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Fit for a king

Early last year, retail  specialist Hammerson moved into a new home at Kings Place in King’s Cross. FMJ travelled up to find out about the move as well as the role Lexington’s front of house service had played in ensuring a smooth transition

Hammerson has been around for over 70 years and is the owner, manager and developer of retail property across Europe, with  20 prime shopping centres, 21 convenient retail parks and investments in 15 premium outlet villages.

Kings Place itself has been open since September 2008 and is perhaps best known for playing host to the Guardian and Observer newspaper head offices, as well as recent Think FM conferences. It also sells itself as a “hub for music, art, dialogue and food.”

Hammerson’s move to King’s Cross on the 1st June 2015, marked the final part of its shift in becoming a purely retail-focussed property specialist.

Jane Orr, Facilities Co-ordinator at Hammerson says that “Hammerson’s Grosvenor Street office, with its  dark wood and lush carpeting, meant that it had a very corporate feel and didn’t reflect Hammerson’s new brand identity which is underpinned by its vision of creating leading retail destinations, where more happens for consumers and retailers alike.”

The decision to move to Kings Place wasn’t just down to the building itself, the regeneration of Kings Cross was a key factor, with a young and creative crowd being attracted to the area and the also the ideal connectivity the station allows for connections to both Paris and Reading where Hammerson has offices.

Previously spread across four floors, a key aim of the move was to try and get the whole team in the same space. A dedicated working group that incorporated facilities and as well as members of staff from the across the business were essential to creating the right workspace in the new office. They had the opportunity to speak through steering groups and were often asked for their opinions and advice.

Hammerson even developed a brand for the transition – “Be Informed. Be Aware. Be in the Know” this helped to create a collaborative approach and enabled all staff to be kept up to date with the office move as it progressed.

“The key is to keep everyone informed.” Orr explains. “Constantly filtering information to make sure everyone is in the know.”

LEXINGTON

Lexington has been working with Hammerson on their front of house offering since October of 2012. Prior to that they were the catering partner for nine years, coming out on top of two tender processes, but three years ago Hammerson decided to amalgamate the services and streamline costs. “It was a risk of course.” Orr concedes, “but it has worked out really well. Their passion for reception and providing an excellent guest experience matches their passion for food.”

The Lexington team were consulted during the move and now have pride of place in the heart of things. “It was a bit of a shock for our team to suddenly have people around all the time, saying hello and goodbye, because they were almost hidden away in the previous building.” Says Jane Streat, head of client services for Lexington Reception Service. “But everyone is delighted with the change – being so visible and at the fore has helped us improve the guest and employee experience.”

Other ideas from the receptionists themselves were taken on board and it wasn’t just a change of location that was in store. The design of the reception desks went back to the architects more than once, and that was after a discussion about whether there should be desks at all.

Naturally Lexington also had experience of what worked well and what didn’t from their other sites and was able to pass this along. They had even held an event the year before to investigate different technologies and different ways of working.

They were confident that things like headsets, no matter how modern they look, wouldn’t work with Hammerson’s set up. However, they are in the process of introducing a new app, which will support the team when booking rooms and when they hold events, providing guests with additional information to enhance their experience.

For Hammerson’s part, just as they didn’t want a corporate office, they didn’t want a corporate reception service. Instead they took inspiration from hotels and tried to incorporate aspects of their operations. “The reception team determine the mood of everyone in the building, they personify what Hammerson is all about.”

CHANGES

Of course there has been a litany of other changes.

The meeting rooms are completely different spaces, with new booking procedures and outdoor balcony and rotunda spaces available. There are now “tablet top” tables which work disturbingly like the walls in Minority Report. Sound proof curtains have been installed as well, creating meeting areas out of open spaces.

The reception team now deals not just with guests but also with everyone entering the Hammerson space. Additionally with all of the glass they are really out in the open so planting was added retrospectively to create some privacy.

Reflecting Hammerson’s aim to be more vibrant and reflective of the fun involved in retail, the dress code has been relaxed.

AGILE WORKING

Just like companies the length and breadth of the nation taking advantage of agile working Hammerson has arranged to have a number of desks equivalent to the maximum number of occupants at any one time.

Naturally there was a great deal of communication and trails prior to the move, and lots of feedback following. The few static users left include PA’s, CEO, CFO and COO as well as corporate communications and finance.

Each person has around 1 metre of filing space and a locker to go with it. Orr says it’s a question of finding the balance. “People are creatures of habit so we can’t just uproot them. Yet no one is hanging pictures of their family up anywhere anymore. Sometimes people sit with their departments and sometimes they just sit with new people.”

There are much larger windows adding much more natural light, as well as an all day food offer. The fantastic outdoor terrace (which had gone unused for years) and new quiet zones have pleased everyone.

CHALLENGES

Of course things weren’t all smooth sailing. The pure number of masts and activity in King’s Cross meant it was difficult to get connected to the Wi-Fi signal. Then there were the usual logistical concerns, moving things across the capital whilst trying to keep business running smoothly. The acoustics were so bad in places that soundproofing had to be added.

Hammerson tried to circumvent these issues by bringing everyone on site before the move itself, even if that meant hard hats and high visibility jackets. Communication with all stakeholders was essential, if a steering group raised an issue then the line manager and eventually the whole department would give their views.

About Sarah OBeirne

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