Workplace Experience: Office/Corporate Environment 2023



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Workplace Experience: Office/Corporate Environment 2023

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) provides educational support services from its base in Gloucestershire. Its ‘Ways Of Working’ (WOW) refurbishment project set out to revolutionise the ways in which its people work, taking positives learned from the period of virtual working caused by the pandemic and blending them with the benefits of access to a new, modern workplace.

One of UCAS’s strategic objectives within its ‘Discover your Future’ corporate strategy strives for UCAS to ‘Be an employer of choice where people flourish, perform, and achieve.’ This objective was an important element, UCAS’s desire to be an employer of choice demanding it offer an attractive proposition for people to join including working time flexibility and an office environment that people would be proud of.

A physical working environment that enables collaboration was a fundamental requirement, with UCAS working with its refurbishment partners Office Insight to plan out the project.

EDI in at the outset

However, what clearly sets this project apart is the dedication to EDI involvement across all stages of the process, with UCAS’s own EDI lead and EDI champions helped shape the design, reviewing initial designs and feeding back suggested changes. Separately, an independent EDI audit was conducted, and its findings used to inform the design. Drop-in sessions allowed people to see the plans and ask questions and understand what we were proposing and why.

A staff survey in March 2021 added further to the user intelligence informing the project, with users’ enthusiasm to work with team members when on site a key component that has been reflected in the many formal and informal breakout and collaboration spaces.

A key output of this exercise was the ending of designated business unit spaces and specific desks, replacing them with access to zones based on cross functional work activity rather than strict business unit alliance.

Elements delivered to reflect the UCAS ‘inclusive’ value include electric height adjustable desks (one third of all desks) design spacing to make as many spaces as possible accessible, provision of USB desk fans based on feedback from the Menopause Wellbeing group, gender neutral shower rooms and new building signage which includes braille and meets the requirements outlined in their EDI assessment.

The final stage of the project was completed in February and UCAS has since engaged with CBRE and others to understand how the completed scheme compares in terms of occupancy, usage of space and experience provided for the users of its space.

Results delivered

From mainly desks and meeting rooms, the new space comprises break out spaces, touchdown desks, formal and informal collaboration spaces and quiet areas. Early indications show that the new environment is achieving its goals with positive feedback and good usage.

Best practice learning point

  • In the end, this project stood out because of the involvement of all people set to use the space, right from the beginning and at all stages. A combination of staff surveying and involvement of EDI champions throughout the process has meant that initial designs were met with plenty of positive feedback, a result of a sense of involvement from all interested parties.
  • The project was delivered in three phases, over one floor at a time. In so doing, feedback from each phase helped inform the next, leading to changes such as the configuration of height adjustable desks, additional enclosed meeting spaces and bookable team zones.

WOW know-how

– Consolidation of space from 5 footplates to 3

– Moving from around 400 desks to 144

– 55% reduction in lighting energy consumption (LED replacements seeing 2,000 lights reduced from 36w per light to 16w per light = 125,000kWh reduction per year.)

– 60% – average desk occupancy