Stonewater launches regional hubs to support trailblazing hybrid working model

Stonewater has launched three regional hubs to support its sector-leading permanent move to hybrid working.

Stonewater Reading Hub

The housing provider announced colleagues’ long-term shift to this way of working last year following the outstanding success of its homeworking arrangements during the pandemic.

Now it has opened three newly transformed workspace hubs – in Coventry, Reading and Bournemouth. While the organisation will remain predominantly home-based, the buildings will provide flexible workspace for colleagues to meet, catch up and collaborate when needed.

Taking on board the results of colleague surveys and interviews, the hubs have been designed to be light and airy while offering a variety of workspaces to meet different needs.

The workspaces, which are bookable online, include traditional desks, informal lounge areas with connectivity to other hubs for virtual chats, and meeting areas with screens so homeworkers can join remotely.
To improve accessibility, all areas are easy to move around and there is tactile Braille signage. All three sites also have electric vehicle charging points.

David Blower, Stonewater’s Executive Director – Corporate Services, said: “We are really excited to be opening these hubs, as they mark an important step forward in our working practices.

“The idea behind them is to build on the benefits of homeworking by providing the collaborative and informal catch-up opportunities offered by going into an office, which some colleagues have missed.

“With their range of different workspaces and informal areas, these hubs re-imagine the traditional office, enabling a truly flexible approach to how we work.”

Independent consultants Aberley, who specialise in designing people-focused workplaces, have created the new hubs by managing the reconfiguration and refurbishment of existing Stonewater offices.

The project has involved re-using, refurbishing and recycling furniture to reduce the hubs’ carbon footprint. Only 25% of furniture is new and all desk chairs have been re-used, saving 8,228kg of CO2 alone.

Where new furniture was necessary to support changing working practices, upcycled items were used, and redundant furniture has either been re-used elsewhere or recycled.

Fiona Anderson, Workplace Director at Aberley, said: “We pride ourselves on working with organisations to help create workplaces which are focused on people’s needs and bring out the best in them.

“Initially we interviewed and surveyed Stonewater colleagues on how and where they wanted to work. There were three clear priorities for a return to offices – to be able to collaborate, have ad hoc catch-ups and one-to-ones.

“They also wanted something more informal with a varied choice of spaces. These three hubs provide just that – light, bright, vibrant offices to complement homeworking and support Stonewater’s forward-thinking flexible working model.”

Stonewater’s investment in digital technology prior to the pandemic meant the organisation was able to switch to homeworking for most of its 700 colleagues within 24 hours of the first lockdown.

Its success, along with a survey which revealed 89% of colleagues wanted to continue working from home, led Stonewater to opt for a new hybrid working model – including encouraging people to network locally in social and community spaces.

Interest-free loans of up to £10,000 are also being offered to permanent employees to create a safe, healthy designated workspace in their home environment.