Bidwells opens new ‘agile’ workspace in Cambridge
One of the UK’s leading property consultancy firms has completely transformed its headquarters on Trumpington Road
Richard Pemberton, High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire, cut the ribbon on Wednesday, March 14 on Bidwells’ high specification Trumpington Road headquarters, and its 264 Cambridge staff raised a toast in their modern ground floor café, known as The Brewery Cafe.
The redeveloped space is the first Bidwells site in the country to fully embrace the concept of agile working.
The idea is to empower staff to work where, when and how they choose. Strict timetables, such as the standard nine to five, are not adhered to, as employees are simply entrusted to get the work done.
In Bidwells’ drastically redesigned Cambridge office – which houses its commercial, rural, planning, residential and building consultancy divisions – there are no fully enclosed areas, apart from a few meeting rooms, and no one, not even the senior partners, has their own fixed desk.
All belongings are stored in lockers and there is only one printer on each floor in an effort to cut down on the use of paper.
Work can be done while seated or standing and there are ordinary chairs and comfortable chairs, both out in the open or in slightly more private spaces.
Julie Archer, director of people and change at the firm, told the Cambridge Independent: “We started off thinking about agile with the building in mind, but as we’ve progressed we’ve expanded that.
“For us, agile is about empowering our people and we’re very good at that, so we’re taking it to the next level.
“We’re giving people choice and making sure that people are enabled to be the best that they can be – so thinking about the task in hand and how you get the best result from that task.
“If that’s about being in a certain place in the office, or not being in the office or being at a client’s site, then we’re saying that’s fine to do that.”
Julie continued: “This is a real mindset change and it’s about rewiring our brains to say, ‘What am I trying to achieve? How do I do that?’ and Bidwells saying we trust you. Trust plays a big part in this.
“The only individuals who will have what we call ‘anchored desks’ are either those with medical conditions who need to have them, or those with specialist equipment where moving around is just not practical.”
Munro Building Services led on the mechanical and electrical installation side of the project, while office design and fit-out specialists, COEL, delivered the internal design and refurbishment.
Bidwells’ own architecture and project management teams formed the main consultant team.
Neil Cook, managing director of COEL, said: “Not only have Bidwells adopted a brave approach, but they have led by example, embracing modern agile working methods that set a new standard for the Cambridge office market.
“We are proud to see their teams exploring and enjoying their new office space and look forward to trying out the new café ourselves.”
Richard Pilsworth is a partner at Bidwells and has been with the firm for 35 years. In his role as head of Cambridge, he oversaw the project and is delighted with the results and the reaction to it so far. He notes that the layout is vastly different to the way it was when he first joined.
“In 1982, you came in the front door and there were central corridors,” recalled Richard.
“Each window was a cellular office with one door into the corridor and you knocked on someone’s door and went into see them, if they were there.
“If you were a partner, you got two windows. That was the world we lived in.” Not any more.