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Nicky Jepson

Marketing Director

Caveat. We’re a creative agency.

In our world, yes, pool tables, ping pong, foosball and beanbags are standard issue. Its pretty much a given that creating an inspiring, innovative working environment with socially interactive and collaborative spaces is essential to not only the quality of our creative output, but also to secure creative talent.

But we’re also consultants. We’re marketers, strategists and planners so our workspace has to work harder than that. We also have a duty to provide a functional, collaborative and practical environment conducive to strategic thinking, formal (and informal) client meetings and meticulous detailing.


Our agency size, profile and workflows have changed quite significantly over the years and our offices, although perfectly perched in the heart of the beautiful Ribble Valley, were ready for a switch-up to accommodate the increasing flexibility required within our organisation.


As we pulled our ‘office renovation’ brief together, it got us thinking generally about how the working environment has physically changed in the last few years, what forces were accelerating its transformation and where it was headed. From an agency perspective we were particularly interested in its direct impact on productivity, creativity and its appeal to today’s aspiring workforce. 


So, we hooked up with Lancashire Business View and hosted a Roundtable with a number of interiors and culturally-focused businesses at Workhouse HQ, to discuss ever changing workplaces and how they can improve productivity and attract talent. You can view the full article in the link at the bottom of the page but here are a few of the standout points from the discussions and how they translate into agency life at Workhouse:

Business Cultural Changes.

The last decade has witnessed an acceleration of broad cultural changes, such as more relaxed working atmospheres, increased flexibility and less formality in office environments….. and not just confined to the creative industries. Giving people a choice of how and where they work is becoming almost unavoidable. But the real driver for the change has been the realisation that innovation, progression and productivity is borne out of collaboration, interaction and teamwork, all of which were stifled by the partitioned departments, cubicles and closed door offices of the last few decades. Compounded by the fact that technology was starting to automate a lot of communication, you had to make a real effort for any kind of physical interaction. 


Today’s reality is that the ideal work environment is a little different for every company but open office designs, break out rooms and shared collaborative working spaces are increasingly commonplace.


The Importance of ‘Internal Brand’.

There is enough research that points at the fact that employees are at their most productive when they feel ‘good’ at work. These feelings of ‘good’ tend to be grounded in a sense of purpose, contribution, of team and achievement. The physical environment is only part of the process for unlocking workspace potential. Wellness programmes, clear roles and responsibilities, great culture and social are important, but none more than brand values. Your physical, process, social and cultural environments should all rotate around your brand’s purpose and values, so that everything is pulling in the same direction. 

At Workhouse, the bigger picture is to ensure our working environment reflects our values but also supports our ambitions. Our recent investment in our working environment is more an investment in our brand. When clients walk in, they get the sense of buzz, agility, creativity, innovation and progression that our team value and we openly talk about in our communications. So much so that clients regularly use our meeting pods, breakout spaces and our conference spaces for their own ‘offsite’ requirements. 


Activity-Based Working.

Working environments are increasingly being built around the trend for activity-based working. At Workhouse, we need formal areas for client presentations, casual soft seated areas for brainstorming, big tables for planning, quiet areas for strategy, technical labs for development, stimulating areas for stand-up collaboration, project hot desk facilities, illustration and layout areas against computer generated design, even areas for traditional craft in design. As a full service agency, our teams have to be able to be agile and our workspace flexible enough to accommodate all of these workflows. 


Our client roster is largely dominated by organisations in the ‘built environment’ sector; from flooring, to paint, to tiles, to wallpaper, bathrooms, kitchens. However their business cultures and expectations of us are all very different. Some are design and brand driven, some are trade and industrial, some are manufacturers, but all consistently expect one thing from us and that’s creative thinking. We’ve built an environment that can accommodate and adapt to those varying business cultures yet allow us to be ourselves.


The Millennial Factor.

Millennials will be 40% of the workplace in 2020 so ignore their preferences at your peril. According to Deloitte, seventy-six percent of millennials view business as a source of powerful and positive social impact. Millennial job candidates want to join an organisation that sees a social role for itself. Clear vision, mission statements and brand values are crucial. They seek a company culture that values collaboration, innovation, and an investment in professional development and the employee experience. 


Millennials are slightly more nomadic career wise than their predecessors. They generally don’t perceive ‘jobs for life’ to be attractive. Nor should they. Rather than work on improving something they aren’t quite happy with in the workplace, they tend to move on pretty quickly. To retain top talent, it’s essential for companies to create an environment that empowers people with the right space to work, think and collaborate naturally.


Measuring Creative Productivity.

When providing an environment of flexibility, you have to be willing to trust your staff. Your values and therefore culture should frame this trust by communicating the expectations of the business. Not to say that you should shy away from measuring productivity. At Workhouse, our culture is founded in creativity with purpose. Yes, our workspace is vibrant, stimulating and playful but we still openly monitor our staff utilisation, we monitor our recovery rates and our clients expect us to measure the performance of our creativity. Balance is the key. Its also important to understand the health of your productivity not only from a monetary position but from career/knowledge development, wellness and culture position also. 


Quite regularly and somewhat ironically, after days of crunching stats and doing the heavy lifting on research, some of our best ideas have appeared over a game of foosball or a walk down by the river, so quality downtime is equally as important. 


Using Physical Changes to Support Behavioural Changes.

Changing spaces changes behaviour. We’ve recently reviewed our own processes and procedures and some of those changes would have been hard to implement without physical changes. Without physical change, behaviours always tend to revert back to where they started. When thinking about your working environment its essential you plot physical workflows of how you want your team to interact and collaborate. 

Full Roundtable Article with Lancashire Business View

Click here to read the full article for the opinions of our friends and delegates from EKM, The Senator Group, Material Source, Graham & Brown, Elgra Furniture Consultants, Wrkspace, Coulter Office Interiors Ltd and the University of Central Lancashire.

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