Mix Inspired Manchester

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Our Panellist:

Vaqas Farooq, Managing Partner, Shoosmiths LLP / Lesley McPhee, Group Director of Property, The Hut Group / Jon Saunders, Head of Technology, Sky

For more photo’s from the event click here

Our recent MixInspired Manchester, the third seminar held in Manchester and the 8th in the series, was aimed at the A&D, D&B and general property market.  The event was held at the fantastic new Bruntwood office space, NEO, in the heart of the city.

The theme of the event was The People and Culture Shaping Tomorrow’s Workplace, with our expert panel debating the future of the workplace and who is going to deliver it.

Guests got an insight into the workings of end users and the property ‘food chain’ from our guest speakers who hail from forward-thinking organisations Sky, Shoosmiths and The Hut Group.

As well as an unmissable panel, we were delighted to have a crowded room, full of the great and the good of Manchester and the North West’s specification sector, in a great new venue.

We would, of course, like to say a huge thank you to our sponsors – Colebrook Bosson Saunders, European Furniture Group and Spatial Office Environments. We are extremely grateful for their support and encouragement. Also, thank you to Bruntwood/NEO for allowing us to take over their space for the evening.

Our esteemed panellists for the discussion were Jon Saunders – Head of Technology at Sky, Lesley McPhee – Group Director of Property at The Hut Group and Vaqas Farooq – Managing Partner at Shoosmiths.

And we really couldn’t have asked for better speakers. Each was open, refreshingly honest, entertaining and offered scores of brilliant insights into not just their own businesses but also where they feel the future of workplace lies. Here are just a few of those insights, starting with Vaqas and Shoosmiths’ very recent workplace revolution.

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‘About two years ago I had an epiphany – and that epiphany came about as a result of talking to a lot of people, and in particular to a lot of clients – especially clients in London. These people were living and breathing this ‘workplace revolution’. To be honest we were quite stuffy at the time – we liked our desks and we liked our rooms and that journey started by talking to these developer clients in London, who were creating this really cool new space and were telling me that the revolution really was happening.

‘That was the start of a two-year journey – and three days ago we moved into 32,000 sq ft of new space at XYZ, Allied London’s development at Spinningfields. Three days in, we have created a revolution – and we’re incredibly excited about it.

‘To begin with I think out of 199 colleagues, 198 were doubters. We went on a huge consultation with colleagues that lasted two years – and that was really, really important. That drove the design, it drove the amenities – it drove the whole concept of wellbeing. We put wellbeing at the very top of the list. We didn’t put saving money or saving rent at the top of the list – we put wellbeing there and when you put wellbeing at the top of the list it drives all sorts of things; talent retention, talent recruitment – all sorts of things.

‘As a result of that consultation, we came up with something truly unique. I’m not talking about something unique for our industry, but something unique for any industry.’

Vaqas explains that one of the inspirations for his unique scheme was Sky’s Leeds Dock scheme. He’s asked what he took from that Sky project. ‘Open space collaboration,’ he considers.

It makes sense, of course, to bring John in at υ this point – the man who knows more about Sky’s Leeds Dock project than just about anyone else.

‘We’ve got 560 people across three buildings,’ John tells us. ‘We were looking to move our digital capability to Leeds. We found these retail spaces – this was probably two years ago – and up until then we had about 40 people up in Leeds, so we’ve expanded quite considerably.

‘There are about 50,000 people working in digital in the M62 corridor. In London we have a lot of contract staff and we saw this as an opportunity to create a permanent staff base who        would be really engaged with the products.

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‘Wellbeing for those people was also one of our main concerns. On top of that, we’ve got Sky Sports, Sky News and Sky.com – all the digital teams together – so this was a great opportunity to get them all collaborating.

‘The concept is that we have tribes and within these tribes we have squats – a set of people who work on a single particular product. We want everyone to be together and everyone has their own desk – but what we do is we move them around. While people go to a desk everyday, that desk may change depending on what product they are working on.’

Lesley’s background, before moving client-side with the Hut Group, was with Overbury. She’s asked what she’s found to be the major differences between the two sides. ‘No two days are ever the same,’ she reveals. ‘The Group is run by two guys – Matthew Moulding and John Gallemore. Matt, who is the CEO, has a farm and a house next door to the business. He will phone me up and say, ‘I’ve got these properties – what do you want to do with them? What do you want to build?’ Essentially, he’ll then just let me get on with it. He’s very much a 24-hour a day man. He never stops.

‘In the past year the Group has gone from 800 people to 3,500 people. We’ve got two people sat at one 1,200mm desk, we’ve got people hot desking with PC’s – as you can imagine, it’s very difficult on a daily basis to handle that level of growth.

‘We now have buildings earmarked on a park in Northwich – in fact we have a total of six buildings earmarked for the park, we have a warehouse on the M62, London offices, America…’

We ask our panelists about the chief points raised by staff during that vital consultation period. ‘We had a temporary office outside of Leeds,’ John tells us. ‘We got people to look at how they use different spaces – at how they collaborated around breakout areas, how they υ use meeting rooms, how they work when they’re at their desks – and the fit-out revolved around that essentially.’

‘Traditional offices have a lot of closed spaces – small, dull meeting rooms etc,’ Vaqas continues. ‘The biggest thing that came out from our consultations was to have more open space. In the last three days, walking around our new space, I’ve seen people in all sorts of these nooks and crannies that we’ve intentionally created – and not at their desks.

‘That leads me to think that desks are dead as a concept! I’m a great believer that we’ve got to move away from the default setting of the desk. When it comes to design, a lot of people still start with the desk – we started with open collaboration space. The desk is just another work setting. We don’t want our people to sit at a desk all day. It’s not healthy.’

We hate to do this to you, but we’ve simply run out of space – and, would you believe it, just when it was starting to get really interesting!

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