A new hybrid working concept for Elo

Pension insurance company Elo is a modern, agile and inspiring employer that encourages employees to be self-driven, collaborative, innovative, and productive. Elo’s headquarters needed to be updated to reflect Elo’s employer image – agile and inspiring.

Right before the pandemic, a new agile and hybrid work environment concept was created for the entire main building, for its 500 people and all teams. Agile Work was involved as project leader from initial definition to design, implementation, and development of the finished space, thus realizing a complete work environment transformation.

Updating the spaces to match the employer image

An occupancy survey had been carried out at Elo’s headquarters in Tapiola, which showed that the premises were underused. Work was done mainly at desks, particularly demanding specialist work. However, the acoustics and functionality of the premises were not optimal. The premises did not serve the different types of work or tasks requiring concentration and lacked sufficient retreat areas. The facilities needed to be more versatile and flexible as they did not provide the desired support for meetings and collaboration across team boundaries.

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Aiming for versatile and flexible workspaces

Elo’s management wanted to provide a diverse and flexible working environment for everyone to match the employer’s image and support business objectives, operational development and performance, learning new things, and working in the best possible way in different situations.

Elo wanted more modern workspaces that support strategy and values. In practice, that meant more areas for collaboration and communication across team boundaries, more flexible spaces, better acoustics and working peace, and more meeting rooms of different sizes and variety.

The project aimed to find cost savings, improve collaboration and reduce fragmentation, upgrade facilities to meet changing employee needs, and help staff adapt to the new ways of hybrid working

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“In autumn 2019, Elo started a project to improve space efficiency and define working principles. It was a complete workplace transformation, not only limited to the premises but also aimed at changing the way we work, step by step.

We wanted to create modern, multifunctional working spaces for the Elo staff.

Together with Agile Work, we achieved our goal. The new modern workspaces support hybrid working and allow for meetings in an inspiring environment. The adaptable spaces allow for flexible changes if and when further needs arise. Adopting new ways of working is a never-ending journey. Still, the new working environment supports us in this too,” says Marketta Ekholm, HR Manager involved in the workplace transformation project.

 

Listening to the staff

The aim was to create a diverse, adaptable, multi-location, and flexible workspace suitable for mobile working – while listening to the staff. Work environment projects at Elo had previously been managed top-down, and in this project, with Agile Work, the aim was to move from the bottom up, involving the users of the spaces, the staff.

The project began by gathering employee understanding through interviews and staff surveys. This data was then deepened through dialogue with the client in staff workshops facilitated by Agile Work’s workplace experts.

In line with the employee understanding, a visioning workshop for management was held to create policies and decisions based on the collected data. The project was driven forward in a highly digital way, using electronic collaboration platforms to facilitate communication and enable the client to access and comment on the documents required easily.

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Different working spaces for different employee profiles

Through an engaging process, Elo chose an agile, multi-space office concept that meets the needs of different employee profiles, creating the most suitable working space for each profile.

Spaces were designed to meet the needs of the customer service roles and those employees who needed a particularly data-secure space for their work. For example, customer service work over the phone posed challenging requirements for the project, as the staff needed to be able to communicate with each other. Still, at the same time, phone conversations should not disturb those sitting around them.

The new concept is flexible and versatile, and particularly space-efficient. The change allowed Elo to get rid of a whole floor entirely, also resulting in significant savings in space costs. The concept included work environment dimensions, zones, main functions, budget targets, and design guidelines.

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The concept was tested in a pilot space

After the define phase, Agile Work created and implemented a pilot space for Elo, a working area open to all employees, including a meeting room. The space had previously been used as a management area, and opening it up to all staff was highly appreciated.

Feedback and observations from the pilot space were collected and used to refine the concept and design other spaces. The implementation was carried out in phases, with Agile Work acting as a construction consultant and overall design manager to design all the required change documents.

The renovated workspaces now better meet the needs of the employees, among other things, the acoustics have been improved, and the technology has been updated to meet today’s needs. The workspaces now have sufficient space and airiness and are also highly adaptable. So the space is never finished but adapts to the changing needs of workers.

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Working on change together with the staff

The change was much anticipated at Elo, but at the same time, some of the staff were reluctant to embrace it. In particular, the idea of sharing desks was seen as challenging.

The issue was worked on with Ello’s HR, Facilities Services, and staff, easing tension and concerns. And the benefits of a flexible and agile working environment were positively received. Following the move to remote working, designated workstations were no longer missed; now, there are assigned team home bases, creating a sense of cohesion within the team.

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Agile Work helping to facilitate the change

From Elo, the project involved a change team with a representative from each unit. Every few months, the change team met to go through the plans in more detail. To support change management, workshops were held with managers on placement and team-specific needs.

The new working environment concept involved abandoning a separate break room in each wing and moving to a shared floor café. This initially caused concern among the staff but has since increased the sense of community. The plan was carried out in close cooperation with Elo Facilities Services.

From a change management perspective, the project was successful because the staff were involved from the start, had the opportunity to test the future space in the pilot premises, and were given sufficient time to make the changes.

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