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How staff input shaped the design of three new QBE offices

Through user consultation, GroupGSA developed a series of staff-focussed and future-ready workplaces for insurance giant QBE.

How staff input shaped the design of three new QBE offices

When designing three new workplaces for QBE, GroupGSA consulted the insurance giant’s staff to develop a future-proofed and flexible design aimed at enticing users back to the office.

This survey of the firm’s staff saw 80 percent of participants desiring a hybrid model workplace, while 10 percent wanted to continue working from home. What resulted was a tech-enabled space that responds uniquely to the specific users of each site.

QBE Melbourne

“To align with the business’ DNA and building for the future, we developed a robust kit of parts enabling new working styles that provide the framework for the future of the workplace at QBE,” says project lead Liam Higginbotham.

“Our time spent shaping these building blocks has seen the successful creation of highly immersive tech enabled spaces supportive of a diverse workforce and emerging new generation of employees.”

QBE Melbourne

The “kit of parts” at each site are unique to the specific groups working there. Each office is highly immersive and encourages a culture of collaboration through “team neighbourhoods”, flexible floorplans and tech-enabled spaces. They each offer a series of linear workstations, including sitting and standing desks, quiet and focussed working areas, and innovation hubs.

Team neighbourhoods refer to areas dedicated to unique ways of working. In Sydney, this materialised as linear team table set-ups, with solo and focussed working areas nearby. In Parramatta and Melbourne it culminated with focus pods and higher partitioning to allow call centre staff to quickly retreat when necessary.

QBE Parramatta

An extension of this, team huddles are break out spaces that are tailored for team collaboration.

“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,” says Higginbotham.

QBE Sydney

“The ‘Team Huddles’ are a great example of how we responded to the specific needs of each site and its user groups.”

While the Melbourne office was completed in 2019, both Sydney and Parramatta offices were completed in June this year.

“Each site is uniquely QBE with a strong design language and materiality; however, they differ in the way this language is applied,” says Higginbotham.

QBE Sydney

QBE’s George Street Sydney office consolidates its global and Australian headquarters. Designed by Group GSA’s Emma McGifford, the workplace references tectonic plates and shifting rock formations by using layers, curves and a warm, natural palette of finishes.

Powered by 100 percent renewable energy, sustainability is central to the Sydney office. Low-emission materials are used throughout, including the paints, furniture, carpets and lighting. In the centre of the building is a biophilic atrium featuring a vibrant and verdant living column of plants which stretches vertically across three levels, encouraging wellness through greenery and natural light.

QBE Sydney

Rather than take an “ivory tower approach” in which the best resources are given to the C-suite, the Parramatta office gives access to premium facilities to all of its staff.

“The Parramatta workplace was also made up of a culturally diverse workforce and call centre environment. The importance of large communal gathering spaces to have lunch and share time together was key,” says Higginbotham.

QBE Parramatta

As such, an entire floor was set aside for a vibrant cafe that opens onto a terrace, alongside client meeting rooms and a training facility.

While each of the offices deliver tailored solutions based on their user-groups, they all share features that are future-focussed. One such feature is the office-specified app that is synchronised with the desks, lockers and most of the meeting spaces allow staff to book and plan their weeks accordingly. The data from this app can be used by QBE to improve their future space developments.


QBE Parramatta

QBE Parramatta

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