Earlier this year office furniture specialists Posturite were tasked by global fashion retail giant YOOX Net-a-Porter to provide a versatile seating solution for their brand new London offices. After a careful selection process they chose the HÅG Sofi mesh.
Guest blogging for us this week, Posturite's Zoe Thomas went to visit the recently opened tech hub to speak to their facilities manager, and see the chairs in action.
It’s early August and, of course, pouring with rain in Hammersmith and Fulham’s tech district. That doesn’t seem to put off of the blues musician playing a keyboard under a pink gazebo in the square, or the stallholders selling artisan cheese and crafts beside him. It’s surprising but pleasing to find a slice of Borough Market’s quirk and bustle smack-bang in the middle of West London’s newest, shiniest business district.
White City Place is a far cry from the soulless business parks that flooded London’s suburbs in the nineties and noughties, which were essentially glorified car-parks surrounded by A-roads. The office buildings were perfunctory and uninspiring – long corridors and rows of computers, suited employees hunched over their screens. People had to get into their cars and drive to find the nearest shop at lunch.
Here, there’s clearly been a lot of investment and – more importantly, thought. RIBA award-winning architects have designed stylish, glass-fronted office blocks flanking a wide, tree-lined avenue. There are high-end restaurants, trendy cafes, bars and High Street shops. There are outdoor sitting areas, grass, birds, piazzas – places to walk and unwind. I feel like I’m in the middle of a buzzing metropolitan city, not a business park.
YOOX Net-a-Porter Group (YNAP)’s new Tech Hub is located in the Mediaworks building. This offers 231,000sq ft of bright, open space built around a spectacular light-filled atrium. Even on a rainy day like today the place positively radiates with light and energy.
I’m met by Cristalle Charles-Morrell , YNAP’s facilities manager, who looks impressively immaculate after rushing across London from the company’s other location at Westfield shopping centre.
‘Immaculate’ appears to be the order of the day at YNAP. Everybody is well-dressed, everything is in perfect order, every detail is high-spec. Even the rug beneath my feet in the reception area is woven with real copper wire to give it a muted shine. Perhaps it’s not surprising, considering YNAP is the seller of Jimmy Choo shoes and Gucci handbags.
“Our Westfield office is more high fashion,” Cris jokes. “Lots of monochrome and glossy chandeliers. This is a little softer, more of a Scandinavian influence.”
She takes us down to the main kitchen to grab a drink. I instantly fall in love with the coffee machine, which is just an elegant chrome tap extending through the polished marble worktop, beside an iPad. Staff can use the iPad to select their preferred beverage, adjust the strength and choose the amount they want. They can even programme it from the comfort of their own desks so it’s all ready to go by the time they get to the kitchen. Now that’s what I call productivity.
There are six wood-cladded ‘tea rooms’ located strategically around the office but Cris tells me they keep all the microwaves in one place to encourage people to leave their workstations and mingle with other departments.
It’s true, there is a relaxed atmosphere here. People sit scattered about in various seats – pull-out stools, sofas, privacy booths, benches and Dr Evil-style wing back armchairs. People are talking animatedly over their laptops and papers while they eat lunch. It’s clear that they genuinely love their work.
California’s Silicon Valley pioneered the way for staff happiness and wellbeing initiatives at work, but White City is a hot contender with YNAP offering lunchtime yoga and gym use in addition to active work-spaces.
I’m told that the architect, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, set out to create a space that was ‘good for humanity’. He wanted to move away from regimented office space and create somewhere that was flexible and reconfigurable according to staff needs.
We settle down with our drinks in the atrium – one of the many collaborative spaces in the building, and I find I have a clear view of our HÅG SoFi mesh chairs being used by a team of coders. I could be biased, but I think they look fantastic.
“I agree,” says Cris. “They’re really in keeping with the Scandinavian style. We loved that we could choose the colours to match our scheme.”
But, although obviously important to the fashion retailer, it’s not all about style. Cris tells me that staff report fewer musculoskeletal issues at the Tech Hub than at their Westfield and Charlton locations where the HÅG SoFis are not yet in standard use.
“My personal assistant has a slipped disc. For a long time she couldn’t sit down anywhere. The HÅG SoFi is the only chair she can use comfortably,” Cris tells me. “With the Tech Hub we had a blank slate. We wanted to make sure uncomfortable seating was never a problem for anyone. People here do intensive work for long periods of time. We wanted to make sure they were as comfortable as possible. It’s a significant investment to make, but we’ve already saved ourselves so much time and money not having to deal with so many DSE issues.”
Undoubtedly, the HÅG SoFi chairs are good. But I want to know what it’s like to work with our seating team.
“Their support made all the difference,” Cris says, to my delight. “I wasn’t here during the chair selection process but I know it went smoothly. You gave us eight different chairs to trial over an eight-week period and during that time we put them through extensive testing.”
Our seating team – headed up by Seating Specialist David Kirtley, helped put together a scoring matrix to make the selection process as straightforward as possible. Factors included cost, environment, comfort and usability. The team worked closely with YNAP alongside external architects and designers to find the perfect chair.
“When it came to delivery, the offices were still being fitted. There were holes in the floor and wires hanging out of the wall. It was not an easy project but Posturite worked around our issues and managed so well around all the chaos.”
She added – “The after-sales support has been exceptional. They helped our staff get familiar with their new chairs with demonstrations and helpful leaflets. Without that kind of hands-on support we wouldn’t have made the most of our chairs. Communication has been absolutely flawless. They’re incredibly helpful and available whenever we need their expertise.”
After taking a tour of the entire office – cinema rooms and all, I leave YNAP’s Tech Hub feeling incredibly jealous, but also pleased that such a reputable, glamorous brand continues to enjoy a positive experience with Posturite.
We may have started 26 years ago as a one-man-band, but today we have the expertise, resources and contacts to take on much bigger projects. The message we want future and existing clients to hear is that we’re not just the specialists you call when an employee has a bad back. Our country-wide team can support your entire health and wellbeing strategy, from consulting, chair selection, installation, DSE assessments, training and so much more.
You can watch a video about the new YNAP offices here:
This article originally appeared on August 16 on the Posturite blog.