Financial services: Can a traditional industry adopt modern office design?

Modern businesses are more dedicated to understanding the link between work environments and employee performance. The financial services sector is often seen as a conservative one, with traditional office design that tends to be muted and somber. Despite their traditional reputation, businesses in this sector can and should consider how office design can make a difference to both employees and clients.

Financial services tend to be a fast-paced and high-stress industry, and office design can go a long way in motivating employees and improving productivity. How can companies incorporate modern design elements while still retaining formality?

We look at three important elements of office design that can be considered.

Case studies, namely, DHFL used to illustrate how best these elements can be incorporated.

  1. Creating an atmosphere that reflects company brand

For an industry that heavily relies on image, design is essential in creating the impression that each company wishes to convey to both clients and employees. Sleek and formal may inspire confidence in customers, but creating a warm and comfortable environment can also be effective.

DHFL, one of India’s leading housing finance companies, wanted to shed their old-school image for their new office. They wished to embrace a more modern, technology-oriented, open office environment. In order to make sure that their teams could comfortably make the switch to an open office work culture, the space was intended to be warm and inviting.

Therefore, the design concept revolved around the warmth and comfort of a home. This would help to create a sense of belonging. The double height ceiling in the heart of the cafeteria and large open skylight floods the space with natural light during the day. It also brings the openness and feel of an open sky to the courtyard.

  1. Incorporating flexibility to cater for sudden changes

The demographic of the workplace is quickly changing as a new generation of:  tech-savvy millennial join the workforce. With multiple generations working alongside each other in one place, the financial sector needs to address the needs of all their employees. Catering to technological advancements can improve productivity, but the working style of older employees also needs to be catered to. Hence, office design needs to be flexible.

Having fixed spaces such as formal meeting rooms are not cost efficient as they may not be utilized enough. Instead, it makes more sense to have a range of rooms that cater to various needs. In order to balance openness with privacy, these spaces can range from open areas for collaborative work, to private booths for concentration. A private storage area for sensitive documents is also a common consideration for financial service firms.

As the financial services sector is fast-paced and teams or use of space can constantly change, the office needs to reflect this. In the case of DHFL, the workplace was segregated into ‘neighborhoods’, with each neighborhood catering to each team. The teams have their share of privacy, proximity to amenities and services, and the spaces are interconnected and free-flowing.

The use of modularity is also important, whereby work spaces can be segmented into smaller areas or joined to create a bigger collaborative space. This ensures flexibility in converting or modifying an area as per future needs.

  1. Ensuring employee well-being

Incorporating nature into the work space is also an increasingly popular trend. For DHFL, were introduced to bring the outside in. A small garden overlooks the client experience area, providing soothing relief from the busy street outside. A homely lounge overlooks a deck which transitions into a green lawn and gives a warm and inviting touch to the customer waiting lounge.

The open skylight allows employees to experience the changing of weather, such as the thrumming of raindrops during the monsoon. This seemingly small touch allows for more meaningful human experiences which tend to be forgotten during busy work days.

These features not only improve employee health and well-being, but also help to create a next-generation work space where workers and clients can feel at home.

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