Creating the right working environment is vital if you want to get the best out of your workforce. Your workplace impacts performance. Darren Holdway, Managing Partner at Haines Watts Birmingham, explains how an office move has helped both workplace satisfaction and business performance.
Location Location Location
With acquisitions very much part of our own growth strategy, helping new teams gel together can sometimes be a question of logistics as well as decent management. Earlier this year, we moved premises to bring together teams who were working from two locations.
We wanted to bring people together under one roof, but, more than that, the process gave us a brilliant opportunity to work out the very best working environment for our people.
There were two main drivers for the move – the first was the need for more space to accommodate the people we have and planned future growth, and the second was the limitations the condition and layout of the old sites naturally put on team performance and employee development.
Neither property on its own was great, and they were both quite old fashioned, with little rooms and little open space. They both felt behind the times. We found we were moving people around in order to get people to get to know each other, build relationships and streamline procedures and processes.
But it was pretty painful running between one physical location and another, particularly when someone needed to show a colleague something. Obviously mobile working means that talking to people is easy, with email or phone, but oftentimes you need to sit down and show how something is done – in which case there is the requirement to be in the same place.
Because we wanted to eradicate all of the challenges that the old premises presented, we started the new one with a blank piece of paper and thought: ‘How do we design this place to maximise efficiency and enjoyment, and create an environment to ensure improved performance?’
Teamwork makes the teams work
The first thing we did was involve the teams in how we were going to set the building out. The design team doing the work interviewed our people about what they thought the barriers were to working.
The big thing that came out was that people felt they were operating in siloes. Although we were one team, we were many little teams, so there was no cross pollination of ideas. We were very keen on designing our new space as much more open plan, while still providing areas where people could break into small teams for particular projects.
Previously this would have been done at their desks or by using one of the main board rooms, which are in quite a lot of demand anyway.
The other huge benefit of getting our employees to help with the planning was they felt much more invested in the project.
The new building encourages agile working, the idea being that you think about what your day is going to be like and sit in the most sensible place for it. If you’re working on an audit with another couple of people it makes sense to be sitting together.
We’ve got much better relationships across our entire team because it helps build rapport and trust, and once they’ve got that it’s easier to work together. Some areas are louder, so if it’s technical they’ll go to more peaceful part. People have ownership of where they position themselves to be most comfortable and effective.
Ad hoc coaching
Another interesting positive I’ve noticed about the new workspace is around coaching. With people being more visible in a larger space, it’s easier to learn from what they’re doing or, conversely, spot that they might be struggling with something and step in to offer help or advice.
Bringing everything out in the open has led to much more effective collaboration and enables everyone to see what best performance looks like. This wasn’t happening before, not because our people don’t want to learn, but it’s rather like Donald Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns inasmuch as there are things we don’t know we don’t know.
There have been multiple benefits for both our people but also for our business’ performance. The move and shift to a different way of working is encouraging collaboration, efficiency and teamwork – all of which leads to better results on the job and overall growth.
Our team is in a much nicer environment but if we’d just imposed it on people, it might not have worked so well.
As I find with both our business and the businesses we work with, teamwork and a shared vision really can make a huge difference to the bottom line.