Category: Commercial Business
Country of Design: Hong Kong
Asurion’s story is one of a successful American enterprise establishing a vibrant workplace culture with an Asian focus. Operating from a single tow truck in the mid-1990s, CEO Kevin Taweel’s roadside assistance service was initially offered through wireless carriers. Taweel gradually began acquiring telecommunications businesses, and now employs 15,000 employees serving 280 million consumers worldwide, providing device protection and support for mobile devices. Yet, despite it being a tech company, Asurion’s corporate culture is decidedly down-to-earth, reflecting Taweel’s grassroots core values. Our design challenge was to capture this essence, interpreted to foster a workplace culture suited to Asian behavioural patterns and needs.
We have a unique way of creating: we not only read the client’s brief, ask questions, and digest the information, but we also watch, observe and probe. We find that this process opens up to unforeseen opportunities. Asurion’s Hong Kong team had been scattered in three different locations, so we spent time in all three offices and observed their behaviours and workflow. One pivotal “Ah-ha!” moment came when we observed this: Three guys walked into the middle of the office, stopped each other and just start talking… for about 10 minutes. We asked, and found that this behaviour defines their culture: informal, fluid, brainstorming. They scribble on walls as they think; they lean against walls as they confer. It became very clear that their new workplace needed a new paradigm.
What Asurion had been missing was a range of settings that actually support these three guys stopping for an ad hoc chat. In making that single observation, we had witnessed a yearning, and an unmet need. Those “water cooler chats” and other informal platforms for engagement were more effective in bringing people together than the more orthodox workplace settings provided. This realisation became the catalyst for our design. We therefore allocated a generous 33% of the 13,500-square-foot premises to collaboration spaces. Such a bold statement by a company of this scale in support of activity-based work is virtually unheard of in Asia Pacific businesses.
Reflecting Asurion’s grassroots beginnings, the design has a home/garage feeling throughout the office. Directly adjoining the lift lobby, a generous Living Room – furnished with mismatched sofas and chairs positioned on Oriental rugs on a sealed concrete floor – communicates openly what Asurion is about from the very outset. A Library, featuring full-height, full-length bookshelves, is situated behind large reclaimed timber barn doors at one end of the Living Room. Every employee was asked to place one book into the Library collection that represented who he or she was, fostering the all-important esprit de corps that underpins Asurion’s culture.
At the other end of the Living Room is a Kitchen with bar seating and a picnic table where team lunches are catered for daily. Adjoining the workplace, a Garage Workshop contains counter-height tables that can be moved around to suit variously sized training sessions or events. A gym provides a place to take a yoga break or read up on the latest tech news while using a treadmill. These unconventional facilities were vital to creating a living office environment that supported Asurion’s egalitarian, collaborative team culture. Taken together, the Living Room, Library, Kitchen and Workshop – supported by numerous other brainstorm spaces, meeting rooms and contemplation rooms – foster creative dialogue and enable work to happen anywhere.
The result is a workplace that feels a lot like home. There are no enclosed offices, so there is an open egalitarian vibe. Colours and materials are warm and earthy, as expected of a homey environment. A diverse array of loose furniture was selected that felt more comfortable and intimate, and personal post-occupancy feedback has proven the success of this model. Meetings now take place all over the office, not just in meeting rooms.
One Space helped Asurion create a workplace to build on the company’s founding values, tailored to suit an Asian workplace culture. Since we completed this office, our design has become its Asia Pacific standard, with similar offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore.