Ringing the changes in the workplace
Rachel Mooney: "We found that the old traditional way we were organised here was not very good."
INNOVATION PROFILE VodafoneA new office layout is part of a deliberate effort to make the company a better place to work
The first things that strike you when you walk through the Vodafone headquarters in the south Dublin suburb of Leopardstown is the amount of light, colour and noise about.
What few partitions exist tend to be made of glass and this combines with the glass frontage of the building to make natural light a pervasive influence. The warm red of the Vodafone livery reinforces the sense of colour and lightness.
Then there is the noise – but it’s not the machine noise of hard disks whirring or air-conditioning systems you might expect from a building which houses 1,000 staff.
The dominant sound is conversation between the people who work there. After that you start to notice other things which are quite unexpected in a corporate HQ.
The first is the almost complete absence of offices. Not even the chief executive has one. The second is the layout of the desks which are arranged at angles to each other rather than in the serried ranks favoured by office managers almost since time immemorial.
The absence of paper around the place is another feature which strikes you and, as you explore further, you find a distinct lack of meeting rooms and no leather seated boardroom either.
If you had time to count them all you would find an apparent insufficiency of desks, there’s only about 700 of them for the 1,000 staff that use them.
These unusual design features and shortage of desks are all part of a deliberate effort on the part of Vodafone to make the company a better place to work, according to HR director Rachel Mooney.
“About two years ago, we decided to shake up how we get our work done here at Vodafone. In the space where we operate as a company, there is a need to be innovative, creative and agile and we found that the old traditional way we were organised here was not very good for that.”
The old way of working had the company organised and segmented on traditional lines and the offices reflected that.
“We weren’t very good at communicating internally,” Mooney says. “People needed to speak to each other more but we were quite siloed organisationally with the quite poor communications between the different teams. This tended to hold back new ideas and creativity and we decided to design a working environment that would encourage communications and allow people to be more creative.”
This started with all of the individual offices being taken away and lots of the meeting rooms being removed as well.
“We also removed any territories that people could take ownership of, so the storage units that used to create solid corridors were all taken away.”
Of course, you can’t simply remove all traditional forms of business organisation. “People need to work and have their jobs to do in areas such as marketing or finance or HR,” she points out.