Walking the walk

16 September 2019. Features.

As Peldon Rose move back into their recently renovated offices, design journalist Katie Treggiden asks them to reflect on the lessons learned from being their own clients.

‘Do you want to come and have a look?!’ The team at Peldon Rose can’t wait to show off the recently redesigned and refurbished offices they’ll be moving back into next week. On the short walk there they pass a steady stream of exited team members moving between the two spaces. ‘Ready?’ asks digital marketing executive Zoe Collins as she opens the front door. Her enthusiasm is palpable. But how easy is it to ‘walk the walk’? Peldon Rose specialise in office redesign and refurbishment, so they create this moment for countless clients every year. But how does it feel to be on the receiving end of their own advice?

‘I felt under a lot more pressure than usual,’ laughs designer Charlotte Bradney. ‘My boss was the client and I was creating a home for our toughest critics – our staff.’ CEO Jitesh Patel took a keen interest but was committed to following the same process their clients follow, and that starts with workplace consultancy.

Workplace consultancy

‘Having been here for almost 20 years, we thought we knew what we needed from the redesign,’ he says. ‘But workplace consultancy is about testing your assumptions and, just as with clients, there were a few surprises.’
Feedback from Peldon Rose clients has shown that only 20% of height-adjustable desks actually get used, so they rarely specify them. ‘But all of our people requested them,’ says Patel.

‘So, we listened, and we’ve really seen the benefits – they get used every day.’ The previous layout allowed one male and one female toilet per floor, which hadn’t been questioned, but workplace analysis revealed utilisation pressure at certain times of day. Adding more toilets and unisex options was a simple change that has created a better day-to-day experience. When staff surveys revealed the desire to run or cycle to work, bike racks were factored in and a basement storage area turned into shower and changing rooms that wouldn’t look out of place in a boutique hotel. Getting into work in the morning just got a whole lot healthier – with a touch of luxe. ‘It was really interesting to see how such simple changes could provide a better environment’ says Patel. ‘It just proves that no matter how well you think you know a business or a property, workplace consultancy can provide vital insights.’

Agile working

The redesign also represented a more fundamental shift for Peldon Rose – the move to agile working, something they have long recommended to clients. The approach empowers staff to work where, when and how they choose instead of being tied to a desk. ‘In the old office it was difficult to find somewhere to make a call, or to focus when you were on a deadline’ says project director Mike Trim. The redesign provides ‘alternative work settings’ such as telephone booths, collaboration desks and a quiet library. ‘Meeting are now shorter and more focused and I can switch between collaborative working in the open plan spaces and focusing in the quiet zones,’ says Trim. Bradney thinks they could have pushed this idea even further. ‘We were nervous about whether we could reduce our desk count down as much as the analysis suggested,’ she explains. ‘We factored in extra desks, but we needn’t have done. When you walk around our office, you can see how well staff have embraced agile working.’ And the added benefit? ‘I can now tell clients how easy the shift is because we’ve done it ourselves,’ says Trim.

A sense of pride

‘I think I’m most proud of the ground floor,’ says Bradney. ‘It’s a wow moment for people arriving into the space, it’s got a real sense of energy, and it reflects our values as a family company.’ The flexible space is not only used for meetings, collaborative work, informal catch-ups and laptop ‘touch down and plug in’ time, but also for evening events and as somewhere staff can invite friends and family. And ultimately, that was the brief. ‘This office was always about the people and for the people, says Patel. ‘It was never intended to be a showroom. We are all very proud of it.’ And when Collins finally does push open the door, that pride is written all over her face.

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