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Temporary high-class home for Shell

30 November 2012

In 2010 Shell announced that its Waterloo home was to be revamped. The owner of Canary Wharf, Canary Wharf Group, alongside the property investment vehicle of the Gulf state of Qatar, Qatari Diar, won the bid to redevelop the 5.25-acre land into new offices, shops and flats.

Shell is to retain the freehold of the site with the redevelopers holding a 999-year lease. The deal excluded the Tower building that remains owned and occupied by Shell. Graham van't Hoff, Chairman of Shell UK, said at the time: "This is a great step forward and represents considerable reinvestment in the South Bank. Shell Centre is our long-term home in London and we're keen to start working with Canary Wharf Group, Qatari Diar and local stakeholders to develop and deliver a project that will benefit both London and the local community."

More than 1,700 Shell staff (the ‘core’ population of the centre) have been relocated temporarily, mainly to a new office space in Canary Wharf but also to the Shell Mex building in the Strand.

Having a purpose-designed temporary office space best fulfils the company’s global Connect Workplace Design Standards. These ensure consistency across Shell worldwide in everything from space allocation and layout to the quality of office accommodation. Branding, zoning, space types, sustainable design, safety, ergonomics, health, security, technology, behaviours and protocols and furniture selection are all covered.

Fitting out a space with “top quartile facilities” also enables Shell to continue to achieve several key objectives: attract and retain talent, and facilitate innovative working; promote innovation by supporting new work styles; encourage collaboration through flexible working and with ample meeting and social networking spaces; empower employees by providing access to resources, one another, and best-in-class work, social and recreation environments; ensure flexibility for changing demand, for adaptive reuse and for new unplanned uses; develop a sense of place for staff; adhere to Shell’s rigorous health and safety standards; and design the office space for LEED Silver certification, a standard for measuring building sustainability.

And so the lease was negotiated with Canary Wharf Group for Shell Canary Wharf at 40 Bank Street, premium office space that had been mainly vacant since the building was completed in 2000. Shell got 22,500 sq m across10 floors to fit out to Shell’s global design standards. Canary Wharf was chosen because of its prominence, good transport access, amenities, and excellent links to the existing Shell Centre at Waterloo. The fit out was finished, and staff were relocated, at the end of 2011.

The finished workplace is certainly a space for staff to feel proud of. Every floor has an ultra contemporary design and is finished to a high specification. The reception area uses a palette of colour to reinforce the Shell brand with flashes of mustard-tan and red at the reception desk, brown leather seats, plush cream carpets, cubic atmospheric lighting and a giant flat screen on the wall. There is also general work areas containing individual workstations and numerous collaboration spaces, some with informal soft leather seating, as well as a large gym with machine-assisted training equipment, a deli facility offering healthy food and drinks which can be easily adapted for social functions, and even a meditation and reflection zone, and many more areas to make staff feel at home in their temporary facility.

“The feedback from staff about the new office environment has been overwhelmingly positive and we have all been impressed with the finished result,” said Shell facilities management. “The variety of different spaces included within the design and the attention to detail, make this a truly dynamic and flexible working environment to be proud of.”

Since it’s a temporary project it was important for Shell to find a balance between the space being fit for purpose and being able to market it in the future. Shell aims to be the most competitive and innovative company in the energy industry. The establishment of a happy, energised workforce is key to achieving this with Shell Canary Wharf adding value in three primary ways: by promoting wellbeing, efficiency and collaboration.

Through the creation of an engaging workplace where staff wellbeing is emphasised, Shell is seen as a great place to work which means that talent is attracted and retained, and business and recruitment costs are reduced. Efficiency is achieved by way of the built environment assisting staff in their daily operations and through operational efficiency such as the use of dynamic desk sharing. This has allowed Shell to reduce its planned tenancy by two floors. Collaboration is facilitated by having open plan spaces (compare this with the Waterloo site with cellular project team offices). These are supported by a variety of different formal and informal break-out settings for collaborative and individual working. The IT infrastructure fully supports this flexible and interactive working. The inclusion of these different collaboration settings is a substantial change to working culture at Shell, and has facilitated improved internal communication, promotes innovation, team problem solving and creates a vibrant and active workplace.

By focussing on staff wellbeing, inclusion and collaboration, Shell aims to present itself as an enterprising organisation. On this project alone, enterprise is further demonstrated in numerous ways from improving safety to consulting with staff to using technology to help boost productivity to the sustainable measures implemented.

For safety of the fit-out, Goal Zero – part of Shell’s culture for many years - was instigated (as well as a strict Code of Practice and Procedures followed), which established a protocol for all parties to ensure zero accidents, near misses, or risks to health. Experience during the project highlighted that safety intervention between trades could be improved and an incentive scheme was developed that rewarded individuals or organisations that proposed or incorporated systems to improve Health, Safety, Security and Environmental (HSSE) issues. Safety days and events were held with mandatory attendance by all contractors, consultants and Shell employees involved with the project to review, familiarise, and update all parties.

Recognising that a successful working environment fully supports the needs of the occupants, Shell collected and analysed their specific requirements and used these to inform the architectural/interior design and the fixtures which support them. A detailed review of existing Shell space budgets, sharing standards, spaces standards, time use studies and mobility programmes was undertaken to understand the Shell workplace culture and reveal potential opportunities for improvement. Surveys were done, focus groups established and cultural analysis of the workforce was undertaken to identify differences between business functions, establish desire for change and any unique requirements. Based on this, Shell then set targets, standards, and ratios and fed them into Shell’s connect workplace design standards.

Technology has been harnessed to help boost the productivity of staff, to address work-life balance issues associated with working across multiple time zones and to bring efficiency improvements through reducing the need to travel. Wireless Anywhere connectivity is provided to assist the flexible work strategy and functionality of the alternative work settings. Connectivity is embedded into meeting and collaboration room furniture to enable occupants to easily share audiovisual facilities in a group. They can also plug in and share data/screen information via the use of a simple ‘puck’ or switch. There are also formal and informal video conference and communication facilities, virtual messaging, meeting and broadcast facilities, a global print management system and a room booking system for all rooms which can be accessed and managed through Shell intranet facilities.

Sustainability and environmental measures are also at the forefront of the project, an awareness of personal and corporate carbon footprints being an important part of Shell’s culture. The project was designed to achieve a minimum LEED Silver certification, a green building rating system. Gold certification is currently under review. From construction and furniture material selection to day-to-day recycling, Shell has managed and continues to manage the project in an environmentally responsible way. Lighting has an important positive impact on carbon footprint and on staff wellbeing. Not only are the majority of staff seated in space next to the windows to maximise their access to daylight (an important mood elevator), but all lighting installed in internal and external zones, by Future Designs, is linked to daylight monitoring to ensure optimum use. Plus energy efficient LED lighting has been used in all areas for feature and point lighting, which further reduces energy requirements and operational costs.

Shell recognised that change to staff’s immediate workplace has a huge effect on their work satisfaction and enjoyment and so set out to manage and deliver Shell Canary Wharf, and migrate staff there, with minimal disruption. The end result? A contemporary, hi-tech, functional, flexible, comfortable and environmentally conscious -workplace that staff can be really proud of: a home from home.

Shell will stay here for about five years until the redevelopment at Waterloo is complete. Then they will move back.

There’s no place like home.

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