The first impression it creates is a cool lounge or café and one wonders where the office might be. The new office of Hike Messenger at Delhi is as different as it can get, challenging the straitjacketed, middle age approach to work place. Interior design for workspaces in India has often lagged behind the curve when compared with global best practices. It is not just about adoption of smart technologies or catering to a youthful attitude at communal work places, rarely has the Indian office transitioned beyond the conventional standard.
The Corporate Headquarters for Hike brings that energy to design and the fact that no formal design company or expert was behind it all, the surprise can be quite substantial. The workplace conceptualisation has an open attitude and it shows at every nook and corner. A mural with coloured hand imprints of employees welcomes the visitor into a coffee-shop themed reception, with exposed brick, motivational posters, latest tech-enabled visitor registration; the accent is on a fun place.
The attitude of the workplace is thoroughly Indian. Despite the casual appearance, a clear and non intrusive nudge for serious business working is evident below the layer of informality. The cool factor of hammocks, artificial grass, sleeping bunks, café serving free meals, a gym with showers and bean bags with a Japanese Tea room thrown in for good measure does not overlook the undercurrent of serious productive responses. It is called a ‘temple’ of excellence and the word does invoke a certain dedication in a subtle manner.
That is the term used to define the space by the Founder and CEO, Kavin Bharti Mittal, who set the vision and personally led a small cross-functional team of Hike employees – designers, engineers and key workplace personnel.
Hike is a novel messaging app that simplifies connectivity between people and aims to change manners of mobile interaction. Reflecting that same informality and cool quotient, the office design’s inimitable approach stems from the belief that corporate operations in India and typical work environments have been frozen in time for the last 40 years with little or no innovation. The highly tech-savvy, social, collaborative, adventurous, flexible, transparent and values-driven generation of today would really love to work in environs that support that freedom.
Located just between Delhi and Gurgaon, in close proximity to the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in prime NCR territory, and capturing magnificent views of the airport, Hike Messenger’s corporate headquarters redefines the conventional notions of spatial design of high-tech company offices. Situated in the Worldmark 1 towers, the Bharti Realty green initiative within the NCR region, the office is located on the 4th floor with panoramic views of the airport landscape and the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway that are well-integrated into the spatial planning.
The conscious attempt to minimise the branding colours, in order to retain the ‘culture and brand as ever evolving’, an ingenuous attempt has been made to craft a doughnut-shaped, global workspace that enables interaction.
Given the fact that glass makes up the exterior shell of the building, most spaces receive a fair amount of natural light, while also crafting a sense of openness and transparency throughout the office. With a range of themed rooms and green workspaces that have stupendous views, the office creates an environment of flexibility, productivity and creativity by identifying 6 kinds of spaces: service areas, open workspaces, green gardens, spaces of solitude, collaborative spaces and recreational spaces.
The service areas focusing on delivery form the core of the office that has a central circulation spine that runs through and all other spaces branch out from here, forming the periphery of the doughnut shape, allowing for easy segregation of space. The server rooms entitled ‘Top Secret’ form the basis of this core, while augmenting the fun element.
Workstations of a minimalistic nature are laid out in a linear pattern, flowing into one another, allowing for a clear line of visibility from either ends. Cross-functional teams that each handles a project comprise of 6-8 people from various departments; this concept guided the workstation design and hence, seating has been planned accordingly. The code- ‘Company > Team > Self’ is seen to be reflected in these spaces with boundaries being blurred in the segregation of spaces and the company being at the core of the office. The paint used on walls and columns enables writing on them, giving further room for brainstorming and ideation that reinforces the team collaboration.
Green spaces are integrated within the workspace to allow one to be in sync with nature, creating a stress-free environment. The artificial grass in these areas is at various heights to create a sense of excitement. The international airport and flights taking off and landing, especially at night, offer a beautiful view for those working late hours. A picket fence has been inserted to separate the office area from the garden zone and all the furniture is hand-picked. The rocking chairs, hammocks, bean-bags, wooden chairs, tables, etc. were all handpicked. In line with the overall vision, these green ‘parks’ intensify the non-office like environment, into a more campus-like atmosphere that fosters imagination and creativity.
