South African energy and chemical giant Sasol recently opened its new corporate headquarters and, as well as being environmentally friendly, they’re designed to be a great space to work in.
Situated in Sandton, Johannesburg – often referred to as the “richest square mile in Africa” – the building covers 67 000 square metres. The building includes “seven parking levels, a ground floor and 10 office floors, and its features include a restaurant with a modern and diverse offering, a coffee shop, a wellness centre, a convenience store, a fitness centre and a dedicated gallery and sculpture garden”.
From an environmental perspective, the building includes several of the latest green technologies. For example, intelligent building management systems automatically regulate the use of LED lighting, air conditioning, automated blinds, water usage, escalators, and elevators.
A range of natural habitats has also been created, with individual indigenous biomes attracting small wildlife, insects and birds, on the external decks, within the grounds, as well as on the rooftop of the building.
That alone makes it a better workplace than most, but a lot of work has been put into ensuring the company’s employees not only like being there, but can also be as productive as possible.
“Sasol Place exemplifies our vision to create an inspiring 21st century workplace. Over and above the cost-optimisation benefits, our new global headquarters embeds our operating model, enhances our employee value proposition, and realises our ‘One Sasol, one bottom line’ mindset,” says Fay Hoosain, Senior Vice President, Strategic Projects at Sasol.
In charge of ensuring that the building achieved those goals was Sasol’s strategic real estate advisory and implementation partner, Betapoint.
Engage Me recently got the chance to sit down with Betapoint CEO Adam Sargent and property consulting director Michael Griffiths to talk about its approach to the building, as well as how building design can inform employee happiness.
According to Sargent, Betapoint took a “much more holistic” approach to the Sasol building. Rather than trying to impose its own vision, the professional services firm looked to make the building an extension of the “One Sasol” brand.
“Our methodology and approach links to the company’s strategy,” the Betapoint CEO told us.
While it would be easy to dismiss that as corporate bumpf, Sargent believes there’s a synergy between what’s good for the company and the staff.
“Great people want to work with great people in great places,” he told us.
Achieving that vision does, however, require vision and effort.
That’s why the building includes plenty of natural light and a focus on ergonomics. At the same time, however, there was a need for the building to be aesthetically pleasing and convenient to the people using it as possible.
If that sounds ambitious, it’s nothing compared to Sargent’s assertion that Betapoint set out “to transform the workplace for employees and visitors alike”.
Building in flexibility
In order to do that, Betapoint and its partners had to balance the need for a “consistent and uniform experience” with the desire for flexibility. They also had to consider the fact that different people would be using the building at different times of the day.
That they were able to achieve this is thanks largely to a collaborative approach, with teams from across the globe, working to create a product which Sargent says is a “world class office” which “meets and exceeds expectations”.
One way Betapoint has encouraged this flexibility is by offering a variety of workspaces that encourage people to work in different postures. They should not, in other words, be deskbound.
“We want to encourage people to move,” Sargent told us.
Not just about work
The building also recognises that a great workspace isn’t all about work. As well as the features we’ve already mentioned, the Sasol HQ includes meditation spaces, internal paintings, and landscaped areas to work and spend time in.
Sargent seems particularly pleased with how Sasol’s extensive art collection was incorporated into the building.
“We believe art can stimulate and inspire both employees and visitors,” he told us.
Art isn’t the only way to stimulate employees though. As Griffiths told us, you can also make sure people always have interesting things in their eyelines.
Another thing you can do, he said is ensure that “floor-space is not straight and not uniform”.
That said, as Sargent told us, “at the end of the day, you want to feel relaxed and calm and you want to be able to concentrate in the space”.
Building for the future
Another aspect of flexibility is ensuring that the building is as adaptable as possible. That’s not always easy, given that you’re trying to figure out something that hasn’t happened yet.
“We try take as long term a view as possible,” Sargent told us.
There are, he said, a couple of different aspects to that. At a strategic level, he explained, it’s about considering the space, and at a design level “it’s about stuff”.
“Things like demountable floors allow you to adapt a space,” he explained. From a design perspective, meanwhile, you can take long-term views around stuff like furniture selection.
“It’s about the ability to evolve over time,” Sargent explained.
About the rewards
You can bet that Sargent and the Betapoint team will keep an eye on how the Sasol HQ evolves. You see, for them the reward doesn’t come from seeing a building open, but how people react to it.
“Changing the culture of a company, that’s a massive achievement,” Griffiths said.
That said, as Sargent points out, there’s something significant about delivering “a global headquarters that significantly optimises real estate costs, enhances Sasol’s brand and drives a high performance culture”.
It probably doesn’t hurt that, in Sargent’s words, the project “was delivered under budget, on schedule and to the highest quality standards in the industry.”