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Aon Makes Transformational Step into the Future

Aon’s new global HQ relocates the firm’s centre of operations from Chicago to the epicentre of the insurance world. Image © Gensler

Anyone visiting the area surrounding the Lloyds Building in the City of London will notice sharply dressed people wandering around with folders. More often than not, these are people brokering insurance packages for clients. Sometimes for niche specialist service providers. Often for insurance world giants like Willis or Aon.

London is the centre of the global insurance market and the leading destination for the international insurance talent. With this in mind Aon, a leading global provider of risk management, insurance, and reinsurance brokerage, recently relocated its global executive team from Chicago to London. The move represents a significant commitment to the City of London and a new era for the firm.

After an extensive building search with Gensler and a team of advisors, Aon made the decision to move to the Leadenhall Building, AKA ‘The Cheesegrater.’ The futuristic skyscraper is ideally located at the epicentre of the insurance district, situated opposite the iconic Lloyds Building in the heart of the City. The location offers Aon a new vocabulary, elevating the company’s ability to reaffirm and in some ways reinvent its public tone of voice.

The Leadenhall Building promotes Aon’s reputation as the world’s most successful insurance broker. Image © theleadenhallbuilding.com

Gensler started by undertaking a comprehensive workplace strategy, and right away it was clear that Aon’s workforce had great potential for a substantial cultural change. It was also apparent that the project’s Steering Group had a genuine vision for a significant transformation of the way Aon works.

The design team studied Aon via a menu of tools that included specialist workshops, camera journaling, structured interviews, activity analysis and Gensler’s Workplace Performance Index.

The results showed that Aon had a semi-mobile workforce with a high level of low desk utilisation at certain time periods through the day. It also showed a clear profiling of Aon colleagues and the differences in how people work or could work. Gensler used this information to calculate various scenarios of agility, mobility, associated efficiencies and space saving. The eventual solution to the workplace strategy and the resulting design to support this platform is truly transformational in its level of change.

Gensler’s design offers Aon’s employees a neighbourhood-like spaces to foster a sense of community and support a more creative way of working. Image © Gensler

Aon has gone from a fixed, one-to-one desking arrangement to a completely non-addressed, village-based open plan solution, operating initially at a desk sharing ratio of 10 people to eight desks.

People now work in an entirely mobile manner with only a locker as personal storage. This investment in new mobile technology is allowing people to work anywhere inside the Aon Centre, as well as easily out of the building.

Cellular offices have been dropped, driving managers onto working floors to sit on desks with their teams. The free address system also allows staff to choose which desk they want to work at within the village close to their colleagues.

Agile and collaborative work settings have been introduced to over 25 percent of working floors, providing people with a range of options that allow them to customise the space to suit their everyday tasks; they can work in a quiet booth, an arm chair, a lounge, a workshop zone, a cabin booth or a social hot spot.

The new multi-purpose restaurant at the Aon Centre. Image © Gensler

The multi-functional staff restaurant is a round-the-clock co-working space, with staff and visitors meeting and working from early in the morning and continuing throughout the day. The space is fully flexible and can clear to allow colleagues to dine collectedly and hold large town hall meetings with enough room for up to 300 people in a single space. This is a first for Aon, and with the setting of Lloyds as the backdrop, it is an ongoing message of the firm’s prominent position in the industry.

For Gensler’s design team, one of the really interesting things about this project was coming to the realisation that Aon’s workforce already suited mobile working before a new strategy was even formulated.

This was soon discovered following the study of Aon’s various staff profiles and the utilisation associated with the different job types. It was clear that a mobile workforce was already in action, and this would eventually come to inform key design solutions, in terms of the level of mobility and agility possible for Aon’s workforce.

The Insurance industry has, largely, worked in a very traditional way for decades, particularly in the broking community. This is true for many other sectors, but more and more we are finding that these industries accustomed to working in a more traditional manner are, in reality, already working in a next generation way – they just don’t realise it. Therefore, the transition from static to mobile is often easier than one might think. But as companies begin to come to this realisation, the appeal of adapting their workspaces to suit the way their employees want to work will continue to grow.

Gensler Designs Aon's New Global Headquarters in London. Video © Gensler

Matt is a Workplace Design Director and Practice Area Leader for Professional Service Firms in the EMEA region. His career has revolved around the progressive workplace with focus on design, and how this can be delivered to the project in the most appropriate way for the client. Matt has worked within the creative design of the workplace for 20 years, and been a part of many significant milestone projects in the industry including key step changes for large retailers, top legal firms and financial service providers. Contact him at matt_jackson@gensler.com.

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