is staring directly at a colleague opposite, eye-contact is still facilitated, thereby balancing individual work and ease of collaboration with team members.
“Right now, because of their number, everyone can have a desk, but they’re not assigned desks,” explains Robertson. “It’s not set up as ‘this is underwriting, this is finance.’ They want the cross-pollination.” Because of the “hot desking,” CIG installed staff lockers, and there are acoustic single and dual phone booths for video or phone calls you don’t want your colleagues to be passively involved in.
Like the workspaces, the café area is open not only to add to the sense of community but also because it makes the office space flexible. Positioned to take full advantage of the water views, it is laid out so it can be used for team meetings, lunch breaks, individuals who just want a change of scene, and after-hours social events. And, just for fun, one of the tables doubles up as a ping-pong table!
Other, more subtle and unusual design features that have been utilised to bring the office together include the hexagonal pattern in the carpet, which cleverly mimics the 120-degree workspaces and also blurs the transition as it hits the concrete. Elsewhere in the office space there is a wellness room and a massage room. The boardroom includes a moveable wall so it can be divided into two or expanded into what Robertson describes as “full cocktail party size.” Moveable acoustic screens that white boards can attach to can be arranged at the workstations to, again, allow for collaboration and flexibility.
The task put forward by Hiscox to CIG was to create a space that was technology-enabled, varied, collaborative, flexible, bright, healthy, innovative, biophilic, social, energetic, open and inspiring and this, agree the judges, is what they achieved.
“I applaud the innovation and I applaud them for being green,” says one. “It’s certainly recognisable what Hiscox is doing to be green, to be the most forward-thinking in terms of commercial office space. You don’t really see that in the office sector. I thought it was great that a corporate entity did that. Kudos for trying something so different”