Our Holborn office has been the centre of Haines Watts’ London operations for almost 10 years now. It’s the hub from which most of our London-based partners and staff work. In 2018 we made the decision to update and refurbish our Central London home and turn it into an even better and more productive workspace for our people and clients.
Matt Perry, Managing Partner, explains the impetus behind this office revamp and how a move to activity-based working has transformed the way we use the space.
Why a new look and update was needed
We’d known for a while that a refit was needed at our Holborn HQ, and there were a few different reasons for the refurbishment taking place.
Two acquisitions were made that meant we had people split across three offices, so we wanted everyone together in one central office. But there was a slight issue with space and how we’d get 60+ new people into the office to create a main team of 130. So we needed to rethink.
The big question was how we could use the space we had in a more effective way, while also creating a modern, attractive and productive working environment for our people.
Blue Jelly are a fabulous office design agency who have worked with us on our Esher and Bromley offices as well as our recent Birmingham office move and redesign. We liked what they did in Birmingham and thought that this approach could be the solution for London. As a firm, we need to attract more good people and the workplace environment is a big part of that. The old Holborn office wasn’t coming out as the best option when grads were shown around and we need more millennials in the business. So, pulling in the right talent with an attractive office space was a big factor.
It wasn’t going to be a Facebook or Google office – we didn’t have the resources for that. But I knew it needed to be more modern and more attractive while still being ‘Haines Watts’.
Managing the change to activity-based working
The move has been a big change, with 120 very different and diverse people to think about, so I knew we needed to bring in change management people to help us do this well. The idea was always to change things once not three times, opting for maximum disruption and minimum time to get the job done quickly and stop people being put through multiple, stressful changes.
We worked on a programme with two reps from each office to create a sponsors team for the project. This was all about getting people on board in the first instance. Then, five people in each office were formed into a working team to be the sounding boards and advocates for the refurb project across the London staff.
Much of this was focused on getting all three teams on board with the idea of ‘activity based working’ and the concepts of using active spaces.
Activity based working or agile working isn’t hot-desking – and we made that very clear from the outset. It’s about coming into work and deciding what your activities are for the day and what makes you most productive over the course of that time. So, in essence, it’s matching the work you’re doing with the space that’s available in the new office.
Exploring new ways of working
Having rules and staff guidelines in place for active space working was a new idea for us and you need buy-in for this from the people who are actually using the space.
So, we now have rules like no hot food being eaten at desks, and hot lunches only being eaten in the canteen area. And if you have several meetings coming up, you need to surrender your current desk and sign in with another desk afterwards, to make the most of the desk space we have available and free up a seat for other colleagues.
It’s about being smart with how we use this new workspace. For example, an introvert who’s working on tax returns will want to sit at one desk all day – that keeps them focused and free from distractions. Whereas, a team manager may use a desk, and also meeting rooms and booths etc., and an extrovert can go to the social spaces to talk and network. We also have focus pods for quiet work. It’s really about aligning the space to the work you do.
We have no pedestals or desk drawers now, just lockers. We also have no desk phones – everyone’s landline number is now available through an app on their mobile, which comes up as work number and is charged out as a separate phone.
For me, we’ve created a cleaner, more streamlined workspace that’s ready to meet the needs and challenges of providing the next generation of accounting services.
Getting buy-in from the team
How has it gone in practice? If we hadn’t gone through the change management process then I think it would have been a zoo on the first day in the new space – but it wasn’t.
There have obviously been comments and reactions from people, but the change management has prepared people, underlined the value of the project and got people through this process. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quiet and problem-free the first few weeks in the revamped Holborn office have been, actually.
Getting people involved in the design and look of the office was important. It was a constant feedback situation. So the plan was always to get in and work for 12 weeks and see how it fits. And we’ve created a digital ‘comments box’ for feedback from the staff so we can gauge where the issues are and where some action might be needed.
We can see themes happening as people get used to the new environment. We need to see how many people are actually using the spaces and which areas are popular. That’s how this new in-built flexibility of the space should be utilised if the revamp is going to solve all the right issues – and build a solid London HQ for years to come.
Continuing our development in the new office
The development of the London office doesn’t stop with the redesign, of course.
We know that flexible working – both working from different locations and working flexible hours – is an aspiration for the near future. We’re holding back on flexible working at the moment but aim to introduce this across the London team next year.
It’s about output and delivery, really – being flexible but getting the job done. We already have an app in-house for chat, document sharing and instant communication, and we have cloud access to our key systems, so there are no barriers to people working from home or remotely and still getting work done.
It’s been a success, 100%. There’s been a positive reaction from the team and the first few weeks have been really successful. I couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone.
If you’d like to visit us in our new Holborn HQ, please do get in touch.
Want to know more? Call us on 0207 025 4650 or email email@example.com