In March 2017, after four years at Vintage House on Albert Embankment, close to Vauxhall, our London team relocated to The Hop Exchange on Southwark Street, by London Bridge and Borough Market.
Having outgrown Vintage House, we took the opportunity to look for a space that provided a better working environment. As sustainability practitioners, we are acutely aware of the health and wellbeing agenda. Improvement of our own employees’ health and wellbeing was therefore seen as paramount.
Employee opinions matter to us, so we decided to complete short before-and-after staff surveys, issued in our final week at Vintage House and again after our first four months at The Hop Exchange. The results have helped us to understand the hugely positive impact the office move has had on our employees’ health and wellbeing, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.
Let’s dive straight in and look at the results.
(All questions except 4 and 7 were based on the following format: “To what extent do you agree with the following statement?”, where 10 was “Completely agree” and 0 was “Completely disagree”. With 16 employees taking the survey, there was a maximum score of 160 for each question.)
Health & Wellbeing
1. Physical Exercise
“Facilities at the office enable you to participate in physical exercise. (Consider the availability of showers and the proximity to external facilities – gyms, swimming pools, etc.)”
Vintage House: 70
The Hop Exchange: 70
This question proved to be the anomaly of the set, as it’s the only one for which the results showed no improvement.
Vintage House was considered by staff to be in a worse location overall as far as being able to do exercise was concerned, but it gained bonus points for having a shower room. This enabled people to cycle to work and freshen up before heading into the office for the day.
At The Hop Exchange, although it’s in a better location generally (closer to a variety of gyms etc.), unfortunately we have no shower facilities – yet!
2. Healthy Eating
“You are able to access varied and healthy eating options in the local area.”
Vintage House: 78
The Hop Exchange: 151
The options for buying a varied and healthy lunch close to Vintage House were extremely limited, with only a Pret a Manger, a Sainsbury’s, and a small handful of other places nearby.
Relocation to The Hop Exchange, which is situated next to the thriving Borough Market, has meant that we have access to a huge variety of different food every day, including a truly enormous range of fresh fruit and vegetables.
3. Natural Ventilation
“You are able to benefit from natural ventilation.”
Vintage House: 55
The Hop Exchange: 92
“Productivity improvements of 8-11% are not uncommon as a result of better air quality.” – ‘Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices’, UK Green Building Council
While there was the option to open windows at Vintage House, there was always an element of compromise between the temperature and noise levels from outside. With the office being adjacent to the busy Waterloo railway tracks, if the windows were open, the noise levels increased significantly. Windows would often remain closed with the air conditioning on. However, this didn’t allow for natural ventilation and the temperature often dropped too low due to the inefficient air conditioning unit’s thermostat controls.
At The Hop Exchange, we have tried to optimise ventilation now that noise from outside is less of an issue. There is the option to open various windows both in the main office and also in the meeting room to allow for circulation of air throughout the space, especially in the morning after the office has been closed up for the evening and the air has become stuffy.
We’re confident we can further improve this situation over time.
4. Indoor Environment
“How do you rate the overall indoor environment (temperature, air quality, noise)?”
Vintage House: 47
The Hop Exchange: 118
This question saw Vintage House get its lowest score at just 47 out of 160. This was due to the combination of being unable to naturally ventilate the office (as described in Question 3 above) and an air conditioning system that wasn’t able to regulate the temperature particularly well, meaning that the space was often hot or noisy, or a combination of the two.
At The Hop Exchange, there are a number of options to improve both ventilation and temperature. A modern and much improved air conditioning system regulates the indoor temperature efficiently and there is also the option to open windows and circulate fresh air when the CO2 levels get too high. Hot desking in the office also allows employees freedom in where they sit so that they have some personal control of temperature in their immediate environment.
Since the survey, we have now also bought a variety of plants for the office in an effort to further increase the air quality and add a splash of colour.
“The office enables you to work effectively and productively.”
Vintage House: 82
The Hop Exchange: 134
Vintage House gained its highest score for this question, but even that was only 82 out of 160. The building was well situated on Albert Embankment, with fantastic views of the Thames. Sadly, our office was on the wrong side of the building and we had a view of the train tracks leading to Waterloo – hardly conducive to a quiet working environment!
The Hop Exchange was an improvement for staff due to a better set-up of hot desking and the provision of new office equipment. I find that our excellent desks, chairs, and dual screen set-ups are particularly effective at increasing productivity. There is also better temperature control and ventilation (as discussed above), as well as an increase in the amount of natural light and a variety of spaces for working, socializing and a quiet space in which to make phone calls.
6. Social interaction
“Facilities at the office provide opportunities for social interaction with colleagues and others in the building (e.g. provision of break-out areas, etc)?”
Vintage House: 54
The Hop Exchange: 134
This was Vintage House’s second lowest score. The office had absolutely no breakout areas for the sole use of EVORA staff, meaning having quick meetings, a quiet space to make a phone call, or enjoying lunch together was practically impossible.
The layout at The Hop Exchange is far more conducive to socializing with colleagues, with an excellent breakfast bar allowing staff to enjoy time away from their desks together, whether it be meeting over a coffee or having lunch. With the exception of two desks, all others are hot desks and are arranged in small groups, encouraging collaboration and communication between colleagues from different teams and the sharing of ideas. Due to the local area, there is also the opportunity for more varied social activities outside of the office.
The 148% increase speaks for itself!
7. Overall satisfaction
“How do you rate the overall quality of the office space (considering all elements)?”
Vintage House: 71
The Hop Exchange: 134
As evident from questions 1 to 6, there have been many improvements which have increased employee satisfaction since the move from Vintage House to The Hop Exchange. Our employees are very happy with the new office and the improvements in their working environment.
Importantly, it’s not just our London staff who are feeling the benefits of the move. Paul is based in our Greater Manchester office, but is in London every week for client meetings. Here’s how Paul finds the new office:
“I am delighted with our new office. It provides an ideal location for both permanent staff and visitors. Important elements for me are location, access to public transport (it’s a stone’s throw from London Bridge) and quick access into the City, where many of our clients are based. However, most importantly, the abundance of natural light and office layout make it a great place to work.”
The Hop Exchange also has a real ‘wow factor’, thanks to its impressive facade and beautiful atrium – complete with old F1 racing car! This has a positive effect on our visitors, from clients to interview candidates, who all arrive at our office with a smile, commenting on how unique our office is. (View photos of The Hop Exchange here.)
Overall, the survey results are a great indication that we have a happy, productive workforce. This is of particular importance given our rapidly growing team – 100% growth since May 2016.
And we’re not stopping there… We are already considering new office improvement strategies, including increased use of plants and better communication of air conditioning control guidelines. And we’re also pushing our landlord for that all important shower!