Providing exceptional workplace experience has long been at the forefront of Standard Chartered’s Property agenda, in support of the Bank’s ambition to create an inclusive culture, enabling colleagues to innovate together, generate new ideas, solve problems and continuously improve.
Since 2017, Standard Chartered has adopted Leesman as their standard metric for measuring employee workplace experience across their global office portfolio. Their survey results have informed the planning and design process plus important service amenities workplace innovation by providing key insights into how their employees worked, what they needed, and what was important to them in the workspace.
As planning began for their next phase of workplace innovation, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Like many organisations, this presented an abundance of challenges; however, for Standard Chartered, it helped shape the strategies for their future office design and workplace experience operations. As such, everything was redefined to one simple strategy: twice the experience in half the space. Shelley Boland, Regional Head of Property Asia, explains:
“When COVID-19 hit, we were at the stage of concept design. We had to redefine our workplace brief for the project, radicalise our plans and ensure we were future-proofed to the new normal.”
The strategy aims to maximise productivity as well as enhance user experience and derives value from the facilities that deliver both. Using insights from their Leesman Office survey in 2019 (such as low employee satisfaction scores for Relaxing/taking a break, Video conferencing and Restaurant/canteen), the Property team could focus on improving the elements of the office that enticed employees back. Shelley Boland explains: “Ensuring that sharing and flexibility are prioritised, enables a certain optimisation of the space, but challenging the status quo and really optimising our facilities, enables us to invest in maximising the experience when we are at the office.”
This case study delves into the impressive insights from the pilot workplace to successfully deliver the redefined global strategy.
Workplace experience transformation in Taiwan
In December 2021, Standard Chartered consolidated three Taiwan offices to a brand-new, state-of-the-art headquarters. Occupied for 25 years, the buildings were outdated with limited communal spaces, segregated departments, and individual personalised workstations. Vikey Hogan, Head of Property in Taiwan, explains: “Each department had their own entrance door, and there was little common and shared space where we could get together to collaborate and have informal discussions.”
The pre-COVID survey results for the Taiwan buildings indicated that employees longed for a space that would promote collaboration and flow within the office. Shelley Boland, explains: “The survey highlighted a number of aspects which needed to be prioritised as part of the new headquarters, helping us to refine our strategy to focus on improved wellbeing facilities and enabling collaboration and interaction with colleagues.”
It was about change; from a historic siloed way of working where every employee had an individual space.
With plans for a new office in the pipeline, these insights were incorporated into the organisation’s re-defined global design guidelines. The objective of the design was to ensure that important elements pertaining to wellbeing, productivity, sustainability, accessibility, and a sense of community would be curated within the new office space.
Wellbeing was an essential factor that the organisation wanted to address. According to Vikey Hogan, Standard Chartered wanted to provide a space that would allow seamless collaboration, better flow within the building and more integration within traditionally siloed departments. Moving into the new era of office design, it was crucial to provide a space where employees could feel better supported and more connected – to really bring people together.
Standard Chartered’s success was verified by a Leesman Office survey conducted in May 2022. The survey showed major improvements in employees’ Lmi scores. Additionally, the new Taiwan HQ has qualified for the elite Leesman+ certification (L+) – an achievement that mirrors the organisation’s global strategy.
According to the survey insights there are seven key areas in the new office design that have improved the workplace experience: wellbeing, catering, technology and IT support, community hosts, change management, sustainability, and accessibility.
A greater focus on wellbeing
Wellbeing was a key aspect in the design guidelines for the new headquarters, with Standard Chartered dedicating three to five percent of floor space to wellbeing services and features. Jennifer Henderson, Global Head of Workplace Experience, explains: “It’s where people can recharge, because to be productive, it’s important for people to relax and take a break.
Innovative features include rejuvenation areas, quiet zones, and massage chairs where employees can unwind and an entertainment area with a basketball arcade, punch bags and dartboards, a dedicated mother’s room, and a medical centre.
Natural light and greenery are some of the other elements that contribute to employee satisfaction with the new headquarters’ wellness offering. In fact, it has been one of the biggest satisfaction drivers, which speaks to the biophilia hypotheses around humans’ innate tendency to seek connections with nature.
Promoting community culture through culinary experience
A key area of focus was nourishment; with micro-markets aspiring to ‘vertically activate’ the building and promote better flow and integration, as employees are encouraged to move up and down to get their favourite food. This has been extremely well received, and proven to be hugely successful, especially when considering the many street food vendors in the area selling food at very competitive prices.
The micro-markets not only provide a good variety of healthy meal and snack options at competitive prices but are also convenient for those working nonstandard hours. The food and drinks offered at the Work Café promote a healthy choice by meeting necessary health recommendations, focusing on minimum sugar and salt.
The Bank hosts monthly classes, including June’s cooking class that inspired employees with nutritious recipes and promoted a healthier way of living.
Enhanced technology and IT support
In an office with over 1,000 employees, technology and IT play a significant role in productivity. Standard Chartered have innovated to create an enhanced IT helpdesk, the Guru Bar, where employees can walk into the space, speak with a person, and solve any IT-related problems efficiently on the spot.
