The BCG UnOffice: A user-driven workplace design journey When it comes to driving insights and sparking transformation, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is always ahead of the curve. As a brand, they are committed to unlocking potential across organisations, societies and entire economies. To do this, BCG has identified one key enabler — the power of human potential.
Enabling and leveraging human potential thus, is the very purpose that drives the brand. When BCG wanted to design and shift to a new workspace in Gurgaon, they reached out to us to help them translate this purpose and interpret it as their workplace strategy. This marked the beginning of what would become, the UnOffice.
Embracing human potential
Since the human experience lies at the core of the way BCG functions, we knew right away that we couldn’t conceptualise the space without making users an integral part of the office design journey. We conducted over 30 hours of workplace observation studies, and interviewed over 70 people from the organisation individually. We also wanted to get a good sense of how the different teams and cohorts function together and what their diverse needs are. We hosted over 100 hours of surveys, user workshops and visioning exercises that involved team members from across the organisation.
At the end of it all, we felt that we understood the nature of work and the culture that drives life at BCG. These in-depth interactions also helped us identify the specific inhibitors that were standing in the way of employees doing their job easily. These inhibitors are:
At an individual level. The sheer diversity of the workforce called for more options in personal workspaces. While some preferred formal set-ups, others liked to put their feet up, get comfortable and work with a cup of coffee. The new office needed to make space for both these needs — and everything in between. Lots of people also felt that the old, open set-up was quite distracting when they needed to focus. The other individual inhibitor was a lack of well-planned spaces for rejuvenation and wellness. At a team level. Of course, different teams voiced their unique needs, not all of which the old workspace was able to meet. However, almost everyone agreed that the office could do with more avenues for knowledge sharing, and a few more green spaces. They also agreed that the office needed better connectivity and more tech-enabled spaces. At a client level. We noted a need for well thought out and better-equipped client zones. Earlier, before every client meeting, teams would spend a lot of time looking for free meeting rooms and spaces. Alternatively, bigger client events would simply be hosted at hotels or external spaces because the office lacked the necessary in-house facilities. Introducing the UnOffice
With these insights driving us, we were able to conceptualise a truly creative workplace strategy. Of course, we introduced certain enablers to tackle and negate the inhibitors we learnt about. But we knew that we’d have to do more than just solve pre-existing issues with enablers. We’d also have to bring in ‘stimulants’ — spaces that would go beyond these immediate needs and actually equip people to tap into their unused potential, thus aligning the workstyle with the BCG motto.
The final result was this unique, one-of-a-kind space we call the BCG UnOffice — a space that is as far away from a typical office as possible. Let us walk you through.
As you walk into the UnOffice, you will see a reception desk with a massive backdrop featuring a map of the National Capital Region (comprising New Delhi and surrounding areas). This immediately establishes a local connection with the city the UnOffice is based in. Before you even step any further in, you will experience a sense of vastness, interspersed with the heady aroma of coffee.
Once you take a moment to absorb it, you will note that several things contribute to this experience. Instead of a solid wall beyond the reception, there is a cut-out, which gives you a glimpse of the work cafe on the floor above. This is where the hum of activity and the fragrance of fresh coffee is coming from. On one side, you will see a digital wall, displaying various aspects of life at BCG. Moreover, the light fixture in the cut-out mimics a natural skylight, which further heightens the feeling of vast openness. This is something quite unlike what you would expect as you step into an indoor space.
Once you start walking in, you come across a mini kitchen almost immediately. If the aroma at the entrance made you crave a good cup of coffee, here’s where you grab a cup. As you continue further in, sipping your coffee and deep in conversation with your host, the walkway leads you naturally into a tunnel, lined with digital screens. These screens are touch-enabled and have the potential to support your ongoing conversation — engaging content displayed here make the digital tunnel an active node that encourages clients to interact with the space along this exploration path. There on, you will enter an engaging space that has a comfortable sofa in the centre, and a massive, curved digital wall that almost encapsulates you as you sit down. Aptly referred to as the Digital Immersion Room, this space pulls you in and enables you to touch, view and interact with whatever you see displayed on the screen. Right outside, this zone is dotted with meeting rooms and a boardroom where you head to when you need to have a more formal, sit-down discussion, and there are several multi-purpose spaces that can be reconfigured to meet the needs of the discussion.
