= Interviewer J = Jan Dunn
I So Jan, why did BA decide to move to Waterside?
J Well, we had a lot of people scattered about in a lot of different buildings. British Airways has been around a long time so we've inherited a lot of old offices and buildings. Leases were running out on a lot of key buildings on the Heathrow site and we decided that rather than try to renew them, it would make more sense for us financially to build a new building on this site. So although it was a ￡200m project, it was, in fact, a cost-effective move for BA.
I But why such a radically different building? What was the main objective?
J Well, we knew from opinion surveys that our work environment needed improving. When designing the building, we very much wanted to realise a vision which was team-based and spaced, one that involved bringing people together in an open working environment. We now have an excellent facility where people can meet and work anywhere in the building. And by centralizing our information and data, we can now work together much more effectively than before. We also looked at informality and ways of reducing hierarchy.
I Such as?
J Physically, we used to have a very hierarchical set-up. PAs, for example, used to sit right outside the manager's office and we questioned whether that kind of system really helped the way we worked. We also looked at things like the size and purpose of office space. And we made small changes like not allocating executive parking.
I So, how is the building laid out?
J Right, the building itself was designed around a village structure. What we've got is a central street with six houses coming off it. It's designed so residents, that's the people who work here, park in a secure area beneath the building and then come up through the street. This means they have to walk through the street to get to their place of work, wherever that might be that day. And the idea there was very much, and it does work, that we would all be very visible and we would stop and talk or bump into each other at the shop or the bank. So, again, everyone, whatever their level, comes through the building the same way.
I So, if someone can be working anywhere in the building, how do you find them?
J It's very simple. All the phones in the building are dumb terminals. So, wherever I am in the building, I can log into the system as 95001, which activates that particular terminal and directs all my calls to it. So I'm always 95001, whether I'm in the building or even at home. We also have voice mail and an electronic diary system just in case people are unavailable. And obviously there are maps in the street and information points as well.
I Going back to the street for a moment, I noticed there are lots of high street facilities. What was the thinking behind that?
J Well, it's very clear that people need to do things like pop to the bank or pick up shopping or whatever. Normally if you want to do those things, you're going to have to dash out at lunchtime or after work. So what we've done is identify what people need to do and we've just made them available on site. It's a convenience thing, that's all.
I Oh right. Yes, that's handy. Now I believe you've also looked at changing the meetings culture.
J Yes, we're encouraging people on the classics really: making sure you need to meeting and that you're inviting the right people. I suppose we're suggesting that we wouldn't expect a useful meeting to be bigger than say 20 people. But we've got a lot of flexibility. I can choose a location suited to the type of meeting I want to run. There's everything from the cafes and informal meeting rooms right up to the theatre, which seats 400 people.
I So what difference has Waterside made to your typical day?
J Right, well, first thing in the morning I have a choice of whether I come into Waterside or not because I've got a laptop and access to the computer network from home or from other sites. So what I've tended to do is try and book meetings all on the same day if I can as it cuts down my travelling time basically. And if I do come into Waterside, I've just got more options. I really feel I get things done quicker and more effectively and that I'm making better use of my time.