Take a tour inside the newly refurbished “Boden House” and discover how the British brand is shaking up workplace culture
There is no question that the high street needs to attract and retain outstanding employees to navigate the almost certainly choppy seas ahead. British brand Boden is putting its best foot forward in the battle to secure the industry’s top talent with a complete revamp of its headquarters, Boden House, which it unveiled to Drapers last month.
A tongue-in-cheek sign that read “Ugly building, nice clothes” once stood outside the brand’s 90,000 sq ft home in a north Acton office block in west London. However, Boden no longer needs to apologise. The brand’s sunshine yellow logo is displayed proudly on the side of the building and, inside, there is a buzz in the air as its 800-strong workforce start their working day.
“I started the business in 1991 in my flat in Westbourne Grove [west London] and since then we’ve moved office six times,” founder Johnnie Boden tells Drapers. “It was always a dream to have a lovely office one day.
“We spent a long time getting it right – before choosing [to refurbish]. We looked at moving to the West End, but it was expensive, and the office spaces tend to be very cramped.
“The big benefit of this space is that everyone is under one roof and everybody can see everybody else. The principle here above all else is about agile working, so people can share ideas and collaborate.
“Showing your people that you really care about their working environment makes a big difference to morale. And the ‘wow’ factor means there has been a big improvement in the quality of job applications.”
Showing your people that you really care about their working environment makes a big difference to morale
Boden enlisted London-based architect Spacelab on the project, which took two years to complete. The result is an impressively light and bright space that prioritises Boden’s “agile working” to appeal to a modern workforce. Formerly broken up in to six distinct floors, mezzanine levels have been added to create an open-plan space. To reduce the team’s reliance on desks, a variety of different workspaces – including booths, breakout areas, benches and quiet rooms – have been added.
“A big thing for us was creating a ‘one Boden’ mentality, which was difficult to achieve previously with the team split across so many different floors,” explains Karen Rooney, Boden’s people director. “It was about encouraging the sharing of ideas and working together more effectively – you might not need to have a meeting if you can look round and spot who you need to speak to and have a quick chat. We’ve also seen email traffic reduce.”
The heart of the building is a triple-height atrium, which is home to a social hub. A huge digital screen hangs over the space and a wooden staircase doubles as tiered seating where the entire workforce can gather for events or presentations.
“Open spaces were one of the key principles of the office design,” explains Spacelab co-founder and partner Nathan Lonsdale. “When we create offices, we’re trying to connect people so different teams get closer, talk about what they’re doing to each other and there’s more empathy between individuals. We wanted this space to be the place where everyone can bump into each other and have that chance meeting.”
It’s all about creating a space where people are proud to come to work
Karen Rooney, Boden people director
The space is having its desired effect. Head of buying, womenswear, Cristina Gilkes laughs that she can tick off half of her to-do list by bumping into colleagues as she walks through the hub.
Boden House has been split into different “neighbourhoods”, including the creative services hood, the digital hood and the people hood, and employees are encouraged to hot desk within their sections. In the midst of it all is “Johnnie’s Den”. Employees on the ground floor get a good view into their boss’s glass-fronted office – the only individual office in the building – where bright artworks line the walls and a bed for his dog, Sprout, sits.
Rooney concludes: “We’re spending more time at work, and you have to offer your employees more than a desk and a printer. It’s all about creating a space where people are proud to come to work.”