Near this, we have the multi-purpose room — a highly tech-enabled, extremely flexible space where BCG employees gather for everything from small discussions to bigger team meetings. The movable screens and reconfigurable walls here are all designed to enable this. In fact, even the big central screen can be folded back to open the space up for townhalls and training sessions.
Opposite this, you may notice a buzz of activity. This is not surprising since you’d be looking right into the Garage and the Ideation Room — two novel spaces built for more intensive brainstorming sessions. The Garage, for instance, has different seating areas, tables and writing surfaces where you can jot down your thoughts, put together little models to demonstrate your ideas or pull up references on strategically placed screens. The Ideation Room is similarly tech-enabled and surrounded by writing surfaces in a 200-degree arc. These two spaces are interconnected, thus allowing you to move back and forth as you make use of virtually every kind of collaboration offering imaginable.
If you are looking to have an informal conversation, however, you can walk out to one of the many spillover spaces outside the multi-purpose room and the meeting rooms. This area is a casual Client Lounge, dotted with little coffee tables, cosy accent chairs and standing tables. Located strategically near micro kitchens, these spillover spaces are ideal if you want to have a casual discussion over coffee with a client. As you look around, you may even see some BCG team members having a quick chat or working here in short bursts before they head in for their next meeting — all a part of the organisation’s dynamic, collaborative culture.
Going up to the floor above, you’d walk right into the work café. This again offers you a multi-sensory experience that you’ll find yourself pausing to appreciate. The skylight experience is complemented with a green wall, some beautiful artwork and a counter on one side serving artisanal coffee. You’ll see lots of people here, collaborating, relaxing or sitting with their headphones on, deeply engrossed in work.
Dotted all around the work café are the various work areas. There’s the work-hall on one side — but unlike a typical office, it does not feature neatly aligned rows of workstations. Instead, this hall features more eclectic seating, arranged in the form of work villages. No matter which work village you go to, you’ll have easy access to comfy seats for individual work, larger tables for meetings and discussions, and the coffee counter for when you need a break.
When you’re ready for a longer break or need some time for quiet reflection, head to the Reading Nook. This is a soothing, biophilic space bathed in natural sunlight and accented with greenery and wooden elements. It features comfortable chairs, cosy cubbies, swings — and it also has shelves filled with books to read. The Arboretum nearby is a similarly stimulating biophilic space, filled with plants and tumbling ferns. But this area is also enabled with tech solutions, making it ideal for a quick catch-up before you walk in for a meeting next door.
Aside from the phone booths, the collaboration areas, the high tables and the writing walls, there are two other unique spaces here on this floor — the Black Room and the White Room. As the names suggest, these are rooms walled completely with black or white writing surfaces. These are truly spaces for deep focus — spaces where you can scribble, ideate and think without any distracting elements, visual or otherwise.
Work aside, the BCG office also makes space for recreation, enjoyment and social interactions, and this becomes apparent the minute you step into the cafeteria. With multiple kiosks, a juice bar, a live kitchen on one side, and a food truck on the other, the atmosphere is positively carnivalesque. The outdoorsy, street-style ambience is heightened with graffiti, a variety of seating options and a wall-to-wall window affording a jaw-dropping view.
Over at the recreation area, you can’t miss the atmosphere of fun and frolic. You may see some employees here already, enjoying a spot of table tennis or pool, while others sit at the stepped area, laughing, chatting and playing a board game. A giant screen on one wall means that post work, this space gets transformed into a theatre to host movie nights for the team.