By garnering the views of its staff, global telecoms company Three transformed its "tired and dated" Glasgow office into a workspace where "Every Day is Wonderful". On 13 October, the project won the 2014 BIFM award for impact on organisation & workplace. Sara Bean reports.
10 November 2014
Following the decision to build its sales capability in the UK, global telecoms company Three planned a major recruitment drive for its contact centre for customer services and sales, at its St Vincent Street offices in the heart of Glasgow.
The scale of the expansion was ambitious; to increase the headcount from 570 to around 940 within the existing four-storey building.
Although the site had an efficient facilities team with services provided by Eore using a mixture of self-delivery and sub-contracted services for specialist areas such as catering, it was the existing office design that posed a problem.
Diana Kilmartin, director of People Workspace & Strategic Planning at Three, explains: "Two of the key drivers of this project were to improve employee engagement and to immerse our people in our brand. The original layouts of the offices did little to encourage collaboration, with uninspiring and dated décor, poor lighting and inflexible workstations."
A poll of its Glasgow occupant's revealed an engagement level of just 46 per cent, which meant that some work was needed to improve the workspace to both attract and retain staff.
Kilmartin says: "It was clear that change was needed, but the opportunity to change and reinvent our Glasgow office was one we relished."
The project objectives included; bringing Three's own brand philosophy of 'Every Day Wonderful' to a tired and dated workspace in which both morale and retention rates were low; improving communication and collaboration between teams; bringing the retail experience to the office environment to assist the sales team with its knowledge of what was being sold; accommodate a dramatic growth in occupancy in line with an aggressive business plan; and improved levels of staff engagement, where staff would be proud to talk about the office environment outside of work.
To ensure that its people felt valued and aligned to the changes it was important that they were given some sense of control of their new environment. For that reason all occupants were invited to communicate and collaborate with the FM team on what they wanted from the new workspace.
A series of FM team discovery workshops were held throughout the planning stage, which ran from March to October 2012. The process kicked off with an environment-brainstorming meeting with all staff, then there was a series of discovery workshops using a steering group that, once the design was formulated, was invited to comment on the proposals.
Following the discovery workshops and staff interviews a 'Staff Wish List' of more than 100 items was devised, which resulted in 92 per cent of the occupant's ideas and suggestions being incorporated into the design.
Three took the time to keep staff informed throughout the project. Office design firm IOR presented the design concept to the entire Glasgow workforce, and a mobile app and intranet site were created to update employees during every aspect of the project. Three produced posters and newsletters, used social media such as Instagram and Twitter, and display screens and images captured on a time-lapse camera took an informative, educational and humorous approach that reflected the company's ethos and brand values.
The project began in late October 2012, running over a 39-week period. The refit covered a gross internal area of 6,300 sq m across all four storeys of the building and was completed to its budget (£3,876,265.51) on time, despite the offices being fully occupied throughout, as well as taking on about 150 new starters. A strong environmental remit ensured a Ska Silver-accredited fit-out, with re-use where possible, energy efficient lamps, light fittings and high frequency lighting, and the installation of occupancy monitoring lighting controls.
Kilmartin explains: "As with any project of this nature, time and cost are always a challenge. For example, we decided to refurbish an additional floor, but had to do this from the original approved budget amount. This had to be achieved without impacting on the visual impact and quality of the project as a whole. It took some time, innovation and creativity, but we did it."
Because the building had to accommodate a growing number of staff both during and following the refit, flexibility was a key driver. Within the main workspace a benching system was introduced, which could accommodate different-sized teams as required, depending on the call centre shift system. This doesn't mean loss of identity, however. All of the staff have their own desk space and are provided with lockers for personal belongings.
Workers can also elect to access technology from anywhere in the building, as the IT and wireless technology were also upgraded. This has helped to improve connectivity with the other Three sites, something that was problematic in the past. New air handling plant and comfort cooling was also installed to meet the increased headcount.
One of the difficulties with the previous layout was the large lobby area in the centre of the building around the lift core, which effectively divided every floor. The solution was to use these areas to offer a range of breakout areas that maximise opportunities for people to communicate, collaborate or learn.
Three types of areas were devised. Inspire is intended to educate employees by encouraging them to connect with technology, and includes space for new product demonstrations and displays.
One of the main employee complaints was the lack of available meeting space, so Discovery is aimed at improving team interaction and learning by offering a range of meeting and training rooms, which are now heavily used.
At the other end of the scale was a desire by staff to have somewhere to go to relax and get away from technology. For that reason four technology-free nurture areas or pods were created with a mix of styles and furniture. Pod 1 brings the 'outside in' and features deckchairs sitting on a 'grass' carpet; Pod 2 is for relaxation, with chaises longues sited below low-level pendant lights to create a calming aura, which can also be used for yoga; Pod 3 consists of comfy open chairs and ottomans for staff to read and relax and finally, Pod 4 offers a tea point with fresh fruit to promote wellbeing and healthy eating.
Kilmartin says: "We really made the open-plan spaces work for our people by using the core of the building as shared and meeting spaces."
"Without this and by taking a more traditional approach, would have meant we would have needed to take additional floor space by now."
Responding to the complaint that the building didn't "feel like Three", branding is incorporated throughout, beginning at reception where 'Gem' screens with large-scale messages reinforce the Three brand for visitors; branded touchscreen kiosks welcome and issue visitor passes and the firm's technology and wireless facilities are showcased.
The project also incorporated some simple, but very effective ideas that have gone a long way to engage staff. As it is a largely young workforce, based in the centre of a vibrant city, many of the Three staff go straight out to local bars and restaurants after work. The redesign had already included shower facilities to encourage people to cycle to work - but with the addition of lights around the mirrors, the bathrooms were transformed into dressing rooms. This simple and low-cost solution is just one more reason for staff pride.
Kilmartin says: "One of the outcomes we wanted was for our people to talk about their workplace outside work and for that message to spread locally. We feel we have definitely achieved this and it is a very positive factor used in the attraction and retention of new employees."
Following the project, maintaining high levels of engagement is dependent on continued monitoring by the facilities team. According to Kilmartin, this is being achieved by ensuring that new employees understand what "feels like Three" means in terms of how they work and use their workspace and in having an FM representative on the site leadership team so that any facilities issues are discussed, agreed and resolved by the senior team in Glasgow.
Going forward, she says: "We map trends and adjust our services where necessary. For example, the headcount using the building has increased in 2014 and with it the hours of use have extended to include weekends and later nights. We have had to think about how we reinvent our catering and cleaning service to suit."
The Impact on Organisation and Workplace Award celebrates working environments that as well as being functional and desirable also make a positive contribution towards job satisfaction and people's productivity. If one of the measures of its success is the response of its employees to the new workplace then Three was already worthy winner.
Architect Jane O'Connor, design director at IOR, explains: "The success of this project was having such a great brief and having a client who would allow you to access the staff and was interested in making sure that the staff were heard.
"They were inspirational in the brief and in their approach, which was pretty refreshing."
The BIFM judges agreed, remarking that the investment by Three and the valuable contribution of the FM team resulted in excellent shared facilities, space to handle the growth of a busy UK call centre and a doubling of staff engagement improvements (43 per cent to 88 per cent), which managed to deliver on more than 90 per cent of the staff wishes.
Kilmartin says: "We are thrilled to have won this award as we feel we were able to demonstrate how the workplace and facilities can really make a positive impact on our organisation. The sense of achievement by all who worked on the project and were part of the award submission was amazing.
"It made our day an 'everyday wonderful' day."