Initiating Cultural Change at the Post Office
Post Office Ltd. is a retail post office company in the United Kingdom that provides a wide range of postage, insurance and banking products through a national network of branch facilities. HLW helped with our client’s move from 148 Old Street to Finsbury Dials in London by providing comprehensive workplace consultancy and design services. The objective was to create a state-of-the-art Customer Support Center with flexible client and visitor spaces on the ground floor of the 55,000 square foot facility. For a dynamic, multifaceted organization committed to making sure “all your needs will be handled with care,” a cultural change in the workplace was needed to introduce new ways of doing business. With new tools (a model branch, coffee bar, flexible meeting rooms) now at their disposal, employees have additional support to take care of a diverse customer base.
In this article, we examine three key aspects of the design process that made this project a success in transforming the culture of a workplace.
“[The new space] is awesome! It will be a milestone in our history. It is a totemic change, and I am confident it will play a huge part in making us a more open, agile and innovative business,” Paula Vennells, Chief Executive of the Post Office Ltd.
#1: Engage with Key Client Representatives
Early in the planning and design process, HLW partnered with Post Office Ltd. Chief Executive Paula Vennells, as well as several key stakeholders and team representatives, to identify high level project priorities and daily organizational procedures and practices. We were inspired by all the participants who provided guidance for achieving project objectives, for changing the culture of the company, and for realizing many forward-thinking principles.
The collective vision for the project was to make the Post Office Ltd. office into a modern facility by pushing employees’ expectations for their workplace. This was to be accomplished while also celebrating the company’s rich heritage. HLW’s Discovery process identified several guiding principles for forming the foundation of the new workplace culture.
Work as an activity, not a place
Technology enables collaboration
Space is a cost that can be managed
“Everyone who walks in loves the space,” Steve Bates, Post Office Ltd. Programme Delivery Manager
#2: Create Work Spaces that Suit the Client.
The HLW Discovery process led to a specific planning model for Post Office Ltd., which was subsequently adapted to the large, angular floor plates of the Finsbury Dials building. We created pockets of smaller communities within the Post Office Ltd. community. The new workplace culture reflects the way the workspace is organized—and it is a design aspiration mirroring the values of the company. This is a more effective way to do build-to-suit office space.
We paid significant attention to the authenticity of the design. For example, the familiar red of the brand is brought to life in iconic British light fixtures. Similarly, bursts of the brand’s secondary color palette ground touchdown areas and meeting rooms.
The new brand guidelines are echoed throughout the space in unexpected, yet intelligent and authentic, ways. Some great examples of this can be seen where the red of the Post Office Ltd. brand is “threaded” throughout all three floors. The stories associated with this design element seem to burst into the meeting rooms, one moment telling a story about current charity work with the organization “Children in Need” and the next moment commemorating the Post Office Rifles of WW2.
Additional “Post Office” elements include the wall murals created by local artists. The murals provide fun facts about our client’s heritage and accomplishments. We were also diligent about meeting our client’s varied functional requirements, creating a large, multi-purpose client presentation space on the ground floor, marking the tea points on the floors, and using integrated technology in the backdrops associated with the various touchdown areas.
#3 Shift to the New Workplace Culture
The project significantly reduced the amount of square footage required for the facility. This was accomplished in a number of ways, including the adept management of space, the introduction of touchdown areas, and the implementation of activity based working, which only requires a minimum permanent desk allocation through the widespread use of laptops—a surprising 95%.
Additional policies, such as those promoting a “clear desk” and use of personal lockers, have also enabled an effective shift in work culture at Post Office Ltd. Instead of work silos, collaboration is now encouraged, as the hierarchical enclosed offices used before have been banished. The open plan is the notion now associated with agility.
The meeting room plays a key role, for this type of programmed space functions as a landmark within work neighborhoods. To further support work efficiencies, the meeting rooms have room booking systems. When more privacy is required, employees have access to private phone rooms capable of accommodating one or two people.
It was important that the new workplace culture be embraced by everyone at Post Office Ltd. Partnering with our client, we organized weekly tours of the new space during the construction process for staff to visit their new home prior to occupancy. All of the changes impacting the design of the new Post Office Ltd. space have enabled a bigger change for the company. Many of the changes extend outside of our client’s individual experiences and are demonstrative of a larger cultural change in many British institutions, as documented in a recent BBC documentary. The result is an organization that functions more effectively as a business. A new modern image that can alter old perceptions is a bonus.
“The space is incredibly vibrant and dynamic, transforming the way we work!” Aidan Alston, Post Office Ltd. Talent & Diversity Manager.