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Bringing The Worker Back Home: Nokia's New London Headquarters

Photo credit: Gensler

Changes abound within the European tech sector. An increasing number of companies are fleeing sprawling corporate campuses in favour of urban digs. London is becoming the Silicon Valley of Europe, attracting established companies and start-ups alike. And companies are finding it more challenging to vie for the talented younger employees they need to stay competitive.

When we began work on the London headquarters for Nokia, challenging times faced the telecoms giant. An aggressive arena of new technology players was vying for a share of the market, and Nokia was fighting to hold its footing. A new partnership with Microsoft, aimed at creating an associated mobile platform technology, represented a welcome opportunity to get back on the cutting edge. Nokia saw the development of sharp new products, such as the latest Lumia family, as a sure fire way to impress the new generation of users.

But Nokia also needed help back at its home base. Several years ago the company introduced a system of mobile working that over time significantly reduced the average amount of time Nokia employees spent at their desks. Desk utilisation dropped to below 30 percent, and an increase in mobile work significantly reduced team collaboration and face to face activity. This was having a far reaching effect on staff morale and productivity. With more and more people working from home, conference calls took the place of in-person meetings and teams struggled to deliver their best.

We entered the project looking for a remedy to fight this decline. The new Nokia office had to be a place that enticed workers to come back to the mother ship, while still providing them with a certain level of customization. An employee that’s used to the flexibility provided by mobile work will not respond well if he or she is forced to come back to the office and sit at the same desk day after day. We needed to create a more fluid office that provided a variety of work spaces that workers could use to collaborate with each other and focus on individual tasks. This was going to be a workplace that would both re-invent Nokia to its own people and introduce a new Nokia to the next generation of potential workers.

One of the most interesting observations on the project is the delicate fine line between getting a mobility programme right. Having your workforce all in separate locations and always meeting virtually was not an effective workplace strategy even for a telecoms giant like Nokia. The company needed people to come together. Even in our tech heavy world, people are still the important component of any business, and this project illustrates how essential the human interaction element is critical keeping employees happy and driving the creation of new ideas.

Matt is a Design Director within the Workplace Studio at Gensler, London. Matt feels passionately about developing new and exciting spaces to define more efficient and creative ways of working, but equally important for people to both enjoy themselves at work and be inspired by their everyday experiences within the office landscape. Matt has followed the progression of the workplace over the last 2 decades and is very excited about the meeting of various factors in our modern society that are creating one of the big step changes in our approach to work that he has experienced and has set the scene for a new generation of design innovation. Contact him at matt_jackson@gensler.com.

Reader Comments (4)

Well done. Looks like well designed 'creative space'.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAA Collins
Thanks for the appreciated note, One of the goals on the project was to not specifically prescribe uses for every space, leave some scope for evolution and let the users find their best ways to use, some of these spaces have found surprise uses for creative purposes. I think if you give people opportunitites to be creative in their own space, positive things happen, Facebook being another good example.
02.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Jackson
great to see this video and the built result of a fluid office space, reminds me of some discussions i have had about "liquid spaces" and the flexibility of work settings...
02.22.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdoug wittnebel
Great project Matt - well done. I heard someone state recently that we have digital minds and analogue hearts - I like that description, and it sums up the Nokia challenges
05.7.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark Catchlove

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