Along with the emergence of all technological and civic changes imaginable, workplaces have made a big shift, too. Gone are the days when people come in for work to just work, as the workforce – now composed of different generations with different cultural and social upbringings – demands for something bigger and more meaningful than a bare cubicle.
Truc Le, a millennial, envisions a workplace with an in-house café (and probably offering a complimentary cup of latte for full-time employees) and a ‘scream room’. Having previously worked in an office with a single elevator for more than a hundred employees, she dreams of space – wide, wide space. “A great view of the Saigon river, or something green would be nice,” she adds.
But her mother, a Gen X, says a clean table, a chair, and a functional computer were all she needed back in the day.
Their ideas of a workplace are clearly not in sync, but they both agreed that workplaces should be where employees can interact freely and expand their careers.
Where like-minded people connect
These concepts of connection and growth in the workplace were highlighted at the Employee Experience Mini Conference on January 16, at the newly opened Dreamplex Ngo Quang Huy in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2.
The five-story building – encased in bamboo with large clear windows, high ceilings, white walls, maple wood furniture and an outdoor garden canopied by a giant tree – is the latest addition to the Dreamplex brand in Vietnam. The building centers around the idea of sustainability, modern minimalism and employee-focused work and chilling spaces (the Cloudnine by KOTO café has one of the best fruit mini cheesecakes ever made).
As people joined the specially curated activities during the grand opening at the ground floor, industry experts and a keen group of audience came together at the second floor for a conversation anchored on what Dreamplex’s tagline, A Better Day At Work, really means.
And they all came up with one answer: employee experience.
What makes employees happy?
Joan Tercero, Co-founder at PEOPLED., said, “Employee experience is about creating a more employee-driven company, and asking, ‘Are my employees happy?’ Companies should focus on the uniqueness of their team and use that uniqueness to see what clicks for them and what drives more productivity. It’s creating an environment where what the employees want is aligned with the culture of the company.” While meeting these demands from employees may be an additional expense, Joan reasoned, “this is how you retain the best talents.”
For Minh Giang Nguyen of the Mekong Capital, employee experience boils down to investing in people. “After a lot of trial and error, we discovered that it’s all really about people and culture. It’s human connection, human interaction so we make sure that communication gets through every level.” As Culture & People Partner, Minh put emphasis on creating activities that integrate the professional and personal lives of employees, like creating a “family day”, where people meet each other’s parents. “We thank the parents for raising creative and responsible kids, and let them know that they should be proud.”
But while Sociolla Country Director Dat Nguyen and Happiness Saigon Co-founder Alan Cerutti have a different idea of work-life integration for their employees, both company leaders agreed that designing a space for employees to build connection, share goals, hasten their talents and feel a sense of belongingness is the core of employee experience. And that space doesn’t have to be in the office, said Alan. “Every Tuesday and Thursday, we let our team work anywhere they want. So Happiness Saigon becomes Happiness Anywhere, and that’s really our goal.”
“And establishing company culture right at the very beginning is really important,” added Dat. “For a startup company like ours, I personally attend every recruitment and every orientation to establish the company’s beliefs, goals and vibe. With 100 employees now, we combine physical space, technology and culture to create the journey of development.”
A well-designed workplace attracts employees and enhances creativity
For years, the debate on the impact of remote working to both employees and employers never seemed to be resolved. But the current health crisis opened an avenue for an experiment. Companies were forced to give flexibility in working hours and places – something many have been long demanding for.
Now that everyone can see that working where you’re most comfortable at is actually not too bad of an idea, the question now here is: how can companies encourage employees to still go to the office?
“Having a hotel-like workplace,” quipped Cong Ong, Founder & CEO at First Alliances. With an office that definitely resembles a Parisian hotel – flowers replacing receptionists, decorative lights, bar, two double fridge, hanging egg chairs and “love” and “friendship” rooms – First Alliances surely knows how to mix technology, design and elegance. Their office, on the 18th floor of Sonatus, is playful and professional, an ideal avenue to foster creativity and productivity.
VNG’s Chief People Officer Abhishek Mathur, had a different take, “I think it’s psychological. When you go to work, your manager, who you have to please, is there. But if you go to a café, you feel like you’re the boss, so you work better. But in terms of functional spaces, a café cannot compete with a real office.”
Opening the conversation on functional spaces, Mathur explained the concept of the VNG Campus in District 7 (it’s unbelievably huge!). Complete with a large hall, a 900-capacity atrium, a pool, game area, cafeteria, and several small areas for intimate meetings, VNG Campus is the first unicorn of Vietnam.
“Much of these spaces and design elements we incorporated in the building reflect the value and culture of the company and its founders. The swimming pool and the gym, for example, were built because we wanted to promote health and wellbeing.”
VNG’s wide atrium with a large LED is positioned at the center, symbolizing togetherness and sense of belonging, added Mathur.
For smaller companies and startups, co-working spaces like Dreamplex holds a promise. All five floors of the Thao Dien branch provide different spaces for different people and different tasks. “Whatever your mood is or whatever task you have, there is a space for you at Dreamplex,” said Daan van Rossum, Chief Experience Officer at Dreamplex.
Even Ong, when asked what kind of office he would make if he were to start another business, said “Like Dreamplex.”