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Times of Malta’s Veronica Stivala visits the Betsson Experience centre – is this the best place of work in Malta?

A sure bet

Airy New York loft with digital games, a yoga room and table soccer. The Betsson offices in Ta’ Xbiex are so inviting, an employee would not want to go home after work. Ulrik Bengtsson tells Veronica Stivala why his offices are every worker’s dream. Playing Scrabble on a giant wall-mounted board, having a bout of table soccer or PlayStation or attending a calming and invigorating yoga class are not exactly the first activities that come to mind when one thinks of a work environment. Yet games and relaxing activities form part of not only the ethos of the e-gaming company Betsson Malta, but also of their interior décor. I meet its CEO, Ulrik Bengtsson, who proudly shows me around the stunning offices where an impressive 650 people work – making it one of the biggest offices on the island. Reminiscent of the Google and Air BnB offices, this impressive workspace is the culmination of design, comfort and functionality and took over a year to set up. Bengtsson’s pride in his offices is evident as he shows me around, pointing out details and explaining the design process which involved some five or six versions, the selection process behind which he was closely involved in. Interestingly, prototypes included a roller coaster running through the building as well as a massive steel beam also running through a large part of the buildings.
Some €5m was spent on the design and décor
Yet, practicality had to take preference and these two prototypes had to be scrapped. An architectural steel mesh well 4.5 metres high was used for the staircases, while access raised flooring was indispensable for the more service-crowded areas finished in gres or carpeting tiles.   Bengtsson walks me through some details that did stick. For example, he points out the silver font in which the words ‘Experience Centre’ appear, just under the company’s logo. “We got the idea for the silver colour from a style we had seen at Victoria’s Secret,” he reveals. The use of steel and silver as well as bright colours is a subtle, but effective theme that works its way throughout the design of the whole of the offices. Bengtsson really has given a lot of importance to the design of the offices. “I felt very strongly about creating an inviting atmosphere,” he admits. Some €5 million was spent on the design and décor of this astonishing office environment which breathes the very essence of communication, productivity and innovation. Forward Architects and GQ Works were allocated the task of revolutionising their offices from beginning to end, while Dex Workspaces was the chosen partner to implement the new design. The entrance area to the offices on the Ta’ Xbiex seafront are welcoming and have an air of relaxation to them. Think New York loft, a theme that is carried out throughout the entire eight floors of offices. Downstairs, the floor is large, greyscale slabs. The big clear glass windows and doors that overlook the seafront mean the spacious area is always well-lit. Comfortable armchairs and sofas are dotted around the reception area, offering visitors a welcoming place to sit. Ergonomic seating was supplied by Quinti. Furniture and seating for exclusive areas were combined with designer pieces by Vitra and intelligent lighting by Waldmann. Also part of the entrance area and in-keeping with the NY loft décor is a neat, block white bar. Swanky black lampshades hang from the ceiling and dashes of bright orange, purple and green give the room extra zing. Apart from the NY loft style, idiosyncratic of the Betsson offices are the country themed conference rooms. Although the sprawling offices are open-plan, Bengtsson explains the importance of offering spaces where employees can retire for some quiet work time, or simply to have a private meeting. The works mainly focused on providing innovative partitions and technical acoustic panelling. Betsson’s long-time partner Arcadia contributed to the tight deadlines, from drawing board to production. Interior - 21 With 33 of these rooms, it made sense to make each room easily recognisable and unique. Cue the country rooms, each decorated with something recognisable from the theme country. Think Marimekko design in the Finland room, lifesize models in full skiing gear, complete with (specially-imported) skis in the Norway room, Matrioshka dolls in the Russia room, clogs in the Netherlands room, cuckoo clocks for Switzerland and you don’t need to be told where the Knights of Malta can be found. The most popular and most talked-about room, confides Begtsson, is the Gibraltar room, where toy monkeys can be found hanging from the walls and ceiling. At the end of the tour, Bengtsson reflects on how he values the work environment of his employees and understands how life is not just about work and a happy work environment often trumps other apparent attractions. “The competition is cutthroat for employees,” he goes on to admit, but “very often, former employees come back to Betsson.”