Changing the space to change the game

16 July 2014. Feature.

Speak to any beekeeper who's ever tried to move a beehive, and they'll tell you change is never easy.

It can take up to two months for the bees to re-navigate themselves, and in the meantime they’ll keep going back to the old location. They’re just used to how things are. You have to give them time to deal with the change.

And a lot like bees, we humans are creatures of habit.

So when it comes to overhauling an entire office, moving an entire team to a new location, or transforming their once siloed, private working spaces into a big, open plan set-up – it isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

It’s a challenge we’re faced with time and time again. Because while it’s all well and good if our client – normally the CEO or CFO or MD of the company – is up for the change, if the rest of the team aren’t on board, there’s just no point. It’ll do far more damage than good.

When the CEO of BPHA asked us in for a workplace consultation, they already had a vision that would help them get the most from their best assets; their people. As they’d grown, their property services team had moved over into a new building, creating a gap in the overall culture and feel. Teams weren’t able to communicate as easily and the sense of community needed propping up. Their vision for a new space would help them become a more productive, happier, forward-thinking team.

At this stage, we could have brought in our workplace consultants, drawn up a new design putting everyone on a single floor, and let them get on with it. But – remember the bees? – that sudden change wouldn’t really have changed anything. So we ran a series of detailed workshops to really get to the bottom of what every single person needed. We interviewed teams, understood workflow processes, and made sure it not only fed into the final design, but tied in with the CEO’s vision too.

It meant that everyone was getting their voice heard.

When we handed the keys over to BPHA, they had a new, bright, vibrant single-floor space where every person could see how they’d contributed to the change. Now, everyone – even directors and managers – all sit on the same floor at the same level as everyone else. By stripping away the hierarchy and opening out the space, people can communicate better. You can see smiles on faces, team members making new friends and with tons more communal space, there’s more collaboration.

I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say it’s made working life as sweet as honey.

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