Thomson Reuters’ London legal team is set to move to entirely agile new premises in Canary Wharf by the end of 2016.
Previously the Bank of America building, Thomson Reuters will take up the first seven floors of the building in 5 Canada Square, with the circa 150-strong legal team the first to relocate.
Desks will not be allocated to any particular individual but will be allocated through a desk booking system and staff will have lockers to keep their work possessions in.
Thomson Reuters has been planning the move since the start of 2016 and, after consultation with other organisations that have already become entirely agile, has decided to introduce ‘neighbourhoods’ to its new office space. Staff will be directed by the booking system to their neighbourhood of choice.
Jim Leason, VP and head of Thomson Reuters court management business in UK and Ireland, who has led the project for the legal team, said: “The guidance seems to be that having complete flexibility is not the best route so we have chosen to have neighbourhoods so you can be directed to the functional group you are working in. If the neighbourhood is booked up, the booking systems opens up other desks.”
Thomson Reuters has focussed on providing collaborative working spaces and furniture and Leason says: “There are areas where teams can gather round a white board or screen and a lot of walls will be writable.”
The neighbourhoods that require peace or, on the contrary, tend to be noisier, have also been separated.
The booking system is flexible meaning if you want to assemble a team for a project, that team can be located in one area of the office – a move towards agile working that many law firms still just dream of.
In terms of the other technology installed, all staff will have the same desktop experience and will be using softphones to make and receive calls on their laptop via VoIP. Leason says: “Softphones enable you to move from the office to home while your PC still remains your communication hub. When people phone the Thomson Reuters network, it routes the call to your laptop.”
While there will be desktop phones to start with, and certain teams may need to continue to use them, the long term strategy is that all communication will go through the laptop.
Given that there will be significantly fewer desks than staff, everything will hang on the efficacy of the booking system and Thomson Reuters’ calculations, after weeks of painstaking floor walking.
Leason says: “We’ve done a lot of analysis of how the business works. All staff have flexibility and when we looked at the occupancy of the building, it was no more than 50% of desks occupied 100% of the time. Yes, we’ve taken desks away but if we carry on working the way we have done, during peak periods we should be able to accommodate everyone on one day.”
He adds: “We’re about to kick off another exercise of floor walking to measure occupancy – you’ve got to make sure you’re comfortable with it.”
While hot desking or ‘hoteling’ has been embraced by the likes of Deloitte and Citigroup and can cut costs by up to 30%, it can inevitably be unpopular with staff, particularly to start with. Thomson Reuters has long been open plan, so culturally the shift will not be as great as were it moving from an entirely cellular model. It has also long had a clean desk policy and in its new building has tried to exactly replicate the desktop experience.
Beyond that, staff will have to get comfortable with not having their own bit of real estate complete with pot plant and family photo. Thank goodness for Smartphone photo frames.
This article first appeared in the September Legal IT Insider