High standing tables, 4-seater sound-absorbing furniture can be found at nooks and corners. Collaboration areas have been placed after every 15-20 seats and the Collaborative rooms, each carrying a unique personality, have been developed with a different intent. Some encourage discussions and brainstorming; some enhance creativity, allowing people to feel as though they’re away from the office in fantasy-land, while others have been created for the sole purpose of relaxation.
An exclusive spatial quality is achieved within the office by translating Principles of Zen into the collaborative spaces through Zendo, Yon and Shoshin rooms. Zendo for instance, is covered entirely by glass and allows the entire office to be able to look inside. Floor seating allows one to take part in conversation in a typical Japanese tradition. Shifting away from the typical congregation space, The Don Julio high rise bar, in contrast allows one to view half the office, creating a sense of openness, while also being the space to gather together informally. Driven by an array of ideas, these spaces allow people to either shut off from the office or have a view of the entire office, giving employees the freedom to work in an environment that is best suited for each, again reinforcing the idea of the ‘self’.
Gaming is an important component of Hike Messenger, and soon to be incorporated in its tech platform, has also been encompassed into the themes for the group activity rooms, and is manifested in nattily named rooms, all of which have handpicked, custom furniture, with fun graphics on their feature walls.
Writeable walls and both dim and ambient lighting allow the employees to personalize the setting depending on their moods. ‘The Workshop’ is a space designed to be dedicated entirely to the tech designers. Hoping to ‘Solve for the User first’, is a room where all the design thinking takes place, and has limited access to only employees with key cards. Consisting of a long writeable wall, high seating, a television and a green-area with bean bags, this is planned as an all-in-one space that can enable people to work comfortably for as long as possible. An added feature is a multiple-mood Philips lamp – one that can change the lighting colors based on mood, using a mobile phone app.
Owing to its inherent spirit of innovation in technology, a tele-presence robot enables people to be present even while they are away. This facilitates constant communication with regional office in Bangalore and for global outreach. A large common boardroom, with a seating capacity of 20 is facilitated with an LCD monitor, a webcam and a Japanese Gong that is rung to commemorate special occasions or milestones. The projector is attached to a puck that is able to track people and sends alerts depending on their location.
Spaces of Solitude
Individual Mastery and Autonomy & Ownership are some of the essential codes of the company that are facilitated by means of the more private spaces such as the wall pods that can be found all around the office. Seating is also enabled along the walls, to cleverly utilise all the space available.
The ‘Nap Room’ is equipped with a bunk bed for those who believe in power naps to rejuvenate.
The meditation room is subtly lit up by means of sound-proof, Japanese paper partition screens and a combination of bamboo and grass flooring fashions a serene environ, where one can unwind. Located right outside the gym, this space is completely sound proof. Stand-alone high tables are designed with an optimum height for people to stand and work, as sitting for prolonged hours is unhealthy. Suggestive of a 70’s cafe, the cafeteria is a multi- purpose space, used for meals, events and recreational purposes.
Minimalistic in colour palette, an exposed ceiling painted white is used to create a sense of openness, where spaces are highlighted through bright colours in furnishings or as accents and feature pendant lights. Bright, solid coloured lounges can be found at core areas, for those who want to slip away to take a call or those who want to simply put their feet up or have a more casual work discussion. The building itself is inherently sustainable with features such as storm water management, on-site waste-water segregation and reduced water consumption. Waste segregation is enabled throughout the office.
The ‘Codes’ that define the organisation’s work culture are embedded in the design philosophy which inspires the space. Trust and freedom encourage responsible behaviour and the company’s fast rising fortunes and growth is ample proof.
It is one space design that does not stand by any overbearing stuffiness. In fact, as one can see, its Friday dressing every day!
By Anurag Yadav