Red Bull Dubai: Giving Wiiings to People and Ideas

I had the chance to visit and run a workshop in the offices of Red Bull Dubai back in April, spending 3-4 days there, where I got a real taste of what makes it such an energetic place to work in – even without drinking the iconic energy drink!

I spoke with the “Head Coach” (HC) for Middle East and Asia Pacific (MEAP), who struck me as genuinely passionate about the business, the people he works with and the space they work in. After the tour and interview, he asked not to be named, because for him it would be sending the wrong message: the creation of this new, exciting environment is not about him receiving glory for a beautiful space; it’s all about the creation of a place that inspires the whole team, and one that they all play a huge part in.

There's an aircraft engine in reception!
There’s an aircraft engine in reception!

As the elevator doors open onto the 4th floor of this commercial building in Dubai’s Airport Free Zone, the standardised uniformity of the surrounding services offices is challenged – Red Bull style. An immediate statement is made as you step into the office – greeted by a what looks like part of a giant Red Bull can – which is in fact a salvaged KLM 747 jet engine cowling repurposed into a reception desk. Dutch designer XXXX was commissioned to create the desk not only to reflect the brand’s love for precision and showmanship; his brief included a specific request to lower the leading edge, ensuring eye contact between the sparky and attractive “Ambassadors” and any visitors who come to call.

The experience here is as important as the design details and material finishes. And these two elements are evident throughout the place, driven by two needs that create an environment that at once demonstrates the spirit of the company and also serves to support the business to achieve its ambitious goals.

Drivers for change

The catalyst for this transformation back in April 2013 was a need for more space – as the company continued to grow in size, and HC also wanted to create a ‘positive shock’; the physical space became a tool to help communicate the spirit of a new chapter in the business growth. HC saw this as an opportunity to not just revamp their existing space but to reinforce a new directive and embed some of the behaviours to support the change the business wanted to see.

Where the previous space was standardised, the new space is unique. Where the old offices were closed, here it’s open. Where before you could have been in the offices of any insurance company or bank, there’s no mistaking that you’ve walked into the heart of one of the most vibrant brands in the world.   White dominates, giving the whole office a bright, fresh and positive air, inspite of relatively low ceilings – and throughout, splashes of the familiar silver, red and blue provide an injection of energy.

The Field meeting room, which is themed to represent sport with astroturf flooring, pitch  markings and replica stadium lighting.
The Field meeting room, which is themed to represent sport with astroturf flooring, pitch markings and replica stadium lighting.

The brand’s four main areas of focus are showcased in glass-fronted meeting rooms – all instantly visible from reception:  Field– celebrating sport and in particular football (soccer) – turf and field markings with replica stadium lights;  Pitstop – a nod to Red Bull’s huge involvement in Formula 1 racing – tarmac-like flooring , dynamic sweep through the ceiling and a real wing from a former F1 car;  Street – Round table like a stage – platform for Red Bull’s involvement in street culture: breakdancing and music;  Gallery – sculptural mural with the Art of Can.

The "Gallery" meeting room features original artwork designed by RedBull fans, made from RedBull cans.
The “Gallery” meeting room features original artwork designed by RedBull fans, made from RedBull cans.

Formula for success

In HC’s view basic condition for success is down to two elements: the right environment plus the right platform. Here, it’s about enabling people through open, professional, high quality, fully-fitted workspace with sound infrastructure, and combining it with the cultural platform of “positive energy”. Each meeting room is kitted out with best-in-class audio, projection and tech equipment that anyone can use whenever they need it. “The technology here is to serve us to do better.” With all the event and production content the team needs to share with each other, it has to be “top notch” in order to to optimize the experience – imagine trying to convey the energy and exhilaration of a envelope-pushing event like Red Bull X-fighters, or the F1 stunt a-top the Burj Al-Arab on a laptop screen!

“We set the bar high. When people come here they know that is Red Bull is providing an environment to the highest standard than we should we expect high standards in the work that we do.”

THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT + THE RIGHT [CULTURAL] PLATFORM = SUCCESS

The working environment at Red Bull Dubai enables people to think. And to think differently. “If you want to get out of the box you need to have a different environment, “ says HC. The meeting rooms by themselves are inspiring. And there are plans to develop a different floor in the building to build a creative space and hall of fame. A flexible drop-in space with college chairs and Fat Boys(TM) and plenty of wall space.

Results

So what’s the verdict a year on?  HC is really proud of the team and what they have achieved with the space and business results.

The impact this has had is threefold: business performance is up, the bottom line has been affected and the right cultural values reinforced.  Teams are more exposed to each other, communication is more fluid, more direct and less formal.  Business targets have been smashed this year, compared with a struggling period before the transformation.

The return on investment has been significant, too: whilst the investment on the space was considerable, meetings are now held on-site, versus hotels. “So we’re saving money.  I tell you – if we rented our meeting spaces out – and I have been asked many times – the space would be making a profit!”

For HC, it’s visible: “After a year, everything is still very white! People really look after it.   I think that re-confirms the importance of taking care of the place we work in, and it reflects the care we take in the work we do.”

“When my team brings their friends and family to see where they work – they’re really proud too. They have a sense of belonging and when I see that it reassures me that the investment made has been well placed.”

The pantry at Red Bull Dubai is a place where people get together informally and hold whole-company meetings.
The pantry at Red Bull Dubai is a place where people get together informally and hold whole-company meetings.

 Design features:

  •  White dominates, providing a refreshing and positive ambiance in absence of high ceiling
  • Sliding doors on meeting rooms and enclosed office spaces include acoustic barrier properties
  • Partitions hang from ceilings with acoustic baffling
  • Herman Miller furniture chosen – functional/practical/heavy duty
  • Overall style ambition is relaxing and comfortable; health is high priority, as most people sit for long periods
  • L-shape desk configurations allow people to focus on screen and people to talk/collaborate at desks