The Office of the Future
Workspaces are changing. And they have to. Glenn Elliott, founder & CEO of staff engagement tech firm Reward Gateway, spoke to Insights about how its new headquarters seeks to help its staff and clients work better, stronger and happierJermaine Haughton
Alongside the impact of mobile technology, office design is being forced to adapt to the growing prominence of highly-flexible, tech-literate millennials in the workplace, who demand choice over the type and location of their work.
And this summer, Reward Gateway opened its new London hub on Tottenham Court Rd.
Unwillingly to accept just a rudimentary, typical open plan square office, the decade-old company collaborated with commercial design specialist Area Sq and workspace strategy consultants’ Brightspot strategy to build a new office based on its core values: work hard, own it, think global, speak up, push the boundaries, love your job, delight your customers, and be human.
According to the firm’s boss Elliott, recently named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, the benefits of building an office tailored to the needs of employees are a recent revelation which motivated him to make the large investment. “In terms of employee engagement and company culture, workplace is the last place I invested heavily - it’s taken us 10 years to design and build an office with real care, attention and a proper process. We had eight offices around the world and 330 staff before realising that workspace had such an important role to play,” he explained.
In particular, Elliott outlined three main ways a workplace can be effective in maximising the potential productivity rates and innovation of its incumbents.
“Firstly, a well-designed workspace can really help to build relationships between people and between teams,” he said. “This social capital is really valuable - author Margaret Heffernan calls it the ‘mortar between the bricks’ in an organisation.
“Secondly, a workspace can now reflect the different types of work that people do in an office through the day and can provide space and facilities that suit the different tasks. It’s wrong to think that a desk and chair is suitable for everything - by providing comfy seating, standup seating, quiet spaces, places for introverts and introversion and places to collaborate, brainstorm and present you can really optimise how people work.
“Finally, the workplace can and should not be a destination - a place that is attractive to be in, that people can be proud of and excited by.”
Therefore, the new building includes a diverse range of features to support all of Reward Gateway’s employees, with areas for collaboration, teamwork and quiet spaces.
Giving staff the independence to choose where they want to sit depending on what tasks they are doing, Reward Gateway’s London HQ offers quiet reflection rooms for focus and thought, a state-of-the-art video studio and meeting rooms equipped with the latest cable and controller-free video conferencing - recognising different activities all staff do during the working day.
Furthermore, the creation of hotel-standard gender-neutral bathroom facilities reflects the firm’s willingness to be inclusive and a welcoming place, which played a significant role in the office’s design.
During the planning stages, Elliott explained that consultation with employees on how the office should be built, and what types of features should be included, was an essential part of the process.
However, the firm’s managers actually began the process many years ago, continually seeking feedback from staff on how they work best.
“We’d been surveying staff annually for many years and repeatedly a theme that came up was that staff had good communications within teams and good communications from the company but everyone saw the opportunity to improve interdepartmental communication and collaboration,” he said. “We knew that when we next got the opportunity to rebuild the workplace we’d want to try to address that as a key requirement.”
Arguably one of the most useful features for employees to conduct business effectively is the introduction of the full staffed HR Hero Café.
A relaxing, informal space for clients to drop-in for a briefing and a coffee, the Café has WiFi, free HR books and a Tracey Emin installation to comfortably entertain visitors.
The Reward Gateway founder said: “London is a big sales and client service centre for us; most of our staff in London are client facing. And our people here told us that they wanted a great place to invite clients to, one that they could collaborate with clients in. So we thought a lot about meeting rooms and training facilities.
“They also told us that they wanted private spaces to make calls from - this is especially important if you’re new in sales. Having to do product demos or exploratory sales calls always benefits from a quiet place where you can concentrate and your client can hear you undistracted. But especially when you are new or training you really want a place you can make your calls and do your online demos where you can’t be overheard by the rest of your team. To address this we installed five special soundproof calling booths that anyone can use to make those calls in a great Environment.”
Elliott believes the new office and its abundance of modern and diverse features can also help the company attract and retain the best workers.
“In terms of attraction, the physical workspace can outperform other things in being a physical manifestation of your company culture - it shows to a significant extent how serious you are about the things that you say are important.,” he said. “So I’m proud of our new gender neutral bathrooms, which are a physical manifestation of our diversity and inclusivity policy. They show that we don’t care what gender you are or even if you want to define a gender or not to us all we care about is your talent and we just want everyone to be comfortable at work and achieve their full potential.
“In terms of retention, people stay in jobs that they love, where they are doing good work and feeling a sense of achievement in working towards a goal that they value. If you can build a workspace that people can perform in and can do great work, be productive, innovate and be happy then that’s how workplace positively impacts retention. It has to do it that way, you can’t have people in bad jobs who just stay because they like the furniture.”
“Fundamentally, the way that workplace affects employee retention is by helping employees to do their best work,” he added.