GroupGSA’s remodelling of QBE’s three workplaces in Melbourne, Sydney and Parramatta have offered an insight into innovative hybrid design, at a time when uncertainty is afoot within the commercial world.

Collaborating with the insurance provider, GroupGSA has successfully transformed QBE’s workspaces over three years. The transformation was carried out in order to simplify operations, improve collaboration and efficiency and achieve long-term sustainability goals of reducing operational emissions.

QBE, in the midst of the pandemic, moved quickly to ascertain its future workplace needs. A survey of its staff found 10 percent wanted to work five days a week in the office, while 10 percent wanted to work from home and 80 percent desiring a hybrid model between both work and home. 

QBE Parramatta

The result is three highly immersive workplaces that curate a culture of collaboration through bespoke “team neighbourhoods,” agile floorplans and tech-enabled meeting spaces to support a diverse work-force and a new generation of emerging employees. Each site was selected based on their centrality to public transport and city precincts in the interests of QBE staff.

GroupGSA Project Lead, Liam Higginbotham, says the design team developed a “kit of parts”, which were effectively elements based on the working groups from each site and ultimately enabled new working styles and set a framework for the future of QBE. 

“The investment in remote booking devices has revolutionised the way staff engage with each other and with the physical environment,” he says.

“All workstations, lockers and the majority of meeting spaces are synchronised with an app allowing com-plete control for staff to plan their day or week as they desire. QBE is able to use this utilisation data to improve future space developments and support their staff’s needs.”

All three major city hubs share diverse work settings to suit specific team precincts. These include a series of linear work points and workstation options, from sit-to-stand desks and quiet nooks to focus spaces and innovation hubs. QBE introduced a floor sensor system halfway through the project.

QBE Melbourne

Team huddles offer an extension of team neighbourhood settings and are tailored to local working groups, such as call centre teams. Nearly all meeting spaces are video capable.

“Adjacent to neighbourhoods are breakout spaces for individual teams to come together in a stand-up sprint. We developed digital screening elements so that when groups had finished their team huddle, you can flip the digital screens and content can be viewed from the actual work floor itself.”

All three workplace designs incorporate large activated atriums to support QBE’s sustainable targets and outcomes. Individual sites also feature striking stair insertions for enhanced connectivity.

QBE Sydney - 388 George Street

QBE’s headquarters channels the shifting rock formations found in tectonic plates. GroupGSA says the space plays with layering and curves, coupled by a warm, natural palette of finishes and green walls to improve general wellness.

The Sydney office features an expansive atrium surrounded by vibrant team neighbourhoods and a ribbon of meeting spaces. Central to the space is a towering green ‘living’ column which stretches over three floors.
QBE opted for sustainably certified and low-emission materials throughout, from furniture to carpets, paints, timber and energy efficient lighting. The workplace is also powered by 100% renewable energy.

QBE Parramatta - 32 Smith Street

Unique to QBE’s new 15,000sqm Parramatta workplace is an entire social floor dedicated to staff, including a large, vibrant café that opens out onto a sky terrace, client meeting rooms, and a large training facility.

“QBE has devoted the top floor to staff amenities and a large outdoor terrace on level 25 with 270-degree views of Parramatta and the wider greater Sydney,” Higginbotham says.

Connectivity is a prominent design feature with sculptural stairs linking the ten floors.

The Sydney and Parramatta sites were completed in June 2021, while the Melbourne Docklands office opened in 2019.