I’m a big believer that a workplace should both reflect and inspire the spirit of a business because it has such a fundamental impact on teams of people, quality of work and, ultimately, success and profitability.
Soul is an advertising agency based in London with a playful spirit and with people at its heart. Our aim was to both encourage and harness these values with a new workplace design that would lead to clever, fun, and exciting thinking, providing the freedom for people to embrace the sense of “what if?”
This wasn’t just some sort of cool, fun, throwaway project. We are a people business, first and foremost, and creating the right environment is essential to bringing in the right people to create great ideas.
And all the available research is clear that a focus on office space design can be an important strategic tool to foster business growth. The data shows that re-engineering a space to prioritise human interactions over efficiency increases sales and improves the quality of new ideas. Experts in the field have also found that workplace design is the biggest factor in determining employee happiness, a significant business issue when happy employees are 12% more productive.
This thinking, as much as our own belief in the values of great design, underpinned our desire to go ahead. We commissioned the artist Kate Philipson, aka Leopard’s Lunch, known for her pop art and fashion inspirations, to bring a playful design based around a love of music to the office working space. This fits with the culture of the business and our team’s love of music.
One of the more unusual features of the new office design is a “disco loo”, featuring illustrations inspired by major music artists and their lyrics. But it’s not just about the loo. James Brown’s rallying cry to the team, “I know you got soul because if you didn’t you wouldn’t be in here”, is emblazoned proudly across one of the main walls. Nobody who comes into the office can miss it.
The same musical inspiration carries through into meeting room tables that are decorated with a collage of classic, iconic, album covers. And, of course, there’s a playlist that provides the necessary surround sound, sometimes played on vinyl from a 1970s music cabinet.
In the few months since the redesign we’ve seen it make a significant impact, creating a vibrancy and positivity that attracts and excites the growing team of our own talent as well as our clients.
Our most innovative work for these clients, using technologies such as virtual reality, is now being successfully shortlisted for industry awards. We’ve also embarked on a successful run of new business and last Christmas we even created a musical ‘sprout’ keyboard, a free online game for people to play along with – all great examples that demonstrate that the environment we work in is essential in stimulating ideas.
These successes are a combination of a growing team attracted to an environment that has soul and a connection. People feel energised when they work here, not just our own team but also our clients, who come here for a fresh perspective, to break out of their own environments.
Since the office redesign, my belief in the power of a working environment to transform business performance has only been strengthened. Clearly not every business will want to invest in a disco loo, it’s just not appropriate for most, but it’s worth considering whether your current space is really best suited to your people, human interaction, and maximising the quality of your work.
– Mike Cullis is the CEO at Soul