We caught up with Leeson Medhurst, head of workplace strategy at Peldon Rose to learn more about his plans for Peldon Rose's new in-house Workplace Strategy team.
When I started my career 17 years ago, I was a ‘product’ of the furniture industry, initially working for manufacturers such as Vitra and Ahrend and a dealer called Furniture for Business. Back then Vitra did a piece of research on ‘bring home to work’ and how we could make the office environment less masculine.
Through this piece of work, it was evident that little thought was really given to the requirements of the users, their wellbeing or indeed the behavioral patterns when in the working environment. More importantly, many clients were not using data to inform their property decisions, basing multimillion pound real estate deals on advice from property consultants who had stock to shift. A real gap in the market had developed where everyone talked about the design, but no one talked about the brief that informed the strategic decision making.
Then I met Frank Duffy of DEGW in the mid 90’s, the first company I had come across that were leading the conversation about workplace strategy This quickly evolved into a wider conversation about the root cause of an organisations needs, and the drive to take to deep dive into the requirements of a business.
I continued to evolve the workplace consultancy conversation within the furniture industry, and after five years I felt a step change in the direction of workplace consultancy, which is when I took a leap of faith to start up as a standalone workplace consultancy service.
Workplace consultancy is professionally known as RIBA stage zero, where you carry out an in-depth research phase to define the client brief – why, what, where, who and when, then exploring the businesses aspirations for moving forward.
Every good design is built on robust information and data. However, not all design is informed by this data, and it’s really key to point out here, I am not a workplace designer. The purpose of workplace consultancy gives the design team the data to unlock the potential, based on empirical evidence.
Excellent data at the front end – that enables businesses to unlock and overcome their challenges, some that they are aware of, and some that aren’t on their radar. The two biggest assets are staff and property (and are also their biggest costs). The data workplace consultancy collates takes all the learnings out of the space to create the opportunity for operational excellence, for both building and user.
Aligning clear visibility of costs for the organisation, in combination with the long-term property strategy helps clients understand their long-term property goals.
In a pre-covid world, attending lots of events – at least once per quarter. In normal times, I enjoy both attending and speaking at industry leading events, which I, like many, are looking forward at getting back to.
And of course, lots of reading and writing blog content and white papers. There is a challenge to filter through what is actual workplace consultancy content, and what is masquerading as a weak sales pitch.
I read a lot of research papers that come out of RSA, IDA school in Madrid, who cover all forward-thinking theory and workplace consultancy academia – which is moving at a pace far quicker than we are in the workplace. Covid-19 has accelerated the conversation; however offices are still quite archaic in how they operate. Design and space are locked in time, whereas behaviour is more agile – the workplace environment has some catching up to do.
We need our spaces to be less temporal and dynamic, the events over the past 12 months have proven that. We no longer live in a black and white world, the grey space in the middle is becoming larger and blurring the lines of conventional thinking.
Making a difference, without sounding like a cliché, the opportunity to make a real difference to people and organisations. Understanding a client’s challenge; a property they are looking to maximise, improve the performance of employees – by revenue, wellbeing, finding a strategy to enable that to happen – making a difference to that company and their business. I love discovering and defining their KPIs at the front end of a project and measuring against them post-occupancy.
It means Peldon Rose are truly end-to-end in the design and build life cycle, we’re qualified to continue to optimise the workplace post occupation through new learnings and developments. We have the ability in-house to elevate our core client for life value, enabling us to embed with the client at a much earlier stage, truly understanding the dynamic of any client we touch.
This unlocks the potential that exists for the user group or property strategy – to create that utopian design- it’s relative, and exciting! Asking the far-reaching questions, and understanding that the office is an enabler, it’s part of an organisation, its not the be all and end all, it forms around unique company culture, which is what every business is built around.
In short, four key areas; workplace consultancy, change management, analytics, and wellbeing.
We’re responsible for writing and delivery strategies on workplace performance and change management and understanding wellbeing from a holistic point of view - how a workplace is performing and what our client needs to get from it. The relationship starts early and goes on beyond the client reoccupying their space, making buildings smarter for human interface and an all-round better user experience as we transition to a blended work life.
It's a time to be brave - to demonstrate evolution and to accept change.
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