Making people feel at home in the office

The content below has been taken from an article published by David Clensy, Business Editor for the Bristol Post...

For Charlotte Raynes the importance of having a pleasant working environment is clear. “Let’s not forget that most people spend more time in the office than anywhere else in their life except for their bed,” she says.

“The idea that an office should be a grey box with a few desks and some tired old carpet tiles is just unreasonable when you think about it.”

As Managing Director of workplace interior design company Amarelle, she gets to think a lot about what makes a great place of work - and the company’s own St Philip’s headquarters, in Silverthorne Lane, is a prime example of workplace design done very well. After all, you would expect nothing less.

“We came here 12 months ago,” Charlotte explains. “The company was started by our chairman Mark Colfer back in 2009 - a difficult time to launch this kind of business, immediately after the credit crunch.

“He had been working in the construction industry for many years, and had found himself unemployed as a result of the crash. Someone suggested he should try going it alone, so he did.

“Mark began Amarelle really with a contract to redesign a series of regional newspaper offices for Local World, and set up home in a converted toilet on the ground floor of the Bristol Post building on Temple Way.”

By the time Charlotte arrived at the company three years ago, things were already going well for Amarelle - having moved out of the toilet and to a slightly larger office at 1 Temple Way, and with three employees working for a growing raft of clients across the country.

Since then things have moved on apace for Amarelle as its client base grows on the rising tide of the improving economy. Now employing a team of 13 full-time staff, and occupying its new office which comes complete with a large showroom facility.

“When we first arrived here the place was really quite rundown - the carpets were disgusting and the false ceiling was half hanging off. But we could see the potential the place had - we knew how great it would be to be able to have a showroom where clients could actually sit in the seats and at the tables that we were suggesting in our designs.

“Our business is all about transparency and openness, so this sort of open plan working space fitted perfectly with our company ethos.”

Charlotte says this process echoed the way the firm’s expert designers normally work with companies on an office redesign.

“We sit down with them and talk through their company ethos and the skill of our designers comes in by being able to translate that ethos into a three dimensional space.”

Amarelle has created exciting new workplaces for a range of companies across the region - from Savills to Audiogum; from Planning Inspectorate to Royal London - and has recently been given the contract to redesign the headquarters of magazine publisher Future Publishing in Bath.

“It’s a wonderful place to work because every job is very different,” Charlotte says. “It’s also a very happy place to work - we have a great team, and we have a great time. It really isn’t all about the money.”

Despite the fact that it is ‘not all about the money’, the firm also prides itself on treating its staff very well - and has a profit scheme which sees 10 per cent of the profits each year evenly distributed through the staff, meaning the receptionist or the office junior getting the same bonus as the managing director.

“We believe in treating people well, whether that’s our staff, our clients or our contractors,” Charlotte says.

“It’s important to treat people well from a business perspective - it means you retain a good team, clients pass on your praises to new clients by word of mouth and contractors will come to your aid when you really need help on a project on a weekend when you’ve hit a problem. It just makes sense to be nice.”

The company also keeps careful track of the effect that their work has on the development of their clients’ business.

“Having a nice working environment that works well for you is incredibly important. That’s particularly recognised by the younger generations coming through - the millennials who come out of beautifully designed universities these days and want equally beautiful places to work."

“These days offering your staff a pleasant environment can be one of the main issues when it comes to retaining staff - and given the great expense that surrounds employing new staff, often maintaining a pleasant working environment can save a company money in the long run.”

Charlotte says that the contrast between the swish interiors of the Amarelle showroom and the slightly-grim industrial environment of the St Philip’s street outside can have a stunning effect on visiting clients.

“But this area is really on the cusp of a big regeneration push - with the further development of Temple Quay down the road, the new university campus, Engine Shed 2 and the proposed Arena project - so we will be very well placed here in the coming years.”

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