All change in our London studio - why it's time to embrace a different way of working

Dawn Bingham

Contact Dawn Bingham, Group Talent Director
dawn.bingham@handley-house.com

Elliot Mitchel

Contact Elliott Mitchell, Senior Interior Designer
elliott.mitchell@benoy.com

Our London studio is embracing agile working, starting with a brand new work-social space we've called The Loft. Here our Group Talent Director, Dawn Bingham and lead Interior Designer for The Loft, Elliott Mitchell, talk about how the project came about and why it matters.

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Dawn — part of the rationale behind creating The Loft space was about moving towards a more agile style of working, can you tell us a bit about that?

Our journey towards agile working has been a couple of years in the making, starting before Covid hit. Myself and others who joined the business a few years ago had worked in agile environments and experienced the benefits this can bring for both the business and colleagues and were keen to share these experiences to take the business forward. After consultation with our people we began to implement changes to the way they worked, moving to flexible start and finish times, improving IT to allow better remote working and introducing the use of Zoom and Teams for meetings. As an international business, we had already been operating many agile principles, but had never branded them as such. During 2019 I relocated to our Singapore studio, continuing to work with my Board colleagues, my team and the rest of the business in an​‘agile working’ manner, testing the technology and demonstrating how this could work effectively. The arrival of Covid in March 2020 gave us the opportunity to fast forward our​‘agile working’ plans, allowing us to move swiftly into remote working.

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What was the thinking behind making the change now?

As we returned to the studio late summer 2020, there was little appetite to leave behind the many remote working benefits we had gained in the first lockdown, so we began preparations to make the studio better suited to new working patterns. We had already started the process of moving towards a​‘2:3’ working pattern, asking staff to attend the studio for a minimum of two days a week, with them then working where best suited them for the other three days, where their role allowed. 

A further factor was our recent growth to four sister businesses in the Handley House group: Benoy, Uncommonland, Pragma and Holmes Wood. We wanted a space where everyone could come together to collaborate and socialise. The Loft space plays a key part in allowing us to achieve that.

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Have you had much feedback from staff about this new approach?

Like many businesses, we use an employee survey as a formal way to gather feedback from staff. We used the feedback we received in the early years to inform The Loft concept. We asked colleagues questions about their about preferred work environment along with other questions about when they needed to be in the studio and for what type of activity. We’ve yet to go back to staff formally since opening the space, but do know that staff have been excited at the prospect of the changes being made.

We also get a good deal of informal face-to-face feedback; colleagues here at not backward in sharing what they think! In the main, the feedback has been very strongly in favour of what we are doing. Equally some of our clients have been very positive, seeing us as leaders in our field for formally moving to agile working.

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Elliott — you led on the design of the space, how did you develop the concept and what kinds of things inspired your thinking?

The space was designed to celebrate all the members of the Handley House group — Benoy, Pragma, Holmes Wood and Uncommon Land. As we slowly come back to the studio following the pandemic, we wanted to give people somewhere they’d look forward to spending time. 

Adaptability was key to the design. We created varied seating typologies to suit the needs of the individual and to allow for groups of all sizes to find their place within The Loft. The design includes a mix of stand-up desks, shared tables and more private seating areas to offer a range of different working and meeting options. Through bringing in soft lighting and a carefully thought through planting scheme, we hope we’ve managed to create somewhere that is both energising and relaxing for staff to spend time in. 

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How has the final space turned out?

The Loft is a space for everyone in Handley House, where all of the creative design disciplines can come together to collaborate. It is a flexible interior environment, filled with biophilia and playful graphics that celebrate our past, present, and future. It’s early days, but so far the reaction from colleagues has been very positive.

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What have you as a designer most enjoyed about the process?

Working with all the different teams within Handley House has been great, and being able to be on-site within 30 seconds from my desk has definitely been a bonus!

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