Following a major refurbishment of the Civic Centre back in 2012, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council recognised that the largely open plan environment was being used in widely varying degrees. HLM worked with Directors, members of staff and SBC Council Members in the form of a survey to create a more inclusive workplace environment.

Design Approach

Using our collaborative design approach, we worked with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council on their vision 2050. Working with their Chief Executive and the Transformational Team, we developed their Workplace strategies to create a contemporary agile working environment.

Our team implemented a space utilisation study for SBC relating to various headquarters and administrative offices in Southend. When SBC carried out a major refurbishment of the Civic Centre in 2012, there was a recognition that space was being used to widely varying degrees within the building. Teams had different needs for space, and the absence of a set of protocols for using the space had resulted in a ‘territorial’ approach to space and behaviours, that were not appropriate in a largely open plan environment.

SBC was also keen to attract various public sector partners into the Civic Centre, and embark on a programme of culture change with a truly supportive approach to mobile working. We planned, managed and resourced the entire utilisation survey programme, working closely with SBC’s Project Lead at all times. SBC shared our view that movement sensors to monitor utilisation would be difficult to introduce and would immediately create a sense of division and potential conflict.

Our project team was commended by the Project Lead plus many members of staff for the manner in which they conducted the survey.

The survey covered workstations, meeting rooms, informal meeting spaces and the ‘Members’ Suite’, an area normally out of bounds. We interviewed almost 20 Directors, members of staff and SBC Council Members as part of our programme of works. This process was important in helping to socialise various ideas and emerging opportunities throughout the commission.

We used the survey data to identify opportunities to ‘rebalance’ the space in the main Civic Centre building, create space for a public sector partner, relocate a team from an adjacent administrative building, and create a more open and supportive working environment for all – irrespective of status or role.

A significant and unplanned outcome from the survey work has been created through a strong collaborative spirit between our team and SBC’s Project Lead, senior management team and key members. Finally, we have created an awareness among SBC’s senior management team about good practice in office space utilisation, and the cultural and symbolic changes which the team could lead and help deliver.

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