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Area designs wellbeing-focused office for IFS

When global enterprise software company IFS relocated its UK headquarters to Staines-Upon-Thames, a workplace design that puts both clients and employees at the heart of the solution was required.

05/08/2020 6 min read

Supporting employee wellbeing and providing an extraordinary experience for visitors and clients were pivotal elements of the original brief.

Employee wellbeing facilities and state-of-the-art technology solutions are at the core of this special workplace design. IFS’ UK headquarters is set across a three-storey building, with the second floor accommodating a gym and prayer room, the first floor accommodating the main working environment and the ground floor being utilised for the client’s transient workforce, client-facing facilities, a staff restaurant and auditorium.

Having previously been in a closed office environment, IFS wanted to take this relocation opportunity to introduce flexibility and agile working opportunities into the space, as well as creating a warm and welcoming setting for staff and visitors. To achieve this, the open plan working zones are peppered with collaborative zones, while services are exposed and ceiling heights are varied. ‘Wellbeing is a golden thread throughout the IFS culture,’ Kathryn O’Callaghan-Mills, Design Director at Area, tells us. ‘They wanted their employees to enjoy the environment they work in, allowing them to collaborate and thrive.

‘From the outset, our brief was to provide a workplace that was going to be a sanctuary for employees, relaxed and welcoming, with a boutique feel. That meant blending textures, varying ceiling features and keeping each zone connected: using a lot of natural light and soft furnishings as well as planting to break down physical barriers, creating a variety of places to work for people either in groups or on their own.

‘It was a refreshingly brave brief that specified employee wellbeing facilities and a state-of-the-art technology solution at the core of the workplace design.

‘The IFS values are agile, collaborative and trustworthy. In theory, one flows from another and their previous space in High Wycombe did not allow that to happen. It was important for IFS to be surrounded by good transport links; the location of the new building was perfect, being close to Staines for transport into London and also close to Heathrow for the global business to visit.’

 

‘What we needed was somewhere that was more connected in all sorts of ways,’ Nicola Carton, Director and Head of Global Facilities Management at IFS, explains. ‘Somewhere we could showcase our brand. Somewhere we could showcase to our customers. Somewhere we could be close to the airport, motorways and city. Somewhere where it would be easier to attract top talent.

‘We’re now a 10-minute walk along the Thames path to Staines. Two supermarkets are within minutes and there’s a selection of bars, restaurants and hotels for anyone visiting from out of the UK, and we’re closer to transport hubs too. The whole location is healthier and more connected in an emotional and physical way too.’

Wanting to create an exceptional experience for visiting clients, as well as wanting to present IFS’ own technology and systems, client-facing spaces have been designed using advanced technology so they can be tailored to the person or business visiting the building. From personalised screens in the boutique hotel-style reception area, through to the mind-blowing floor to ceiling state-of-the-art screens in the Client Experience Centre – the customer hospitality area – each part of the client’s journey has been thoughtfully considered and showcases IFS’ innovative products and services.

Supporting employee wellbeing was the ethos behind the original brief. The workplace design thoughtfully considers the emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of all individuals.

The main working environment is a major step change from IFS’ previous location. The open plan workspace, with breakout and collaboration areas, promotes a more inclusive culture and has broken down the barriers that the previous closed office layout put up. Employees are given choice and control over where they work with the inclusion of meeting pods, high tables and informal catch-up areas.

Additionally, employees have access to the prayer room, a wellbeing room and underground parking. The on-site gym is staffed by a personal trainer, who carries out sessions throughout the day, assists employees with their nutrition and runs boot camps and running clubs along the Thames before and after work. Shower facilities and a cycle store area are discretely located in the basement for people cycling into work.

Employees also have access to a fully subsidised restaurant, which provides healthy and nutritious meals. Adjacent to the restaurant is a beautiful terrace area, which overlooks the Thames. The veranda is available for employees to use for events, informal catch-ups and socialising during lunch.

Sustainability and environmental responsibility were important considerations throughout the design and furniture selection stage of the project. All materials used have been ethically sourced and the client enforces a ‘zero to landfill’ policy.

A lot of existing furniture was re-purposed. Task chairs, meeting room furniture and lockers were reused, while some sofas and lounge chairs were reupholstered. New complementary furniture was selected from Orangebox and Claremont product ranges – largely because of their sustainability credentials.

Wanting to bring the outside in, biophilic design was also an important part of the brief. Planting has been weaved through the joinery and is a key feature in the reception area, while a beautiful feature moss wall has been installed in the restaurant area. Connecting to nature and the outdoors, employees are treated to river views from the restaurant terrace and from the main workspace on the first floor, creating a calm and comfortable working environment.

A 175-seat auditorium was part of the original brief – which would take up a large part of the ground floor space, of course. The solution has been designed to ensure it can be used for a variety of purposes. The design seamlessly integrates with the AV and technology solution so their UK-based team can engage with their global teams. The auditorium is also used for team meet-ups and as an event space for product launches (IFS previously used hotels for these functions).

‘Working with a client that embodies the meaning of wellbeing has been very refreshing.’ Kathryn enthuses. ‘Employees really are at the heart of this design. They have invested in large expansive zones such as the auditorium and the Experience Centre. It would have been easy for the client to halve these areas and include additional desking, but they have been brave and stood by their decision and it has really paid off.

‘We hadn’t worked with IFS before. The briefing process was a collaborative approach – from the first meeting it was clear they were a forward thinking, dynamic business, who wanted to push the boundaries of how they currently worked. They were open to a new agile way of working combined with a real emphasis on wellbeing and technology – it was a really exciting process, seeing the design come to life from our workshops together.’

‘Speaking on behalf of the entire IFS team, the workplace design has achieved what we set out to do – and more,’ Nicola says. ‘The IFS and area teams have had a fantastic working relationship from the outset. Area understood our vision and were able to provide a solution which incorporates the agile working environments and flexibility we were looking for.

‘Our clients are understandably very important to us. The technology and AV solution that our UK HQ provides is nothing short of exceptional. Not only can we effortlessly communicate with our global teams, we are also able to confidently welcome our clients to our new home and be proud to present our products using our fantastic Client Experience Centre.

‘In terms of meeting our business objectives, the design solution flawlessly aligns with our core values: agile, collaborative, trustworthy; and has created a ‘home from home’ working environment for our team, who we fervently care for. The office has been so successful that occupancy has increased by more than 50% compared to the previous office – folks just love coming into the office!

‘Furthermore, the IFS Staines office design is now being rolled out across our global portfolio, which is testament to how well the solution works for us as a business and for the individuals who work in the building.’

‘So much thought and care went into every element of the building,’ Kathryn concludes. ‘It’s been a pleasure to work with a client team that has been really invested in the vision from start to end.’

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