Merging theory, research and practical expertise, Baker Stuart is the go-to guru for everything to do with agile working. In partnership with Hotbox for a few years now, Hotbox sat down with Colin Stuart, CEO at Baker Stuart, to discuss the brains behind the company, its relationship with Hotbox and its pivotal role in shaping the modern day agile working environment as we know it today.
Q: Why was Baker Stuart founded?
A: Baker Stuart officially started in 2010, but my interest in agile working came many years before; around the time I was working with the inestimable British architect Frank Duffy. He was a real pioneer of agile working, or ‘new ways of working’ as it was called back then. I was a project manager for workplace projects and noticed certain architects’ design affected my clients’ businesses.
The right design can have a fundamental impact on business performance, corporate culture, employee productivity and morale. Frank opened my eyes to this kind of design, and I started to consider how workplace design can support and enhance my clients’ businesses.
So for most of my career I’ve been tracking the trends and innovations in workplace design, and developing techniques to ensure workspaces are the best they can be for what really matters – people. That is effectively how Baker Stuart began; to see how we could continue the journey to helping client’s maximise their workplace for business performance, employee happiness and wellbeing.
Q: What kind of techniques have you created to offer to Baker Stuart’s clients?
A: The first thing we have to do is really get under the skin of our client’s business to find out what’s working, what’s not and how and where things can be improved. We have developed our ‘WorkLOOK toolkit’ which is a series of software, tools and techniques which enables us to go into a client’s business to help identify a strategy which works for them. We create a delivery plan to help them see how their workplace ‘vision’ can maximise their business’s performance.
We draw on a number of tools to compile the perfect plan for each client. We capture quantitative data including space utilisation studies and space metrics, and qualitative data such as online employee surveys, interviews and workshops. We also use our ‘PeopleLOOK’ tool approved by the International WELL Building Institute which ascertains staff satisfaction, wellbeing, perception and desires.
As part of our portfolio, we also deploy an array of sensor solutions such as environmental sensors to analyse air quality and environmental conditions. This assures staff health and cognitive performance. From this, we construct a workplace model that will make vital changes to a client’s business.
We also help devise their overall transition plans, supporting them through the entire process and quite often continuing beyond the delivery of the new environment. We help them plan and manage their workplaces going forward and fine tune the performance to suit the changing business.
Q: What are your clients looking for when they come to you?
A: Some clients just require assistance when moving offices without disruption, but usually they come to us with a view to improve their new workspace, particularly through agile working. Ultimately, we tailor each strategy to our client’s needs.
First we ascertain the issues: are staff members constantly distracted? Are team locations or the office layout preventing communication? Then we look to resolve them. There are three essential components to the perfect office which I refer to colloquially as the three Bs: the ‘bricks, bits and brains’. Bricks pertain to the workplace i.e. how does the workplace support the tasks being performed? The bits are the IT strategy and business processes - understanding how IT can support their business better. The brains are the people. How do we train staff and managers to work in a better way and use all the facilities available to them effectively?
We always ask the question: how can we encourage staff to work more productively? We then help a client with a management plan to ensure all aspects of their working environment is the right fit for the business once it has been put into practice.
Q: Where does Hotbox come into the equation?
A: I first got to know Hotbox 18 years ago when they were launching their first product and thought it was revolutionary. It was just what my clients needed to support mobile staff members. Yet the market suggested otherwise – I think it was ahead of its time. Agile working was in its infancy and not widely accepted or known about, but now things have changed. Now is the time for Hotbox.
I’ve been collaborating with Jamie, creator of Hotbox, for a number of years, where hopefully I have supported him with my perspective on the workplace tools make people’s lives at work completely seamless. For instance, I think the Hotbox products really cover all bases, from those with large volumes of paperwork, those wanting more of a design icon and those just wanting something simple to help them get set-up at the start of the day as quickly as possible.
Hotbox products have all the answers to people’s needs. If people need to move quickly around the office, Hotbox 1 is the answer. But if they are travelling from one building to another then Hotbox 3 is the solution.
It is a suite of products which help people maximise their agile working environment; they can set up their desks quickly and personalise their space. These are crucial factors to account for when creating the optimum agile working space for employees.
In terms of future plans, it is important for Hotbox and Baker Stuart to continue to work collaboratively, combining the latest workplace research and premium agile working products to ensure people are at their happiest in an agile working environment. We are really excited to work alongside Hotbox to give agile working the invaluable recognition it wholly deserves.