CBRE’S new office format saves firm £100,000

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PROPERTY consultancy CBRE is rolling out a new office concept across the UK which could reduce occupancy costs by 30 per cent.

The project, which aims to improve communication and stamp out waste through hot-desking and reducing paper usage, was championed by the Leeds office and is now being adopted by other CBRE offices.

The idea was conceived four years ago when Richard Sunderland became managing director of the Leeds office and decided to relocate his staff.

“Our old offices were fairly typical of most professional services and surveyors offices with rows and rows of filing cabinets,” he said. “It was a bit of a dump.”

So when a break clause came up in the firm’s lease in May 2013, Mr Sunderland took the opportunity to radically change the team’s culture and he moved staff from offices in Bank House, King Street, to the modern Toronto Square building on Infirmary Street.

The filing cabinets have gone, in favour of scanning and storing files digitally. A third of the company’s desks have also disappeared and staff are encouraged to sit in a different seat each day.

Each employee has a locker to store belongings and there are a number of “break-out” areas to encourage further interaction following a ban on eating at desks.

Mr Sunderland said: “Collaboration is a big thing. We have 70 people working in 10 different disciplines. I want people to know what everyone is doing. If we can cross-sell clients that’s great.”

He added: “People tend to sit in clusters so the agency side sits together and the professional services side sits together but everyone sits in a different seat each day.”

The company spent £340,000 on the fit-out of the 7,000 sq ft office. Following the move, paper filing was reduced by 90 per cent from 700 linier meters to 60 linier meters and is reducing further. Paper usage fell from 60,000 sheets per month to just over 20,000 per month.

When asked whether the personality of the office has been removed along with this minimalist approach, Mr Sunderland responded: “I think one or two people had concerns about that but I don’t think anyone bothers about that any more.

“The office is a friendlier, clearer and brighter space and it has brought everyone together.”

The concept is now being rolled out to other CBRE sites, including Birmingham, and the office is also used as a showcase for CBRE clients. “We have sown the seed and we hope that will make them think about changing their own offices,” Mr Sunderland said.

CBRE predicts that by adopting the same approach, businesses could reduce their occupancy costs by 30 per cent. The firm itself is saving £100,000 a year following the move.

“Our occupancy costs have gone down,” he added. “Some of that is rent because we moved at the right time and got a good deal but our new way of working has significantly reduced our running costs.”

The next stage of the project will involve reducing its off-site filing. It stores thousands of boxes of files in a warehouse in Leeds. “We pay a lot of money to keep them in there but we don’t need to keep all that paper,” said Mr Sunderland. “We will be having a big review of our storage and scanning the files we want to keep.”

It is also trialling the use of iPads for its staff to access data on the move rather than printing out information. “We think that’s the way forward,” he added.