Based in Bath, Interaction are office design and build experts who specialise in creative projects. With over 25 years’ experience in positively enhancing the culture, values, wellbeing and productivity of businesses, insurance specialists SunLife turned to them to create their new Bristol headquarters.
Founded in 1810 and becoming a part of the Phoenix Group in 2016, SunLife has a rich history. The team therefore wanted a workplace that would match their historical reputation and offer the wow-factor for employees and visitors – in addition to facilitating more flexible and efficient ways of working. Upon finding the perfect new 15,000 sq. ft. waterfront location in one of Bristol’s core office areas, Interaction’s work could begin.
Working closely with the SunLife team, they learned exactly what requirements were needed, both on a day-to-day and long-term level. This included a mix of work and downtime areas, integrated technology and a choice of meeting areas.
The finished project was successfully tailor-made to the practical needs of everyone who would be working in the new office. The overall result is a modern two-floor space that combines practicality and visual appeal, whilst also facilitating a new working culture for the team by providing more flexibility.
Enriching the space is an array of unique touches, including the stand-out handmade tree in the centre of the breakout area. Inspired by the way a trunk’s rings represent years, the in-office tree represents the experience and embodied knowledge of SunLife, which was founded over two hundred years ago. Equally, encircled by seating, this area helps to create a sense of calm and provides a space for SunLife team members to think through complex ideas, but also to recuperate during hectic periods. Biophilic touches like this not only add visual appeal but help to inspire and motivate employees.
Other key features include an impressive boardroom (with a bespoke glass topped table) and high-quality Manhattan glass throughout the office. This helps to bring in natural light and offer privacy without shutting doors, creating a sense of openness between team members.
With keen eyes for detail, Interaction paid close attention to the finishing touches in the space. The SunLife team wanted the design to reflect the building’s waterfront location and traditional use as a soap and vinegar warehouse. Subsequently, the creative minds at Interaction sourced and integrated retro soap advertisements, rustic brick-effect walls and a shipping telegraph and wheel. By incorporating a mix of creative touches such as these with practical working and meeting areas, this innovative workplace will help to inspire productivity. Aside from its visual appeal, the overall space makes way for choice; employees can decide where and how they want to work. In turn, this sense of flexibility will support employee wellness – something that is vital for the running of a successful workplace.
The project was firmly influenced by Resimercial; the latest trend to gain popularity in commercial design. Resimercial encompasses layouts, architecture and furniture that blend residential and domestic interiors with more traditional workplace aspects. It revolves around the liberalisation of workplace design, which puts people and their work-life balance at the centre.
By creating comfortable environments, the workplace becomes a place that staff members want to come to work in, rather than a place they have to be. This, in turn, enhances productivity — a factor that underpins the Resimercial trend. By working in a more comfortable space, individuals are inspired to be more creative and collaborative.
It is this philosophy that supported SunLife’s new workplace design. Hayley Whitlock, one of the designers on the project, commented: “Every design and build project we work on is based around creating agile, collaborative and flexible working spaces that bring out the best in people – and Resimercial now plays a significant role in this too. SunLife wanted to enhance their working culture with a modern, collaborative and wow-factor space. A key part of achieving this came from utilising the Resimercial trend and combining spaces for working and downtime, in addition to one-of-a-kind finishing touches. The breakout areas give a particular nod to Resimercial by offering the comfort of home in a workplace setting, with varied styles of seating, lighting and décor. The overall result is a flexible environment suitable for SunLife’s modern workforce – and one that will encourage collaboration, creative thinking and productivity.”
Aside from Resimercial, another key factor that led to the project’s success was Interaction’s effective working relationships, with both SunLife and third parties. By nurturing relationships, effective communication naturally follows – and this means projects can be completed to the best of everyone’s abilities, on time and to budget; a result that was achieved for SunLife.
Throughout the ten-week project, SunLife were impressed with the Interaction team. They were particularly pleased with the unique finish and are thrilled to have a workplace that stands out and that will help their brand live up to its well-renowned name.
The creation of SunLife’s amazing new Bristol HQ highlights Interaction’s philosophy: that office fit-outs or refurbishments should be the result of a collaborative process that puts employees back into the heart of workplace design. By doing so, Interaction ensure that great workspaces become great workplaces that are truly built for the people that use them.