Although it was already happening to some degree, the migration from open-plan offices to more functional and ergonomic spaces was sent into overdrive by COVID-19. The trend of open-plan offices, now decades old, had run its course as businesses realised that it created as many problems as it was supposed to solve, with noise, disruption and loss of privacy leaching workers’ productivity.
Then the pandemic scattered office workers, mostly to work from home or in safer spaces where the virus could be contained. For Janet Ong, the Founder and Managing Director of interior design firm ID21, it was confirmation of her belief that the industry was in a transformative stage, and she had no hesitation in grasping the opportunity.
“The pandemic caused a massive shift to work from home among knowledge and service workers,” she says . “Company leaders had to rethink the office space, adapt it to the ‘new normal’ by implementing measures such as safe distancing, sustainability, wayfinding and cleaning protocols for the wellbeing of employees.”
Janet and her team have already created a wide array of workspace solutions for companies looking to harness new ideas for their employees’ safety and productivity. “We foresee that the new workplace will be dedicated to interaction and will need more collaborative spaces, team rooms and individual phone booths for private and focus work,” she predicts.
“We’ve been working with partners and clients to put forward an array of hybrid work arrangements, combining the best of innovative work-from-home and face-to-face collaboration.” ID21 has plenty of form when it comes to innovative design and project development. In its 25-year history, the company has delivered more than 1,000 projects in 11 countries and has won numerous awards.
I love that i can provide employment opportunities in a purposeful environment.
“A well-considered design creates positive transformations not only for the company’s bottom line but also for the wellbeing of its staff,” Janet shares.
“I get a kick out of knowing that our designs make a difference in the lives of people. We go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that our designs help companies achieve their business objectives and keep their employees safe – in other words, are fit for the new way of doing business. The industry awards we have won over the years are testament to our success in meeting this non-negotiable goal for each and every project.”
ID21 grew to develop and complete designs it had created, moving on in ambition from design offerings to full project development and employing like-minded staff. It all began when Janet recognised a business opportunity that matched her design aspirations.
“I saw a gap between what clients envisage in their workspaces and what the industry could offer,” she recalls. “There was a huge disconnect between aesthetics, functionality and the wellbeing of users. I started my company in order to fill this gap.
“We have welcomed a variety of talent to the team over the years, and we pride ourselves on nurturing a dynamic, international workforce. They range across a variety of departments such as design, business development, marketing, procurement, mechanical and electrical, project management and construction, with professionals specialising in interior construction, office technology, creative design and strategic planning.”
Janet says that one of the core values of the company is People First. “We seek to develop and empower our people,” she explains. “I’m not here to manage them, I’m here to help them discover their true potential and build an environment that allows them to be leaders in their own field.
When you give your employees this degree of autonomy, it builds trust, a sense of ownership and achievement. I believe that is why we are consistently able to push the envelope with our designs.
“We value collaboration, accountability and embrace excellence and innovation. We want to promote a company culture that values team spirit, openness and cooperation. We understand that all of our employees are individuals with interests and responsibilities that extend beyond the workplace. Empathy plays particular importance in this regard, and is a value greatly appreciated by employees during the difficult pandemic era as they adjust to the new normal.”
It’s fair to say that Janet has witnessed enormous changes in business culture in her 25 years at the helm of ID21. “The needs of customers are much more sophisticated, margins are squeezed and the demands of the business as a whole are multifaceted,” she reveals.
“There is no single stop solution to the surmounting challenges facing startups in this age. You don’t have a magic wand that can help you solve the undeniable obstacles and setbacks overnight. Businesses need to be resilient and focus on keeping their integrity intact against all odds.”
Janet’s motivation to succeed never wavered during that quarter century, and ID21 now enjoys the kudos and reputation that her perseverance has earned. It was always about the right result for the client, and that has been its own reward. “I believe to be an effective leader, you need to have the right motivation,” she says.
“Is it the prestige or the money you care about, or do you genuinely want to serve and inspire others to do their best? “I started ID21 out of a passion to create beautiful and purposeful spaces for people and businesses. I learned in the early days how important it is to truly listen to my teams, and that helped to build trust and loyalty and make my staff feel valued.
Besides having passion, you need to have a tremendous amount of perseverance and grit too. To survive and thrive in the ride of business, prudence is imperative but often overlooked.
“The ability to turn nothing into something tangible helps me to motivate our teams to create more. As a single mum of an amazing teenage boy who has taught me many lessons in real life, I wanted to create jobs to help other families. I love that I can provide employment opportunities in a purposeful environment. This altruistic reason to start a business leads to a sense of fulfilment and purpose, which will keep me motivated for years to come.”
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