It’s a cold, cold day in central London. In fact, we couldn’t be much more central. We’re looking down onto Tottenham Court Road tube station, just a stone’s throw across from Centre Point, in the warm (in more than one sense) and vibrant new working home of Reward Gateway.
Working with some of the world’s biggest brands on their employee engagement programmes, Reward Gateway’s mission is to make the world a better place to work by helping employers attract, engage and retain the best talent. The onus is on getting people to love where they work – and here at TCR, the Reward Gateway team was tasked with delivering a workspace that does just that.
Employee engagement, staff retention, open and honest communication are all of vital importance to the employee engagement experts at Reward Gateway – and these core values have been mirrored in the design of the brand new workspace.
We’re fortunate enough to have Reward Gateway’s PR Manager, Charlie Lofthouse, and Area Sq’s Project Director James Hamerton and Creative Director Andrea Williams-Wedberg on hand to talk us through the project and (excuse the pun) the rewards the company has gained from pushing its own boundaries.
‘This is all about employee engagement,’ James tells us. ‘Reward Gateway has an engagement bridge – but the workplace had never previously made it on to the engagement bridge. Having been through this project, they now massively value the effect the workspace can have on their staff.’
‘Their former space was so different to what they have now!’ Andrea reveals. ‘They didn’t willingly invite clients to that office.’
The former Reward Gateway home was on Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, we’re told. ‘We were there for just over nine years,’ Charlie recalls. ‘We started off on one floor – it was a split-level building – and in the end we were spread across three floors. It was very disjointed and people simply didn’t see one another. Cross-team collaboration and communication is essential to our business success, and as we approached our 10th anniversary we felt it was the right time to make the move to a space where we could be more connected to each other.
‘We wanted a really well designed workspace that could help to build relationships between people and between teams. The reason for this location was that we wanted to run more client events and we wanted our clients to be at the heart of our office – so where better than slap bang in the heart of London!
‘Another part of the brief was to design an area of the office where our staff could come together and socialise – hence the café. People laughed at us when we said we were going to build a fully catered wellbeing café with the choice of restaurants on our doorstep, but it’s been one of the best decisions we made because the whole office comes together and has lunch here every day.
‘There is a really good connection between what the Reward Gateway product is – their offering, their culture – and how this is now reflected in the workspace,’ James explains. ‘Now, every time we go to the space, they are showing people around. They are really using it as a tool to improve their employee engagement. This isn’t just an office, it is something that is going to help grow the business.’
‘It’s not just a nice area to be in,’ Andrea continues. ‘There are some really unusual, unique elements throughout. The toilets, for example, are gender neutral and have a vanity area and they have chosen an amazing selection of furniture, such as the Oxford chair. There is even a little description next to the classic furniture.’
“We do normally start with quite ambitious plans when it comes to agility and then people reign it back a little – but they really stuck with the concept throughout”
‘The level of detail is incredible,’ James agrees. ‘We’ve never had a client like Glenn (Elliott, Reward Gateway CEO), who is really into product design – that’s his background – so the level of detail that we went to in understanding the individual’s user journey and what they might want from that office space was amazing. That level of detail is what takes it from a really nice space to an incredible space.
‘You can ask anyone in that office about how to use it and why it is the way it is and they all understand the rationale behind it. They are all totally on board. As I said, the staff engagement was so important to them – that’s what they do after all.’
We haven’t even talked about the fact that this space is completely agile. ‘That came about through necessity really,’ James recalls. ‘It’s about 4,700 sq ft with 85 people working in it – and yet it still feels spacious.’
‘We were told to push the boundaries,’ Andrea grins. ‘We wanted to push as hard as we could, knowing that we could pare it back if necessary.
‘With their culture and their demographic, there was a really obvious opportunity to introduce that. For us, agile working is now part and parcel of what we do.’
‘We do normally start with quite ambitious plans when it comes to agility and then people reign it back a little – but they really stuck with the concept throughout,’ James adds.
‘We really brought our employees along on the journey with us,’ Charlie tells us. ‘Nobody has a fixed desk here and there are no offices – none of the leadership team has an office. The space reflects the different types of work that people do in an office through the day and provides facilities that suit the different tasks. It’s wrong to think that a desk and chair is suitable for everything – by providing comfy seating, stand up seating, quiet spaces, places for introverts, as well as places to collaborate, you can really optimise how people work.’
The flexible and versatile space supports Reward Gateway’s newly mobile workforce in a way that maximises the square footage while adding a sense of energy – a real buzz. An intentional ‘collision course’ breaks up the space and enables people to work with those they might not otherwise encounter. There is a natural synergy between the personality of the brand, the spatial aesthetics and the brilliant colours used throughout.
Reward Gateway’s new workplace also includes a number of spaces that support staff wellbeing, such as a reflection room and an on-site library, which nods back to the υ company’s original London address and even has a mocked-up front door of that building. There is also a series of stand-height, private ‘phone booths’ for individual working. And as we walked past, each and every one was being used!
Located within the heart of the office space is the impressive HR Hero café, which – as mentioned earlier – has been designed to encourage interaction between staff and their clients. Judging by the lunchtime throng here, we’d say it’s succeeding in doing just that. Smart team working booths are dotted throughout the space – we particularly like the gentle instructional sticker on the edge of the worksurface here, reminding people that these are indeed for team and not individual working.
In addition, state-of-the-art technology is used throughout, which includes a fully equipped TV and photography studio, whilst meeting rooms are enhanced with the latest cable and controller-free video conferencing technology, helping London-based employees to more easily collaborate with Reward Gateway’s 350 global staff.
The one facility we haven’t yet mentioned (and we’re saving the best until last here) is the brilliant Secret Garden. This tranquil, biophilic team space is hidden in plain sight – its door looking for all the world as if it were a brick wall dead-end.
Many of the ambitious and forward-thinking elements employed here at TCR are now being taken on in cities spanning the globe, starting with Sydney and Boston. ‘Part of the brief was to create a playbook that could be rolled out across other offices,’ James tells us.
Talk about practicing what you preach! On the subject of talking, if you’re lucky enough to have a golden ticket for the upcoming MixInspired (mixinspired.com) event in London, you’ll be able to hear Reward Gateway’s Glenn Elliott talk in more detail about this brilliant business and its equally brilliant space.