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Creating an office that does justice to such a brand as Coca-Cola is not an easy task. We wanted to reflect the rich heritage of the 128-year-old company as well as create a good working atmosphere for our 300 London employees. Given the extent of the work involved, we knew we had to get it right.
Having been happily based in Hammersmith for more than 20 years, it was an emotional experience to leave our long-term home. However, our desire for a world-class facility, and the repairs required to the existing building, meant we needed to look elsewhere.
After an extensive search, we settled on 1a Wimpole Street, a building in the West End with quite a history of its own, having been opened by King George V and Queen Mary in 1912 as the home of the Royal Society of Medicine. Our challenge was to transform the space into one that reflected Coca-Cola’s place in pop culture, create an environment that promoted and inspired creativity, and had sustainability at its heart.
At the centre of the office, we installed a custom-built double-sided wall that expanded across three floors, presenting original memorabilia retrieved from our archives in the US. This in itself was no easy task, with our archivist, Justine Fletcher, hunting through neon signs, coolers and vending machines in her search for the perfect pieces for this new space. From early advertising to the classic bottle contour, each display is chosen to represent the company’s iconic legacy.
Perhaps the greatest challenge in terms of the office layout was to appreciate that every person is different. Some work best alone, others in groups; we needed to reflect that in the layout and get the whole team on board from the very start. We took a collaborative approach, involving 73 employees across different project teams, covering areas such as eating, space and products.
They helped us make decisions about everything, from our café to the position of their desks. We even set up sample spaces at Hammersmith for staff to become accustomed to what their new home would be like. The upshot of this approach is a working environment that meets the diverse needs of our team and helps foster greater collaboration with agencies and partners – which is an added benefit of moving to the West End of London.
Sustainability sits at the heart of everything we do, and this office is no exception. But refitting an existing building presents its own challenges. Our response was to embed the green team – our dedicated sustainability experts – into the project from the very beginning. Their hard work can be seen in everything from the solar panels that produce some of our electricity to the Emeco chairs made from recycled bottles. This means the Wimpole Street workspace truly reflects our commitment to the planet. The building has since been awarded the SKA Gold rating in recognition of the sustainable fit out.
The office is packed with energy-saving and water-efficient features, including rainwater harvesting and coolers that use natural refrigerants. We looked to repurpose existing materials where we could – some of our handsome timber floors were reclaimed from a museum in Scotland and given a new lease of life.
All of this attention to detail has helped create an environment where people can be truly creative, and achieve their full potential. Nothing makes me happier than hearing my colleagues talk about the office not just as a place of work but as a space in which they take personal pride – a home away from home.
The move here has encompassed several years of work and 66,000 square feet across four floors – and I can safely say that this project was one of my most challenging, yet rewarding. But it is far from over. If I have learnt one lesson above all – and I have learnt many – it would be that a move such as this doesn’t end when your people come walking through the door. Overall, we are thrilled with our new home. We didn’t get everything right, but we are committed to keep working towards excellence.
Brenda Hofmann is director of procurement at Coca-Cola Europe and was the project lead for the office move
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