The design brief for courier company Hermes’ new tech hub in Leeds was to create something ‘cool and a little bit different’. Sara Bean visited to see how far the project has succeeded
There is every chance that your first experience of Hermes UK has been at your front door. The independent courier delivers over 360 million parcels each year for some of the UK’s largest online retailers, including Next Directory, QVC, JD Williams and Debenhams. Behind this delivery service is a network of sites, including a purpose-built, state-of-the-art automated parcel distribution hub in Rugby, which at 25,100 sq m is the biggest of its kind in the UK.
There are over 100 properties in the Hermes estate, which spans from Dundee to Bridgwater in Somerset. The company’s multisite head office estate is split across four buildings in Leeds, comprising a head office, a call centre and a brand-new innovative technology hub.
The tech hub is home to the firm’s Innovation Lab, and is the creative base for its senior developers to work on a range of innovative delivery services and solutions. Finding highly skilled developers in a competitive market is always a challenge, so it was crucial that the new tech hub, which would house around 50 full-time members of staff and an additional 20 hot-desk spaces, offered something extra.
Wayne Young, Facilities Manager at Hermes, explains: “We were looking for an office that could encourage some innovative people to join our business, which allowed for us to develop a strong presence in central Leeds, and was conveniently located near the train station so our employees could travel in by public transport and have greater proximity to shops and so on.
“It needed to be a space that was ‘Instagramable’, which worked functionally as an office but could be opened up into a bigger social space for Ted-type talks. Overall, we wanted a place where people could enjoy the benefit of working but could also enjoy the social environment as well. We only needed six to seven thousand square feet, but we did want our own outside space. We ended up visiting around 30 properties in Leeds, and this one had the greatest potential as it includes an outdoor terrace with amazing views across the centre of Leeds.”
The new tech hub started life as a traditional office space, but the design had to attract a technically creative team into the Hermes culture while offering a unique experience for all visitors. According to Young, the initial brief included 10 key criteria.
Innovative. The design had to utilise moving walls featuring custom joinery, with audiovisual (AV) wall and connectivity inside and out.
Homely. Although it is a tech hub and a working environment, the space is designed to attract and retain talent. Says Young: “We spend on average 35 per cent of our working life at work– that is, in the office – so making our space feel more homely will in turn improve the attraction and, importantly, the retention of desirable employees. By providing entertainment such as an Apple home player, Xbox and so on, staff can step away from the work side. When work colleagues become friends, collaboration improves.”
Vibrant. “Hermes has a great brand,” says Young, “that stands out with bold colours and striking shapes, and the tech hub is designed with this in mind.” The intention was to incorporate a mix of colours which reflects the brand and pulls attention into the space from the entrance onwards. To achieve this, the angles on the floor, in the furniture and in the custom joinery all utilise Hermes’ iconic winged logo to help engage visitors’ attention.
Funky. What ‘techy’ millennial doesn’t want to work in a funky environment? asks Young. “By creating features such as a games area with Tetris display units that can be moved and private ‘nooks’ for people to work and meet, the Hermes hub offers a funky environment to work and socialise.”
Cutting edge. The new space features the latest AV technology in a space that can be used day and night.
Sexy. To help achieve this, feature pendant lighting, on-trend tiling and feature walls were introduced.
Pantomime. “The design intent,” says Young, “was to create an experiential journey for guests and visitors, with angles and walkways that navigate you around the space and TV screens to welcome visitors. In this way, the experience can be altered for each guest, creating a Hermes experience that is tailored to suit.”
Instagramable. “Using feature colours, lighting, vibrant fabrics and custom joinery, we have created a number of areas within the space suitable for the ideal ‘Instagramable’ shot,” says Young, “perfect for new employees #lookwherewework.”
Not traditional – not formal. It was important for the design to steer clear of a formal, traditional office style. Explains Young: “We didn’t want to create an office environment that we ‘traditionally’ see. By introducing hot-desking and providing power and AV connection in multiple areas, the space enables and encourages staff to work how they like. A lot of the furniture we used is bespoke, because we wanted a cooler look which might have driven the cost, but there were areas where innovation helped keep costs lower.”
Flexible. A flexible work environment was key, demonstrated by the introduction of bench desking into the open-plan space to allow people to work in the way that suits them, both individually and as part of a team. It was also important for teams to be able to grow and adapt to new project requirements without needing to move furniture. Flexibility is enhanced by a wall of lockers providing personal storage for all staff, which also facilitates a ‘tidy desk’ policy.