British Heart Foundation – A strategic switch to hybrid working
We have been working with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) since 2016. During this time, the BHF have received a national award for its flexible working strategy. In addition, we've helped the charity to reduce its real estate footprint by 28%.
Kicking off the process
AWA held a vision workshop with the BHF’s senior leaders and managers to discuss the businesses priorities, the people and behaviors needed to support future working.
The study resulted in a variety of recommendations from workplace technology enhancement, leadership skills, cultural changes and workplace design and management.
One of the most pressing ‘tactical’ items on the BHF’s agenda was how to support its dramatic headcount growth in its London-based population, centred around its office at Greater London House in Mornington Crescent. As well as accommodating the BHF’s London workforce ‘GLH’ was also a symbolic and practical focal point for research meetings with partner organizations.
From our study, we knew that the office could support a much larger population if a Smarter Working regime was introduced. Everyone, including the CEO, could work in a mobile fashion in the office using space on a ‘just in time’ basis. To turn the idea into reality we worked with designers and space planners to redesign the BHF workplace to accommodate a smart working model, which meant increasing collaboration spaces and places where people could do quiet and confidential work, introducing new storage solutions and unassigning most workplaces. Given that the BHF only had five years left to run on their lease at GLH, it was vital that all the investments made in furniture were able to be reused wherever BHF landed.
The change program
To prepare the community of 700 staff for the implementation of Smarter Working, we worked with leaders, teams and a carefully selected network of Champions to design and deliver an engaging change program. To complete the program we delivered a training program involving anyone at GLH that had responsibility for managing people. The evidence-backed program ensured every people manager had the knowledge and tools necessary for managing their teams in a Smarter Working environment.
The ideas for change needed to be radical in order to achieve the results they were aiming for. It was identified that the office lease the BHF were operating in was coming up for renewal, offering a great opportunity for change to take place. Initial suggestions included reducing the BHF’s London real estate footprint to use the remaining space more flexibly, and therefore not renewing the lease. Headquarters spaces could be used for working purposes on a hybrid model so the entire team is not there at the same time, as well as using the space to host more social events.
In the background, discussions about the wider findings from our study were being explored with senior leaders. A number of options for the transition of the BHF’s office portfolio in the UK were discussed, all taking on board the transition to Smarter Working, using offices as hubs for most people and homes for some. There were a number of cultural, infrastructure and commercial obstacles that would need to be addressed in order for the benefits of the strategy to be realized.
One critical element that needed immediate attention was the IT infrastructure. Like many organizations, IT wasn’t the BHF’s core business and its infrastructure had evolved organically with each department tending to do what made sense for it. Building on the BHF’s own thinking, our study supported the evolution to a more integrated collaborative solution centred around a Microsoft Teams platform. Over 18 months the infrastructure was rolled out, teams trained and a whole new digital way of working became the norm.
Then came the pandemic.
Fast forward to March 2020 and the pandemic forced the BHF’s employees to suddenly work remotely 100% of the time. The BHF wanted to use the pandemic to move forward with their Smart Working program to prepare the organization for a future way of working.