Part 3: Food for Thought, Healthy Habits in the Office

End User’s Perspective: PRS for Music Invests in Food

In our previous installment in this three-part series, we examined how food “influencers,” factors that affect foodservice strategies, can encourage healthy eating practices at work. The currently trending topic was augmented by the ideas discussed last February at a HLW Discovery Session called “Food for Thought,” which brought together influential industry experts to discuss and debate the connection between cuisine, health, and the work environment.

For this final installment, we thought it important to give voice to the end user’s perspective. Our focus will be on the innovative strategies for investing in employee health and wellbeing employed by PRS for Music, the UK’s leading music collecting society and licensing firm. Representatives of PRS Music attended the Discovery event, including Graham Davies, PRS for Music’s Director of Strategy and Planning.

Value of Investing in Food, including Where to Invest

“You go to work on an egg, only to find out that your toast is a strategic issue!” According to Graham Davies of PRS for Music, the strategic role food can play (including whether or not to serve toast in your new facilities) was a key takeaway after months of strategic planning and investment in the company’s new London offices. The full refurbishment of two buildings (approximately 75,000 square feet), in two locations, Kings Cross and Streatham, served as a catalyst for the business changing. The new workplace is now much more supportive of the flexible working environments that will allow for additional collaboration between PRS departments and between PRS staff and the partner sub tenants. From the very beginning, including program analysis, the value of investing in quality foodservice facilities was recognized as an important tool to encourage collaboration and to help build community.

To achieve the property strategy meant initially identifying which programmatic facilities would be available in the Zone 1 office and which would be designated for the Zone 3 office. “We purposely invested more in the Zone 3 office in order to provide a wider range of food options, recognizing the fact that real estate is cheaper for us in Zone 3 and that the number of choices for eating options in the local vicinity are not as high as for our Zone 1 office,” said Davies. “Toast becomes something of a strategic issue when you decide to provide it to some employees and not to others,” he explained, as some employees will compare their new workplace facilities with those of other employees.

However, the value of investing in food in both buildings became increasingly more apparent as PRS for Music worked toward creating workplace strategy solutions that could evolve as the company’s business strategy continued to develop over time.

Nurturing Employee Connectivity through Cafés

HLW’s planning and design strategy addressed logistical, procurement, and programming challenges related to the relocation of half of the PRS workforce to an existing facility in a peripheral London neighborhood. The remaining staff moved into a second facility in a brand new building located in central London. Prime project directives involved having both sites finished to equivalent levels of quality and access to amenities. We were also entrusted with creating workplaces that would similarly nurture employee connectivity and productivity.

PRS wanted to transform how the business operated, with the redesign and arrangement of space playing a fundamental role in delivering the necessary signals and support to bring all the employees on board with the changes. The central cafés, in particular, were strategic components of the approach. The cafés are considered multipurpose areas, capable of adapting to varied uses. These flexible spaces are especially well designed to accommodate large group gatherings and high profile industry events, in addition to informal meetings and communal, collaborative teaming arrangements.

Graham Davies credited the design with aiding PRS employees with the transition to a more relaxed work environment, while ultimately supporting more productive ways of working. The emphasis on shared, common space positioned around the communal act of dining together also helped ensure that, regardless of which location is home base for an employee, everyone experiences a similar level of high investment on management’s part.  

Note: As well as being delivered within budget, both project locations were in compliance with identical cost plans. PRS for Music is a non-profit, membership funded organization. Therefore, throughout the project, we had to consistently demonstrate optimum value and return on investment. Significantly, though, the project was completed in the company’s centenary year, which necessitated that the final product be both impressive and considered.

Change in Location Delivers New Perspective

Graham Davies concluded that how to invest in café areas is an important decision, because the solutions will signal to employees that the organization values its people. This is in addition to signaling that the way people work will be changing, too. This kind of investment can boost the overall productivity of an office. He credits high quality food, in combination with flexible, collaborative space, with revitalizing the PRS workforce, while still enabling individuals to feel connected to their company. Freedom feeds the mind. Having an in-house space supportive of agile working allows staff to view challenges from new perspectives (literally, a change in location), which may deliver new, potentially innovative solutions for the company.

It is important to remember that these spaces can be so much more than for dining; with a change in program, a creative foodservice space can become a focal point, a work community’s central hub for activities and gathering. The central café areas housed within PRS for Music’s new offices are excellent examples of common spaces designed to service an organization’s foodservice program, but have the flexibility to transform into a stage for live music. A live-feed webcam furthers the PRS for Music mission of raising the musicians’ profiles. The webcam can record the performances on the stage and stream in real time to the internet. Regardless of where an employee is working at the time, he or she is connected to the music community supported by the PRS organization.

Employee connection through group gatherings

Employee connection through group gatherings

Employee connectivity through informal meetings

Employee connectivity through informal meetings

Final Food Words

HLW designers and the foodservice experts that we routinely partner with see delivering on excellent service as central to a successful foodservice strategy. When paired with clever technology, excellent service amenities make cafés and other food oriented common areas highly efficient, as well as appealing to staff. Creating a positive experience for employees—in other words, providing excellent service—will yield a dynamic work atmosphere capable of breathing new life into a company’s operations.