When Deloitte looked to source a design for their new Toronto Office, 7 years ago – it was so future-looking that even the top firms in the area didn’t have a solution that fit their big picture thinking. Looking up through the central 2nd floor atrium of their newly designed building it’s clear to see why.
The final design by Australian firm, Arney Fender Katsalidis (AFK), features modular wall systems, mobile power supplies, collaborative areas, abundant coffee machines, a Starbucks, wellness centre and even a full concierge service.
The implementation of the project was a massive undertaking, which involved consolidating 6 offices and 5000 employees into a 16 floor space – with unassigned seating for all. We had a chance to sit down with Deloitte’s Debbie Baxter and her team to understand the planning that went into the space.
Debbie is the National Leader, Work+ Place and Vice President of Corporate Real Estate for Deloitte Canada, responsible for working with clients to ideate, design and implement their Modern Workplace strategy projects.
Future Proofing Through Flexibility
When clients consult Deloitte’s workplace experts on how far ahead to go on their own real estate, Debbie recommends leaning forward as much as possible. As she notes, much of this has to do with building flexibility into the workplace. It’s impossible to predict the future but making your space as adaptable as possible is the best preparation for changing business conditions, workforces and technology.
With a 20 year lease, future proofing for Deloitte’s Toronto HQ was essential. Baxter explains that
“Flexibility was the key ingredient to make that happen, it’s not just a focus on the newest generations, there are 4 and soon to be 5 generations working together in the workplace. The need for the work settings to be flexible enough for all of the different requirements was our design focus”
Creating flexibility in the space meant that a variety of collaborative areas were a must. Deloitte completely eliminated private offices. Not even their CEO has one in the new space. While this meant less personal private space, it freed up space for a variety of other purposes.
Open collaborative areas as well as rooms for informal meetings are abundant. Additionally, traditional meeting rooms can be booked for longer or scheduled sit-downs.
So how important is collaborative space in the Deloitte’s new office? Baxter notes that it makes up 65% of total space. This is a stark comparison to some of the collaborative-to-individual-workstation makeups of previous offices.
For example, at Deloitte’s former Brookfield Place location, collaborative space made up on only 15% of the workplace, with the remaining 85% being individual workstations.
The benefits accrue to both employees and the organization. For example, the choice provided through a variety of work settings, combined with unassigned seating, means that Deloitte’s Toronto office receives no hot or cold calls. Employees just simply get up and move to a space that better suits them.
Choice for Greater Connectivity
Creating a sense of connectivity within the office was important as well. While teams still start the day off in their own “neighbourhood”, individuals are then free to move throughout the building for casual interactions and collisions.
Tammy Katsimitsoulia, an Analyst on Baxter’s team, notes that the openness of the office facilitates easier interactions. There’s no longer the formalities of having to meet someone in their office and asking to speak. Communication has become much more open, as intended.
Deloitte aimed to break down silos between departments and foster inter-firm collaboration. So far it looks like this is happening and Debbie notes that data will be used to confirm this, once available.
Ensuring Ease of Use for Employees
The move to a completely open and consolidated office design was a big change for some. To make the process easier, the new space employs measures to ensure that employees take advantage of the flexibility provided. It is designed to make moving throughout the space as seamless as possible.
All employees were outfitted with new equipment and smartphones and laptops for standardization. It increased their mobility and allowed the flexible choice hot-desking system to work effectively.
Employees can use these devices to connect wirelessly to screens in meeting rooms through AirMedia for example. It’s a way of making the space as seamless for employees to use. It also ensures the tools employees need for truly impromptu meetings are available.
In addition to the hardware standardization and shift to wireless connectivity, Deloitte has built a strong tech infrastructure as well. Power is available in convenient locations throughout the office using products such as the Steelcase Thread.
Baxter explains that “That’s an important one because Power is sort of everything. You either need your furniture to plug in, or your people to be able to plug in when they are near the furniture. So that’s a great future proofing element”.
In order to support the increased emphasis on technology, as well as provide real time support to the entire office, Deloitte also created their own “Genius Bar”.
With employees moving in and out of the office and into new spots every day, the service means they don’t have to worry about forgetting a laptop cord for example. They can simply visit the concierge to grab one.
The desk also doubles as full concierge service where employees can drop off their dry cleaning or get assistance with other types of personal tasks.
The service is part of making the office not only more tech-forward but more in tune with the requirements of their workforce.
Flexibility As A Foundation
The project created hard savings for Deloitte, a 25% reduction in overall real estate costs.
But, the longer lasting and more significant impacts are still being measured. Debbie notes that implementing flexible work arrangements is only half the battle. Measuring usage patterns to ensure that the right level of flexibility is being provided and taken advantage is the other half.
With flexibility as the mantra for the Toronto Headquarter’s design, the building is able to meet the need of employees across different generations and with different work preferences and job functions. The variety of space has made this possible and infused employees from Deloitte’s previous 6 separate offices with a new social aspect.
When it comes to meeting the needs of the global consulting firm over the next 20 years, Deloitte has built a strong foundation within their workplace. Creating flexibility through technology, wayfinding, workplace choice and continual improvement, the space is set to empower employees to work in a new way, now and in the future.