Pandemic disruptions lead to design ingenuity at QBE

by Anthea Belessis
0
0 Love 131 Visits

story image

 

Insurance giant QBE’s three new workplaces offer insight into innovative hybrid design as businesses in locked-down CBDs grapple return to office strategies under reopening roadmaps.

 

Global design studio, GroupGSA, collaborated with the established insurance provider to transform their workplaces in a national roll-out over three years to simplify operations, improve collaboration and efficiency and achieve long-term sustainability goals of reducing operational emissions.

 

The transformations required a rapid design response to the pandemic. While QBE’s Melbourne Docklands site was completed pre-pandemic, construction of the organisation’s Sydney and Parramatta workplaces was executed between multiple lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

 

QBE moved quickly to ascertain its future workplace needs. In close consultation with staff, the firm ensured flexibility was built into their growth. A survey of its staff found 10 percent wanted to work five days a week in the office, 10% wanted to work from home and 80% desired a hybrid model.

 

The result is three highly immersive workplaces that curate a culture of collaboration through bespoke “team neighbourhoods,” agile floorplans and tech-enabled meeting spaces to support a diverse workforce and a new generation of emerging employees.

 

GroupGSA Project Lead Liam Higginbotham said the team developed a robust “kit of parts” — elements based on the working groups from each site — to enable new working styles and set a framework for the future of QBE.

 

All three major city hubs share diverse work settings to suit specific team precincts. These include a series of linear work points and workstation options, from sit-to-stand desks and quiet nooks to focus spaces and innovation hubs. QBE introduced a floor sensor system halfway through the project.

 

“The investment in remote booking devices has revolutionised the way staff engage with each other and with the physical environment,” Higginbotham says.

 

“All workstations, lockers and the majority of meeting spaces are synchronised with an app allowing complete control for staff to plan their day or week as they desire. QBE is able to use this utilisation data to improve future space developments and support their staff’s needs.”

 

Team huddles offer an extension of team neighbourhood settings and are tailored to local working groups, such as call centre teams. Nearly all meeting spaces are video capable.

 

“Adjacent to neighbourhoods are breakout spaces for individual teams to come together in a stand-up sprint. We developed digital screening elements so that when groups had finished their team huddle, you can flip the digital screens and content can be viewed from the actual work floor itself.”

 

All three workplace designs incorporate large activated atriums to support QBE’s sustainable targets and outcomes. Individual sites also feature striking stair insertions for enhanced connectivity.

 

QBE Sydney
388 George Street

 

QBE’s recent move to 388 George Street consolidates its global and Australian headquarters.

 

Drawing inspiration from shifting rock formations found in tectonic plates, GroupGSA designer Emma McGifford says the space plays with layering and curves, coupled by a warm, natural palette of finishes and green walls to improve general wellness.

 

“These themes are echoed across the three locations and align with QBE’s brand DNA of people, culture and community,” she says.

 

The Sydney office features an expansive atrium surrounded by vibrant team neighbourhoods and a ribbon of meeting spaces. Central to the space is towering green ‘living’ column which stretches over three floors.

 

"From every level you can see it, experience it and feel its impact,” Higginbotham says.

 

QBE opted for sustainably certified and low-emission materials throughout, from furniture to carpets, paints, timber and energy efficient lighting. The workplace is also powered by 100% renewable energy.

 

There are a myriad of retreat and escape spaces to find focus across the nine levels. Staff can break away from work and connect with others at the social hub, with cafe and kitchen, parents’ and faith rooms.

 

The Sydney site is embedded with technology to enhance workplace agility and collaboration. Video conferencing capability with acoustic overlay is standard in meeting spaces, with room walls able to opened and closed.

 

QBE Parramatta
32 Smith Street

 

Unique to QBE’s new 15,000sqm Parramatta workplace is an entire social floor dedicated to staff, including a large, vibrant café that opens out onto a sky terrace, client meeting rooms, and a large training facility.

 

“QBE has devoted the top floor to staff amenities and a large outdoor terrace on level 25 with 270-degree views of across the Parramatta and the wider greater Sydney,” Higginbotham says.

 

“They’ve handed the really exciting elements of the building to the staff. It hasn’t been an ivory tower approach.”

 

Connectivity is a prominent design feature with sculptural stairs linking the ten floors.

 

Higginbotham says all three sites were selected based on their centrality to public transport and city precincts in the interests of QBE staff.

 

“Melbourne, Parramatta and Sydney all occupy key prominent corner positions,” he says. “Each offers extraordinary views and connectivity to the city.”

 

The Sydney and Parramatta site were completed in June 2021, while the Melbourne Docklands office opened in 2019.

 

GroupGSA continues to partner with QBE on their workplace transformations in the city hubs and regional centres, including Canberra (400sqm) Newcastle (1500sqm) and Adelaide (1500sqm).

 

story image

QBE Melbourne. Photography by Luc Remond

 

story image

QBE Melbourne. Photography by Luc Remond

 

story image

QBE Melbourne. Photography by Luc Remond

 

story image

QBE Sydney. Photography by Luc Remond

 

story image

QBE Sydney. Photography by Luc Remond

 

story image

QBE Sydney. Photography by Luc Remond

 

story image

QBE Parramatta. Photography by Luc Remond

 

story image

QBE Parramatta. Photography by Luc Remond

 

story image

QBE Parramatta. Photography by Luc Remond

Comments
    comment
    user
    Author