Jennifer Henderson, Global Head of Workplace Experience, has encapsulated the value of this new addition: “With IT issues, you don’t always know how to explain what’s broken and what’s not working, or ask for a specific thing that you need. So being able to go up to someone directly with your computer who can help you, and solve the issue right on the spot, has been another huge productivity enhancer. Instead of calling the helpline, employees can simply pay a visit to the guru bar on the destination floor and enjoy a coffee whilst waiting for their laptop to be fixed.”
Day-to-day exceptional experience
With lockdowns causing employees to adjust to working from home, the need to connect and spend time with teams has grown significantly as employees have realised this is something they cannot do in their home offices. Jennifer Henderson explains:
“People come back to collaborate, to spend time with their teams, and to generally have a really good experience.”
Based on these needs, Community Hosts have been introduced and are one of the ways in which Standard Chartered plan to “earn the commute” – where their workplaces are worth the expense, effort and time put into getting there. “Because you get out of bed, you get properly dressed, you pay for your commute. So, something needs to add up for you to make that trip,” says Jennifer Henderson.
Supporting the adjustment of removing individual offices and implementing a shared working environment with team zones, the Community Host is key in making employees feel supported by helping with any questions and pointing them in the right direction. In essence, they’re making it easier for employees to find people, places, and the technology they need, to work at their best.
Jennifer Henderson explains the importance of the Community Host in helping to point employees in the right direction: “As we have rightsized the space, it’s important to have community hosts to guide employees on where to work and collaborate best.”
Furthermore, the role of the Community Host is to connect employees to all the events in the building and in the surrounding area. Post-COVID, location experiences are considered a “pull” factor that can encourage people back to the office. This is where events and activations play a critical role. Jennifer Henderson has pointed out that many of the events are hosted by the management team: “It ensures that after two difficult years, coming back to the office you can really rebuild the culture.”
Successful change management
As an organisation, Standard Chartered have created a better-integrated, less hierarchal structure, that is supported by the new open office design. The way in which the company has prepared, supported, and helped individuals and teams in making this organisational change, has been inspiring. Granted, asking people to give up their office can pose challenges and resistance, which is why senior management decided to lead by example by being the first to give up their offices.
The reduction of individual offices has helped Standard Chartered eliminate excess layers of space management and improves the speed and coordination of communication between employees.
The new office has a state-of-the-art desk and room booking system, enabling flexibility and ease of reservation within the building, as well as a smart sensor system that will provide data insights to enable continued enhancements.
Jennifer Henderson explains: “It’s about moving from ‘me’ to ‘we’ and getting people into the mindset of sharing.
What helped tremendously was our Taiwan CEO leading by example. He was the first one who gave up his office. He sits out with his team which he admits, took a little while to get used to, but he absolutely loves it and says that it was one of the most positive changes he has made. It’s fantastic because at SCB, we are on a mission now to convert all personnel offices into shared spaces to encourage much flatter hierarchy. We’ve made amazing progress globally.”
Sustainability – top of the corporate agenda
Climate change has driven the awareness and expectations of sustainability to the top of the corporate agenda. For Standard Chartered, steps that have been implemented to promote sustainable spaces include the installation of EV charging stations in car parks, using more energy-efficient LED lights and eco-friendly furniture throughout their office design implementing food composters for recycling and washroom basins fitted with water-efficient nozzles.
According to Vikey Hogan, the Taiwan HQ is already in an advanced stage of being evaluated and the company is expecting to get a LEED certification in the fourth quarter of 2022: “It helps with our agenda of accelerating to zero here in Taiwan. It is a more carbon efficient building than our previous building and I think it raises awareness in that sense as well. Over the course of this year, we’ll receive a LEED certification at an appropriate level.”
As part of the wider Standard Chartered goal to become a disability confident organisation, making the office accessible to everyone is paramount to and inclusive environment. It welcomes all colleagues to fully unlock their strengths, by being part of an integrated community and improves workplace culture, which, in turn, enhances productivity, retention and motivation for employees.
Standard Chartered has incorporated accessibility features for disabled employees to ensure they have the tools and guidance they need to function and perform in the workplace. Part of this is an indoor way finding system, as Vikey Hogan explains: “We have visually impaired colleagues in our contact centre; to cater for them, we have way finding aids in the whole building, including the floors, meeting rooms and lifts.”
The findings from Standard Chartered’s most recent survey are a testament to the incredible transformation and impactful improvements they have made. Not only in terms of their improved Lmi scores, but also gaining a Leesman+ certification.
The office has scored better than the home across most business functions, while corporate pride has improved by 33.6%.
This was the first standard measurement on a workplace that’s implemented the “twice the experience in half the space” strategy and has proven to be successful, with Lmi scores from three buildings increasing as employees have transitioned to a single HQ.
Taking all the improvements into account, the new Taiwan HQ will be an attractive working environment for Standard Chartered employees compared to the home, making the office a magnet, not a mandate.
To monitor the outcomes of their workplace transformation programme and to keep gauging employee needs, Standard Chartered will be running a Leesman Office survey in September across their entire global portfolio.