In 2021 Consultus International moved into its brand new headquarters in Friars Mill, Leicester, and engaged Blueprint Interiors of Ashby for the consultancy, design and fit-out of the interior and furniture for the new offices.
Ed Gray, CTO at Consultus shares the company’s experience of relocating and designing a new office for a whole new way of working.
How was the company working before COVID?
Before the pandemic, we were 99% office-based. 90% of our teams were in most of the time, and there was a heavy reliance on everyone being present all the time. Our culture promoted it too.
It was a little difficult to convince the business to allow people to work more flexibly. We always had ‘flexible working’ but this only really extended to field sales and consultants. Our definition of flexible working was being able to start or finish 2 hours either side of core business hours.
And how did ways of working change during the pandemic?
On 23rd March 2020 we shut the office overnight, but we were well prepared. From an IT perspective, we already had remote desktops and virtual working anyway. It was just a case of testing out that our servers could handle that many people remote working for the first time!
You’ve changed your office during the pandemic, what made you decide to do that?
We’d been looking to do something with our office space for a while. But we eventually decided to move building, so we went lock, stock and barrel!
The configuration in the old place wasn’t very useful, the spaces were long and thin and not particularly useable. We now have a smaller building in terms of floor space, but we’ve fully embraced remote and flexible working – which is the aim we had for our office move and redesign in the first place.
We downsized as we still wanted the office for our people to come in and work collaboratively from, but also give people the freedom to work from home some of the time.
We’ve now got a nice hybrid solution somewhere in the middle of remote and office-based working.
How did you go about asking people to return to the office?
It has been a common-sense, safety-first approach. We’ve invited people to return when they feel comfortable enough to come in. And we’ve encouraged people to come and speak to us if they don’t.
Recently it’s been about vaccination status, and everyone is required to do lateral flow tests before they work from the office.
We can work remotely more effectively now, but certainly when we were at home full time the threads of team working got stretched. Certain things take longer when you’re remote so that’s been a challenge for us as a company over the last 18 months.
Nothing replaces in-person collaboration from a social perspective either, it’s not just about productivity.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when getting people back in?
Navigating the legal aspects of it. There seemed to be no right or wrong answers available to us, so we just had to try to understand internally what we could and should be doing as an employer to keep people safe.
As we were also welcoming people back to a completely new office building, we had a lot of functional information to give to the team too. Our value champions helped us to communicate the plans for coming back to the office in a softer way, so people had individuals they could go to with questions if they had them.
Now you’re in, how is it different from before?
We’re now operating a hybrid way of working. Most people come in at least two days a week and work from home the rest of the time. People are still adapting so we have some people that are working full time one way or another – but we anticipate that the majority will be doing a mixture of both in the long term.
What do Consultus staff like about working in the new office space?
A lot of the new downstairs free flow area is very popular as it’s a flexible space. People can come in and sit wherever they like for an hour then crack on with other things, for instance.
Everyone likes the pods that we now have, so we might get some more of those. There’s also a central couch area that’s popular for lunches and team meetings. How it looks, and what it provides for our team is so much better than it was previously, so we’re very happy!