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Designing for a mobile workforce: RPM's new head office by ROTHELOWMAN

ROTHELOWMAN has designed RPM Real Estate Group’s new headquarters with the company’s mobile workforce in mind and with a desire to create an office with a "bit of soul." The relocation comes as a result of RPM’s rapid growth.

Due to a high proportion of RPM salespeople working in­-house just one day a week, ROTHELOWMAN has been faced with the challenge of designing a space that caters to this dispersed and mobile workforce.

The layout of the new headquarters replaces the traditional four­-wall office with a series of breakout workstations that encourage collaboration and connectivity and allow for easy on­-the-­go use by team members, visitors and clients.

RPM Office Melbourne interior. Photo by Rachael Dere

The new headquarters has been developed to cater for RPM’s rapid growth. The company has experienced a 370 per cent increase in revenue over the last four years, and has sold 25 per cent of all residential lots available across Melbourne’s metropolitan growth areas over the 2014/2015 period.

Located across two storeys (levels three and five) of a commercial South Melbourne building, the workplace design combines the people­-oriented, sophisticated and approachable nature of the RPM business, along with the company’s high proportion of salespeople operating primarily offsite. One third of RPM team members operate primarily outside of the company’s South Melbourne headquarters and are only in­-house one day a week.

The integration of highly adaptable and cleverly integrated breakout workspaces by ROTHELOWMAN allows RPM to better manage its non-­traditional workforce. This challenge is further enhanced by the unorthodox layout of the office, being located across two non-­consecutive levels of a commercial building.

Urban Melbourne spoke to ROTHELOWMAN head of interiors Andrew Wales who says the biggest logistical challenge for the office was working out how to cater for a dispersed workforce in a way that did not look temporary. The last thing the design team wanted to do was create spaces that would only be used 20 per cent of the week.

According to Wales the team challenged this by implementing ‘breakout areas’ that are power connected, which allow for easy on­ the­-go use by team members, visitors and clients.

ROTHELOWMAN’S interior design incorporates strong graphics and confident colours to artistically communicate the strength of the business and the friendly nature of its people. The office layout is a design representation of the company's services as a suburban real estate agency. A main walkway lined with custom designed lamps, reminiscent of street lamps, provide a demarcation between work areas. This demarcation replaces four-wall offices.

We proposed a design to RPM which effectively reflects their company values: intelligent, people-oriented, sophisticated, well connected with unrivalled knowledge about their industry to share with others. The aim was definitely not to squeeze as many people into the space as possible, but rather to enhance this open, cooperative and research driven organisation. It’s actually quite rare among real estate agencies to employ this type of open-­plan design, but RPM is not a stock standard business.

The approachable nature of RPM is also articulated in the light-weight appearance of furniture and joinery details within the reception and client lounge. The furniture is not solid and corporate, but more the kind of furniture you would have in your living room.

Andrew Wales, Head of Interiors, ROTHELOWMAN

A liberal use of the colour black including on the few office walls is a direct reference to the business. Wales notes that black can be "quite confronting, but it’s not if you get it right," adding that "(it )results in a space and business that looks strong, confident and bold, creating a marriage of brand and business."

Another major element of RPM’s company culture reflected in the design is the high level of customer service offered to clients. On site is a large outdoor area, presentation room and lounge, plus meeting rooms with a full-­size working bar all for the purposes of client entertainment and enjoyment. User experiences are further enhanced through the curated selection of materials including timber, stone and steel, with several custom-­made furniture pieces by Jardan and Stylecraft.

The use of residential-­style furniture reinforces the concept of an office space that is both corporate but also laid back with ROTHELOWMAN drawing on its experience in residential and hospitality projects to help inform how the spaces are designed. As Wales puts it a workspace is a living space ­ people can spend more time in the office than they do at home, so it has to be more than just a place to go to work. It has to provide opportunities which facilitate and encourage good working relationships while also providing spaces to work alone.

The design has also considered future growth and expansion with the capacity to accommodate an increase in staff numbers of around 15% based on RPM's ambitions and aspirations. Beyond this says Wales RPM's mobile staff would be required to split their time across two days. Overall, the innovative layout and interiors of the new RPM headquarters are visual proof of the company’s strong growth and its approach to real estate in Melbourne. The result is a layout and interior palette that is sophisticated and modern but also approachable and a strong representation of the RPM Real Estate business itself.

RPM Office Melbourne interior. Photo by Rachael Dere
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