Sandwell Primary Care Trust’s collaboration with Plan B Solutions to revamp work space for 1,300 staff has changed working habits – and caught the BIFM judges eyes’ in 2010.
Winner: Sandwell Primary Care Trust and Plan B Solutions
By David Arminas
28 October 2010
Sandwell Primary Care Trust and consultancy Plan B Solutions achieved major organisational change by creating an workplace with a 23 per cent increase in building use.
Sandwell PCT was formed in October 2006 following the merger of three Primary Care Trusts: Oldbury & Smethwick, Rowley Regis & Tipton and Wednesbury & West Bromwich Primary Care Trusts.
It serves a registered population of 320,000 and offers access to healthcare, treatment and advice, health promotion advice and guidance and support for carers. Its 1,300 staff offer a range of services including community nursing, health visiting, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy.
The Shifting Sands project involves the major refurbishment of the PCT’s headquarters in the West Midlands, and the simultaneous introduction of a completely new way of working for staff. The refurbishment of Kingston House began in December 2008 with first occupation in April 2009.
A space utilisation study found that during peak times, at least 35 per cent of desk space was unused, meeting room use averaged just over 40 per cent and the average office use was under 40 per cent.
David Grant, director of Plan B Solutions, says of convincing staff that, though they have largely administrative, non-mobile roles, their work-space use was really poor: “Our workplace utilisation study went a long way to achieving this recognition.”
A cross-departmental team was created and charged with the role of changing mindsets. A key success factor was the communications strategy that persuaded the stake-holders to spend an additional £880,000 because of the long-term benefits in productivity and costs. They used a three-dimensional simulation of the future environment so executives could visualise the way the staff would work and to see the “package of changes” that they would be asking staff to accept.
A communications strategy that fully engaged staff was crucial for project success. A qualitative as well as a quantitative staff questionnaire led to immediate changes being made.
Andrew Lawley, head of estates and facilities at Sandwell, says it was “most rewarding” to witness the chief executive Rob Bacon and chairman Richard Nugent being persuaded of the benefits. “They led by example to enable the project team to create a one-size-fits-all solution across the PCT. We no longer have single person offices at the HQ. The second aspect was to see staff who had initially been highly resistant to change, genuinely become some of the most fervent advocators of the scheme.”
The new workplace is a clean, crisp, minimalist design offering more space per workstation. It also increases workplace utilisation and colour splashes create a “buzzy” workplace providing the stimuli for increased activity levels. There is also full desk-sharing throughout the HQ for all staff.
Another key team member was Gingco.Net New Media GmbH, which provided the resource booking and workplace-use tracking system. “For this project, and under Plan B Solutions’ guidance, we created custom features to produce an innovative desk-sharing concept,” says Frank Dippel, managing director of Gingco.Net.
“It provides staff with maximum confidence that sufficient resources will always be available and, crucially, promotes work-space mobility so that staff no longer require, or want, desk ownership.”
The PCT’s HR department is reporting improvements in staff satisfaction and reductions in staff sickness levels at the headquarters building compared with other sites. Also, nearly 19 per cent reduction in annual energy costs per person at the headquarters has been achieved.
The brief was to create a flexible, efficient and sustainable building for employees and elected officials at Southwark Council to improve service delivery.
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