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NEW DELHI :

Moving hundreds of employees into a new corporate office is always an opportunity to promote radical organizational change, even if it’s a company strongly associated with tradition and legacy, such as the Indian arm of the 128-year-old multinational Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

In May, the company relocated to a new corporate headquarters in Mumbai’s western suburb of Jogeshwari. The new premises house 800 employees working in its three main businesses—consumer, medical and pharmaceutical products.

Compare it with the company’s previous headquarters, a 50-year-old facility at Forjett Street, Tardeo, south Mumbai, and it is clear that the company has broken free of the past. The new office fit-out is a particularly relevant case study, as there are many companies like J&J that are locked into outdated offices, incompatible with modern business practices.

The comparison between the company’s old and new facilities provides a useful template to understand how to align a company’s physical assets with modern ways of working (see “A new office fit-out").

Flattening the pyramid

The Indian arm of J&J started operating from Spencer House in Tardeo in the mid-1950s. The office housed the management teams of its three main business verticals. With the lease set to expire in June, the company’s three leadership teams decided to fundamentally alter the basic aspects of their facilities, including office location, workplace layout and allocation of space. “We looked at our human capital requirements over the next 10-14 years and realized this was an opportunity for us to move into a building which would be able to take care of us for the next 10 years, since all our existing facilities were fully occupied," says Sushobhan Dasgupta, managing director of J&J Medical India.

All three managing directors and their teams collaborated to design and execute the new office fit-out.

The facade of the new building
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The facade of the new building

From three floors to five, a 41% increase in carpet area, and an in-house crèche facility in the works, the new J&J is a step towards a modern office.

Second, it was time to collapse hierarchies by halving the number of cabins and providing all the employees with the same kinds of chairs and desks. “The way we structured it is that we had a principle that only the three leadership teams would have cabins," explains Dasgupta. This design principle meant that many middle and senior managers had to sit at open-plan desks, including those who led teams and had worked out of cabins for several years.

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The gym at the new facility

Spaces to meet, talk and work

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The new office has an open space layout with fewer cabins

“It’s not just about recreating the workspace in the new place, it is an opportunity to reflect the values of the organization; it has to reflect the aspirations of the young generation, sustainability, environment friendly, high technology, something that will make an employee feel a greater sense of belonging, and that is a key design consideration. I think the revolution, in a way, is the way people interact with each other," says Vikas Srivastava, managing director of J&J Consumer India.

After studying the company’s work patterns, architects Space Matrix Design Consultants devised three types of closed meeting rooms: two-seater “phone booths" which allow employees to make, receive or participate in phone conversations in relative privacy; four-seater “focus rooms" for small meetings; and 12-seater meeting rooms for larger meetings. Apart from these rooms, there is open seating in the coffee breakout area, airport-style chairs and tables near the windows, and beanbags near the workstations: all elements commonly found in any global multinational corporate facility.

Built-in flexibility

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The old office on Forjett Street wasted space by having too many cabins.

“The entire concept and layout is based on ‘Flex Place’ concepts. This allows the workplace to be divided into smaller communities. Each community is self-sufficient in terms of support areas," says Kulin Kapadia, the lead architect on the project, in an email interview.

The workspace is also modular and reconfigurable. Sliding folding dividers allow some of the 12-seater meeting rooms to be combined into larger meeting rooms. Cabins can be turned into four-seater focus rooms. The workstation layout can be altered with minimal disruption to electrical systems.

For most companies, spending on workplace interiors is a one-time investment that has a daily business impact for the next decade or more. While the gains of good workplace design cannot easily be measured, the costs of getting it wrong are usually easily visible.

J&J refuses to disclose the financial data on investment into the facility. Apart from internal brand and employee-satisfaction surveys, and feedback from the facility management teams, it will measure productivity gains in the medium- to long- term to gauge success. “What we expect in the next 10 years is we look at productivity by employee, that’s the best way to measure, that’s what we have based our business case on for the new facility," says Dasgupta.

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