Reward Gateway is a leading employee engagement platform that delivers benefits like reward and recognition, and communications solutions to attract and retain key talent. They have over 1,200 clients including household names American Express, Groupon, Yahoo!, IBM and McDonald’s yet when they were told its offices were being turned into luxury flats the company had no choice but to move. FMJ hears about the journey to Tottenham Court Road
After being told that its previous premises were being converted Reward Gateway, started looking around the Capital for a new London base. The team looked at 10 offices across the city but rejected nine of them for being too corporate or just not very “Reward Gateway.”
“There’s quite a unique feel to Reward Gateway,” says Charlie Lofthose, PR manager at the firm. “We are cool, happy, fun, professional, warm, friendly and slick. When we saw 265 Tottenham Court Road we knew that the space really nailed it. It had beautiful natural light and an ideal location for clients to come and visit us. That was key, we really wanted the new space to feel like a home, where clients could visit us and where we could host events.”
But even after finding the perfect space the project had barely even begun. Reward Gateway were determined to inject as much of their personality into the office as possible, taking care to design everything to benefit employee engagement. Creative director Sevil Rahimova, whom Lofthouse calls “one of the masterminds behind the move,” said, “As we started the design, over a year and a half ago, we realised we spent more of our conscious time in the office than at our homes, so it was extremely important that we got it right for our people.
“Our new office is on a single open-plan floor that has improved the cross-team communication and collaboration massively. It’s also built with flexibility in mind, giving staff a variety of different spaces that fit their particular task at hand, and the office redesign promotes employee engagement. We’ve used Herman Miller’s Living Office approach to activity based working.”
Rahimova has been with Reward Gateway for over two and a half years now. As creative director she is responsible for creating and maintaining the company brand, making sure that everything the firm does “feels very Reward Gateway.” Everything from the creative direction of the website to one-off marketing materials will go across her desk.
OUT WITH THE OLD
“Funnily my first impression of the old London office came before I joined the company,” Rahimova continued. “I used to work for Dazines (acquired by Reward Gateway in 2014) and the managing director and I came to the office in 2012 to do a pitch for a web project.
While I was waiting in the reception area, I watched one of the RG videos running on the screens and I thought: ‘What an exciting company this is!’ I loved the strong emphasis on brand and the use of video as a medium to connect to the audience. But at that time the office was split in multiple small rooms, which was not the best formula for collaboration. On top of that, the company occupied three floors, which made it hard for staff to get to know each other.”
These were wrinkles the company were determined to iron out over the course of their move. The open plan floor and fitting everyone onto one floor was key but were far from the strangest things the team discussed on their journey. “The weirdest decision I had to make?” Rahimova says. “Definitely that would be the conversation we had about the soap smell. We had a two hour conversation about exactly what Reward Gateway smelled like… Roses, citrus or something else? We really took “attention to detail” to a whole new level.”
Lofthouse agrees, adding that Reward Gateway wanted to “push the boundaries with every element of the design and ensure that there was a consistent design branding between our collateral and our physical space.
“The brief for the designers was that the design should be timeless and sustainable. It’s all classic designers, no imitations, everything is the original.
“We put a fully functioning cafe right in the middle of the office, despite being in the middle of one of the most bustling food hubs in London! It’s not just a stand out piece, it’s a place where people can gather and work on ideas, it’s multi¬functional and something which we can use.
“One of the biggest things we learned from this project was that workspace is much more important in culture and employee engagement than we first thought. As we got half way through the project, we realised that so much of what we were doing was going to change how we worked, and how involved RG people were going to be, so we knew we needed to bring our staff along on the journey with us.”
Of course Reward Gateway weren’t alone in planning and creating their office. They employed Area Sq, who specialise in office design, refurbishment and workplace fit-out services. Glenn Elliott, founder and CEO, of Reward Gateway said: “We appointed Area Sq as they had both great visual presentation and ideas and we truly believed they were credible and established enough to deliver this project on time. They have pushed the boundaries in every aspect and delivered on our brief to create a workspace that encourages a collaborative and happy workforce.”
Another firm whose assistance was vital was Brightspot Strategy, who help employers migrate into new workplaces. Brightspot helped to run the engagement activities with staff, develop the norms and protocols required and define how the space is used so once Reward Gateway’s people were in the space they could really take advantage of the design.
Finally, a company called Aberley came in to assess how Reward Gateway was using its previous office at different points during the day. The assessors looked at how desks, manager offices, meeting rooms, breakout spaces and even printers were utilised during working hours over five days. What they discovered was eye opening:
- The overall utilisation of the space was 45 per cent (national average is 48 per cent)
- Thirteen per cent of desks were left unoccupied throughout the day
- Nearly 30 per cent of desks were used one day or less per week
- There was a need for more spaces for solitary working
- They needed more ad-hoc meeting space for 2-4 people
What Reward Gateway really wanted to do was make sure that no matter what kind of work their staff were being asked to do, whether individually or as part of a team, they had the right sort of space to achieve the best possible results. “We visited some clients who had recently redesigned their offices to get notes on the process, pitfalls and best practices,” said Rahimova. “The one key tip that came up again and again? Keep carpet in the quiet areas to reduce noise even more.”
But making sure that everything is perfect in principle doesn’t mean that everything will run smoothly in practice. “Initially, the nice deep window seats alongside Tottenham Court Road weren’t being used,” said Rahimova. “We tried to find a way to make the most out of the view and bundles of light coming from the full-height windows. As a result, we decided to use vibrant cushions in our brand colours to upholster the seals and turn them into low Balcony seats that have been proving very popular for casual catch ups.”
So, after putting so much effort into creating such a beneficial space and atmosphere, what was the reaction to the new Tottenham Court Road offices? Rahimova says that there is a “deeper appreciation for the office, and the importance of the workspace than there used to be. When I look around, I see happy, motivated faces and a larger sense of collaboration than there was before. I’m excited to see how we continue to adapt to our new surroundings!”
The reaction from the boots on the ground was equally positive. After two weeks Reward Gateway staff said:
♦ “I totally love the office! I get excited about coming to work.”
♦ “All in all it is brilliant I really love moving around and using the different areas! You’ve all done a fantastic job and should be amazingly proud.”
♦ “I love it and I am already having far better, more thorough and relaxed conversations with my clients as a result of feeling comfortable in a great working space.”
♦ “The office is AMAZING, I have had tonnes of really positive feedback, the attitude to work and collaboration has improved 10 fold in the last two weeks!”
♦ “The new office has really been such a pleasure to work in! It really has had a tangible effect on my productivity and i’m finding that time flies by. The zones make it easy for me to get important actions done in a comfortable way.”