Louise Newman, HR Director at The PHA Group
Company culture is one of the most important factors affecting productivity at work and it is something we prioritise here at The PHA Group. As companies grow and develop, it is key to make sure that their culture is maintained and people feel comfortable and happy in their evolving environment. We have found that moving to ‘activity-based’ working has brought huge benefits to PHA by helping to create a working culture that is more flexible and suitable to our employees’ needs.
It’s crucial to take into account what your employees need in order to do their jobs; it might be more meeting rooms for clients or more breakout spaces for brainstorms. A simple way to get feedback from staff is to do a survey; at PHA we rolled questions about office environment and flexible working into our annual staff survey. In tandem with this, we hired an external company to conduct an occupancy survey to observe activity around our office so we could obtain a clear, external perspective into how we operate and use our environment. Together these answers showed how shifting our practices to be more activity-based could bring huge benefits to our staff and the company.
Tailoring the office
In order to offer our employees the ability to work according to their activity, time and needs, we needed to redesign our office. We hired a specialist interior architect firm so we could make the most of our space. Previously, we were restricted by limited meeting spaces and difficulty in collaborating with different teams across the company. Our aim with the refurbishment was to encourage more cross-departmental integration in the office as well as offer flexible working through workstations located in different areas. Not only can this help maximise productivity, but it helps foster the company culture.
To lessen demand on the meeting rooms, we created several phone booths so employees can conduct private phone calls with clients or others. There are more conference tables with screens and chargers allowing teams to meet and discuss work such as proposals or new client strategies. Each floor has its own breakout space where teams can get together for quick five-minute catch-ups or host big brainstorm gatherings. We want to encourage our employees to think creatively and being able to change environments can be a big boost to thinking outside of the box.
In addition, we are moving to become a more sustainable office; moving from desktops to laptops has significantly reduced reliance on paper, as well as improved efficiency. Going forward, we aim to be a completely paperless office and we have installed recycling bins on all floors. By introducing lockers for belongings, the office has been decluttered and desks are clear meaning moving around from desk to desk is much easier.
The refurbishment has brought important benefits to the company. Having open spaces and soft seating areas has been invaluable for brainstorming and team meetings. These areas also give employees a chance to collaborate between teams for seamless integration. Cross-departmental working has also improved, with staff being able to sit in different departments. Further to this, employees have been able to work in a more agile way with clients at their offices. This presents a perfect opportunity to continue developing key relationships with our clients, while acting as a true extension of their in-house team.
Working more collaboratively and flexibly across the office has helped to reinforce the company culture and importantly, has allowed teams to share knowledge, experience and skills. Activity-based working can also help attract and retain the top talent in the industry; candidates often consider roles based on the company’s wider innovation, technology and culture. We want to ensure that employees feel inspired and able to work flexibly and freely.