Toufic Kreidieh, Founding Partner and Group CEO of the BFL Group, discusses how creating a unique office interior and ambience helps to improve employees’ health and well-being while also increasing productivity. The company recently opened a new office in Jebel Ali Industrial Zone’s Technopark.

After taking a year to complete, what was the original inspiration behind pursuing this expansion?

Expansion is a crucial aspect of raising a business to newer heights. The primary goal behind our strategic expansion plans is to bring our novel and distinctive treasure hunt concept to every nook and corner of the world and reach new customers. Following our initial launch in the UAE, we mapped a robust expansion plan focusing on our existing resources and studying other markets extensively, to figure out growth opportunities. With this strong expansion strategy in place, we were able to establish several outlets across the GCC countries and the US. Most recently, we launched our operations in Saudi Arabia. A critical aspect to factor in while planning for expansion is to study markets and their evolving trends as well as identify the company’s needs and demands for the coming years.

Our plans include launching 100 to 150 stores in the next five years and to turn this into reality, we need a robust back-office support system with a dedicated team whose extensive expertise and skills would make our expansion journey successful. 

You mentioned that there are unique amenities in the office. Could you elaborate on the concept behind incorporating a sleeping gym and a kitchen into your expansion plans? What was your vision behind these ideas?

We recognise that the workplace and its interiors have a significant influence on employee productivity and motivation. And since people spend most of their time at work, it is significant for the management of any organisation to realise and update the physical office space to meet various employee needs and encourage them. Our integration of unique amenities in the office such as sleeping pods, a gym and a kitchen is based on this fact. Since the majority of our lives are spent at work, we aimed at establishing a workplace that was comfortable and felt like a second home for our employees, where they could not only work efficiently but also unwind and generate fresh ideas. 

Before conceptualising the entire project, did you consult with your staff and seek their feedback on the matter?

Employees are valuable assets of our company, and we sought advice and ideas from our employees to help us design our expansion plans. We engaged in a comprehensive process that included a gamut of concepts as we were so determined to recognise what drives them. Doing so helped us learn various characteristics and motivating factors of our employees. As a result of this process, we learned that many of our employees are interested in sports and other related activities. This is how we came up with the idea of opening a gym. We also understood the value of offering other fun activities to those who may not be as interested in sporting activities.

Our facility spans across 3500sqm, featuring numerous recreational amenities such as – an entertainment room with games, massage chairs, a gym, a brainstorming area, a cafeteria, and sleeping pods. For the cafeteria, we have a food menu that costs only about AED 10 to 12 and the rest of the amount is paid by the company. 

How was your communication with the interior designers who worked on this project, and were they able to accurately convey and bring to life your vision?

Our goal was to choose experts and professionals with extensive experiences to turn our vision into reality. We had to engage and interact with a variety of contractors and subcontractors from various disciplines to make this project successful. For instance, we sought pioneers and leaders who are capable of developing the ideal gym environment by combining their professional skills, expertise, and ideas. Likewise, we chose the top-best subcontractors in the industry for the construction of the canteen and offices. The project’s success is attributable to the exceptional skills of these various professionals, who helped us transform our ideas into reality.

We observed that the interior space had a lot of natural light and vibrant colours. This can potentially boost employee productivity. Now that the workspace is operational, have you received any feedback on the impact of these design elements on employee productivity and efficiency?

The very reason behind using bright colours and enabling more natural lights in any space is to produce a productive workplace where employees feel motivated and satisfied. Stress levels, productivity, and efficiency are key factors correlated to psychology and these variables are greatly impacted by the lighting in a workspace. The general atmosphere and productivity in a workplace can be greatly influenced by natural light. Employees prefer to stay later after working hours if they find the working environment to be more stimulating and motivating. A brighter space can help employees feel such a way. A space where employees can reflect and feel inspired is imperative and our staff’s positive feedback confirms this fact.

Everyone has been discussing the importance of a healthy workspace and its impact on mental health. Seeing your space, I was impressed because it directly addresses this issue and has the potential to reduce stress levels for people. And I wonder if you ever took advice from any health experts.

To be honest, we chose to trust our judgement in this matter because we were so keen and highly involved in elevating our organisation to newer heights as well as collaborating with other businesses. Our employees’ welfare is our top concern and priority, and we realise how important it is to both retain the talents we have on board while also recruiting new members. Many people have been opting for work from home as a result of the pandemic, however, we can certainly state that we have a better alternative for this. It is a tough call for everyone since the workspace and environment that we offer for our employees are undeniably impressive and more comfortable than anyone would feel at home. 

What are the benefits of having sleeping pods and massage chairs in the office? As it is a relatively new concept, not many companies have implemented it. Can you provide some advice on the advantages of having these amenities in the workplace?

As individuals with a unique degree of energy, it has become critical to recognise how sleep affects productivity. Sleep is one the most important aspect of one’s life, and while we make every effort to sleep well, several factors prove to be a hindrance. As a result, productivity could be negatively affected during a long day at work. Because of this, the siesta concept, which has been widely used in several nations including Spain and Italy, has gained popularity. For instance, in the corporate culture of Italy, workers take a break for lunch, recreation, and leisure before going back to work.

A similar method has also been followed by the Spaniards, providing employees with an option to take a little nap in sleeping pods or utilise massage chairs for 20 to 30 minutes during the day, just like a siesta, to maintain high productivity. Their vitality is restored, and production levels are maintained. As a result, I strongly urge other businesses to consider providing similar perks for their staff.

Lastly, how much have you invested in the office?

Our investments for this office reached around AED 12 million. We intend to motivate and drive employee productivity and engagement, all while focussing on providing customers with superior value and satisfaction.