One look at the 1.15 lakh sq.ft Gurugram office of global strategic management consulting firm BCG and it is clear this is a world-class facility. Like many multinationals, its space planning is generous, with enough open areas to play office cricket, even football, particularly in the reception and work areas. Its design is purpose-built, with several dedicated spaces for client interaction such as a “digital immersion” room for interactive work, a multi-purpose room with reconfigurable furniture and versatile AV equipment for client workshops and training, and a “garage” for creative thinking and brainstorming.
And it is humane, with comfortable amenities like a work café for informal catch-ups and breaks, and a recreational zone for indoor sports such as table-tennis. Multi-work settings also offer flexibility to employees. These include hexagonal rooms designed to promote collaboration within teams, productivity pods for quiet solo work, and one entirely white and one black room for those who want a monochrome work environment, alongside conventional workstations and other collaborative furniture.
BCG workers started moving into the building from another location in Gurugram in 2021. Many of its 530 employees divide their time between client sites and the office. For business support services, the company has a flexible hybrid work policy with two-three days in the office and the rest from home.
“We wanted it to be a world-class space. Not just the best in India; we wanted to benchmark globally because our teams travel globally, they work out of BCG offices everywhere. We wanted this to be as good, if not better, than any other BCG office,” says Nimisha Jain, managing director and senior partner.
Yet what is most interesting about the BCG Gurugram office is not the design of its workspaces, but the design thinking and processes that went into conceiving and building it. Workspaces are designed and built by archi- tects or interior designers in response to a client brief. Timelines, budgets and density are usually the most important parameters for clients. BCG travelled beyond these criteria to invest energy into all stages of design thinking: end- user research, insight generation, design development, and prototyping and iteration.
Design thinking in action
Like any buzzword, design thinking is often misunderstood. But the BCG office interior fit-out is a good example of design thinking in action. First up is end-user research, where asking the right questions is vital.
The company surveyed all of its Gurugram employees, in association with interior designers Space Matrix, to understand their needs. “We wanted to understand the life of a BCG-er, a day in their life, a month in their life, for different types of situations. For example, if you’re working together with a case team, if you are doing certain kinds of activities with a client, if you want to work alone on a day when you’re feeling a bit tired, versus when you have a lot of energy. What kinds of spaces would you need and what is holding you back? We looked at both what they wanted and what the current space was not giving them,” Jain explains.
User research was accompanied by ethnographic research. “It wasn’t just about asking people, we also observed them as they were working, and did a lot of global benchmarking. We invest a lot of time in understanding our clients’ consumer and designing what’s right for them, and we applied the same principles for our employees,” she says.
This process generated specific insights. For example, a person needs different facilities at different points based on the nature of work at that point.
Another insight was the need to invest in technology to help workers collaborate and brainstorm for more seamless remote working. For instance, each partner has an interactive flip screen that facilitates videoconferencing and allows scribbling on the screen to be visible tocolleagues on the other side of the call. Partner cabins are designed so that they can be utilised by their colleagues when partners are travelling.
Insight generation was followed up with detailed discussions with Space Matrix. This is often where creative partnerships break down, but having data and insights made discussions fruitful. “Working with BCG was a co-creation experience because they’re high from an intellectual perspective, they could actually contribute a lot more than we would normally expect the client to contribute,” says Akshay Lakhanpal, chief executive of Space Matrix in India.
Iteration and prototyping is the next phase of design thinking.
The two firms worked closely together to iterate on the plan during the design and build phase, as well as making multiple mock-ups of tables and storage. While the office was built during the pandemic, it was adapted post-covid by introducing more videoconferencing facilities with appropriate acoustics in meeting rooms, more rooms to accommodate teams who were relocated from client sites, and introduction of fitness corners for those who had become used to taking a break in the workday during the pandemic.
The team members I spoke with are thrilled. Having the flexibility to collaborate in multiple ways, having access to technology, being able to stretch one’s legs during the day and having recreational facilities gives them enough reasons to come to work, even on days when they are not really required to do so.
Spacious, meticulous and cohesive, the BCG office highlights that the business of thinking needs many different intellectual muscles and work settings to accommodate all of them. For a company that’s all about providing intellectual solutions to its clients, it’s only right that it invests a lot of thought into planning its spaces.
Aparna Piramal Raje meets heads of organisations every month to investigate the connections between their workspace design and working styles.