The need to retain essential workers and avoid additional employment costs has encouraged Bounty, the UK’s biggest parenting club and leading marketing channel for brands wanting to target new parents, to extend its home-based working practices using garden offices.
Following its acquisition in late 2007 by North American internet specialist Kaboose, Bounty needed to make changes to its operations. One of the most important was to consolidate office services into single premises in Welwyn Garden City where its sales, research, HR operations and principal management functions had been located for almost 15 years. It wasn’t an easy decision, because the main operational hub of the business had been located in the unlikely environs of Diss in Norfolk.
With website operations successfully established at Welwyn, the company planned to bring its key editorial and publishing team from Norfolk to the same office, a distance of some 85 miles. However, with established roots in the Diss area, including young families and other personal ties, three key individuals in the team – all of whom lived within an eight mile radius of each other - were not keen to relocate.
The individuals’ unique experience and detailed knowledge would have been a great loss to the company so Bounty management really didn’t want to consider employing a new publishing team at Welwyn.
Stephen Taylor HR Director of Bounty said: “Not only would new staff be more costly, but the business would have lost the unique experience and detailed knowledge of an existing team which liaises directly with health professional experts, government departments and specialist organisations over a range of sensitive issues such as babycare, infant nutrition and parenting policy. While in theory, broadband allows individuals to function and communicate with a degree of success from office locations anywhere in the world, we needed to achieve a better solution for the team, especially as departmental meetings between the three members of the team were always going to become more numerous and necessary.”
While home-based working was the obvious solution for all three members of the Diss-based publishing team, only the Designer could offer a viable work place within his own home. In the other two cases, an absence of available space and existing family demands made any internal office impractical. Fortunately, although their houses were unable to accommodate an office, both Publications Manager, and her assistant had small gardens with adequate spare space to accommodate one of the more compact garden office designs from Henley Offices (picture top).
The buildings selected for both employees were Henley’s ‘Compact Mini’ – a one person office offering an internal workspace of 4.4 sq metres.
“We selected Henley Offices for several reasons, says Stephen Taylor. “Whilst price was a critical issue, so too was the choice and attractiveness of their product range. At the end of the day we are asking the employee to give up some of their garden for a workspace, so it makes sense that the building should appeal to the employee and their family on an aesthetic level. We also knew the company by reputation and the fact that they had more than 450 satisfied customers around the UK gave us the reassurance we needed.”
Installation was trouble-free although one of the employee’s home in a conservation area required planning permission from South Norfolk District Council, a process which was managed by the Henley Customer Services Team at no extra charge.
Whilst the buildings belong to the company and they can be diss-assembled and removed in a few hours by one of Henley’s fitting teams should either employee leave the company, Stephen Taylor believes it is more likely that Bounty would eventually gift the building to the employee. “Henley showed us evidence that their buildings can add up to 4% to the value of a typical property, something that makes them a better asset for the householder than ourselves. After all, we’ve already covered the purchase price through cost savings.
"Indeed the combined cost of buying and equipping both buildings would be rather less than the recruitment cost of replacing three highly valued employees. As such, it is fair to say that the Henley garden offices paid for themselves immediately. We identified the cost of running a workplace in our head office is around £12k per annum, but as the publishing team is Mac-based the IT costs would have been proportionately higher, given the PC-led environment at Welwyn. So we’ve been able to contract the existing Mac specialist in South Norfolk to manage the team’s home-based computing needs without adding to our in-house IT operation at head office. Meanwhile all three have direct lines with a Welwyn STD code, or they’re accessed via our main switchboard, to aid continuity for external callers.”
Having evaluated the performance of the home-based team in Diss, Stephen Taylor is enthusiastic: “If anything, productivity has improved and our experience is encouraging us to allow more of our employees to work from home. Meanwhile, the team is still able to attend regular meetings at head office as and when required, without the need for overnight stays. So costs stay at a minimum.”
There are also positive domestic repercussions of an office in the garden. The Publications Assistant has a 13 year old son, and in the evening, the garden office is able to provide a warm, quiet and TV-free space for him to complete homework as well as serve a useful repository for mum’s own domestic paperwork.
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