Office structures are rapidly changing; we’ve spent the last 18 months out of them, so what we return to needs to be equipped to deal with the new challenges shaping the way we work.
Thailand’s Yell Advertising is one of the agencies switching up its offering to combat burnout, give physical comfort to employees, and foster a safe environment. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re bringing in massages, car washes, and free access to food and drink.
LBB sits down with Yell’s CCO Dissara Udomdej ahead of its launch to find out how the new ‘Co-Happy Space’ is fostering creativity and levelling the playing field when it comes to producing its best work.
“I understand what it feels like to be an employee,” he says. “We can’t escape from the work and its complaints. So these services are one of our ways of thanking our people for their hard work and collaboration throughout the years and, crucially, this last one.”
A space for creativity without pressure
“Creativity shouldn’t be limited, so we have created an unlimited space,” says Dissara, who acknowledges that when it comes to workspace culture - pioneered by the likes of Google and Microsoft’s HQs - a lot of the benefits on offer are at odds with expectations and leadership techniques.
Creatives need space to be creative. For Dissara, creativity is intertwined with the environment it is developed in: “The genesis of our co-happy space was to serve the needs of our employees, to connect together, and continue developing the creativity inside of us.”
“Some organisations may have similar spaces to ours, but don’t have a culture that encourages flexibility: to get up and move, or go and collaborate with different departments,” he says. “You might see those big organisations with their own co-working spaces, but I think we’re nailing it when it comes to the experience.”
Prioritising mental health and physical welfare
Yell’s new space provides employees with a range of benefits, both inside and out. Perhaps one of the most beneficial additions is the access staff has to mental health consultations; as Dissara says, “This is our way of supporting the people who’ve moved Yell forward.” On top of this, Yell is also adding a fitness zone to its space to encourage movement and physical health.
Private learning is also on offer, where staff can broaden their education outside of the workplace. And in response to the increased need for safety that the pandemic has brought on, Yell is going to be pumping fresh air into the space - something offices across the world are being urged to implement.
‘There is no ‘workplace’ anymore’
Burnout is on the rise, and 18 months spent at home has in many cases eradicated a healthy work-life balance. Dissara says Yell’s new space is combatting the ‘burnout energy’ created by the pandemic: “People have been stuck at home and they’ve suffered. We’ve created the co-happy space to provide both physical and emotional support, by allowing them to just come to sit, work, chat, and hang out with our people.”
As Dissara says, the whole concept of a ‘workplace’ has changed. Rows of desks and employee separation are no longer the norm. So for Yell, while working from home is still an option, the new co-happy space offers a sense of community. “We no longer have the concept of a ‘workplace’,” says Dissara. “People can now work from everywhere - most Yell employees work from home, and did amazingly to adapt to the change - so our new space has been planned and carefully created to encourage collaboration. And it’s completely different from a regular co-working space.”
“The advertising industry is a people-focused business, and people are our asset,” says Dissara. “These changes are for our people.”
While workers don’t want to be glued to desks in characterless rows, Dissara highlights how people have different approaches to work: “You’ll see a mix of those in deep concentration in private rooms, and others striking up conversations and collaborating across large shared tables.”
The importance of ‘free space’
For Yell, ‘free space’ represents ‘a feeling of community without commitments to the traditional office regulations.’ But how can organisations achieve this when they’re so used to a certain way of working?
It comes back to Yell’s makeup: “The importance of free space is shaped out of our concept of freedom and flexibility. Our value is in our people, so we want to provide a space where they can spread their wings as wide as possible,” says Dissara. “Here, no one is judging each other.”
Dissara emphasizes Yell’s ‘flat organisational structure’ as one of the reasons a space of this kind can work. “An equal workforce is very important to us. We are a flat organisation with no hierarchy or privilege rights, and our space reflects that.”
And the workplace reflects the work Yell creates: “It’s similar to how we produce the best customer experience to meet clients’ needs and provide satisfaction. In imaging this space, our staff was the client - we want to give them the best service, beyond expectation,” he says.