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In 2020, the global office-based workforce changed how it operated, moving to a remote model. At the same time, the impact of climate change has moved to the front of mind for many businesses, in line with the continued importance of meeting customer expectations. So how will this affect the lettings branch of the future? Bidwells moved into a new office at the beginning of the year - and here's what went into its planning.
"We decided that we had to future proof our methods of working," says Alex Bloxham, Partner and Head of Residential Lettings at Bidwells. "We were going to make a big investment in an office space so we needed to think about the future, and how we'll continue to work."
Bidwells carefully considered the different ways that this could be achieved: whether through investing in the current space to "smarten it up" or securing a new site, close to its current head office, where it would have full say in the design and build. The agency chose the latter option, which meant it had the freedom to shape the new space to best suit how it operated, and its customers' needs.
Agile working and Covid-19
"The new office promotes agile working," says Alex. "Everyone has a locker and you can sit at any desk. The idea is to mix with your colleagues. You don't have to sit with just those in your team, you can sit with anybody and share ideas. It encourages communication and collaboration. It’s something that we will really be looking forward to doing more of as the restrictions ease."
The decision to work in an agile way was not influenced by Covid-19 - in fact, being an agile agency helped it to operate in an efficient manner from the beginning of the first lockdown. "We were probably more prepared for Covid because we've been working in an agile manner for the past three years," says Shelly MacDermott, Business Development & Marketing Coordinator at Bidwells.
"We were all ready and set up to move from a desk in an office, to a desk at home. And now, in the new office, the desks are all spaced out, it's a very open area office - ideal for social distancing."
Creating an attraction
The agency uses the latest technologies to promote its landlords properties, such as an interactive and personalised touchscreen map, HomeHub, to highlight key focal points of the area. "When someone comes into the office to rent or buy a property, they'll be able to have a look at what's within maybe a three mile radius of that property, including schools, cycle routes, places of interest," says Shelly. "I think that's quite a unique tool."
Similarly, the agency has invested in a large LED screen, measuring four metres by two metres and taking pride of place in its front windows. "We use it to display sale and rental properties, and key messaging videos about us as a business," says Shelly. "It does really jump out at you."
Having an attractive display and new office design is half the battle; people need to be able to see it. The location of the office has been well thought out to make sure it's obvious to passer-bys. "It's an eye-catching building. Our tenants, landlords and future clients will be drawn to it - and it's in a prominent location where it can increase general footfall," says Alex.
Top agencies should also want to employ top talent - and having an inviting office space is just another way to attract the right people. "The new building draws people in to want to work for Bidwells," says Alex. "If you've got really nice offices, talent is going to want to work there. It's a good draw all around!"
Creating a "sustainable" appeal
The building was designed and constructed with a sustainable future in mind, using the latest materials and innovations, such as high-performing windows allowing in plenty of natural light, solar panels, and a timber-gabled larch roof - which is both sustainable and in-keeping with local architectural design. "The new office was built with the environment and sustainability in-mind," says Shelly. "It is a building for now and certainly the future"
This is not only a good long-term business strategy, but also taps into the sustainable sentiments of customers in the Cambridge area. "I think the credentials of the building are a great selling point for tenants and for people that want us to look after their properties," says Alex.
"Cambridge is very environmentally aware and the world is moving in that direction. We hope that our office's innovative design might encourage future office buildings and places of work to be a bit more creative."
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