Area has reached its 20th Anniversary delivering award-winning working environments for some of the world’s biggest brands. We asked CEO, Gary Chandler, about his personal highlights and what’s next for Area.
What have been the major achievements for the business over the past 20 years?
Area has been on a tremendous journey since its formation back in 2000. Starting with four people delivering projects in the Thames Valley from a small office in Egham, the business has grown significantly and now employs over 200 talented individuals who deliver projects across Europe. Since its launch in January 2000, Area has delivered over 5,500 workplace projects for over 1,000 clients across a multitude of sectors. This is an incredible achievement and a legacy that truly sets us apart from the rest.
What have been your personal highlights?
I started my journey with Area back in 2004 when I joined the team as a Project Director. In addition to working with amazing clients, who I am proud to say continue to work with us time and time again, I believe what has kept me passionate about the business for 16 years is the dedicated, kind-hearted and driven people who I work with every day. I am proud to call the people who work here my colleagues, teammates and friends.
It’s been incredible to see the business grow into a position where we’re able to support our clients on a far wider scale. Area originated in the Thames Valley – a place where we still do a large proportion of our business, but we wanted to be able to better support our clients who have requirements across the UK, and we therefore opened offices in London and then in Birmingham.
Our clients are increasingly operating on a global scale, and it’s been fantastic to see how successful our Europe team has been since we launched 10 European office hubs back in October 2018. To date, we have delivered projects in 12 countries across 60 cities. It’s an incredible achievement that we’re all very proud of, and a very exciting step forward for the business.
Furthermore, we’re delighted to be able to support our clients across the world through our global partnership programme, The United Workplace. Founded by Area’s parent company Fourfront Group and Amicus in Australia, the fundamental goal of The United Workplace is to provide consistency of service and local insight on a global scale. Between us we share 52 global offices, employ 1,100 employees and have 121 years of operating experience.
What are key considerations for Area’s clients today?
Corporate social responsibility is high on everyone’s agendas right now and is something we deeply care about. Understandably, the more awareness that’s raised round issues such as single-use plastic, individual’s carbon footprint and the impact on the environment, the more people want to do their bit to help, and businesses are no different. Therefore, we are seeing an increase in our clients wanting to deliver their projects in accordance with sustainability and wellbeing guidelines.
I’m pleased to say Area has delivered 27 Ska Gold projects to date, which is more than any other business in our industry in the UK. Additionally, 14 of our projects have been BREEAM accredited and we have planted 10,275 trees through our partnership with The National Trust to offset carbon emissions on site. We’re committed to doing more, so watch this space.
What are you particularly proud of?
It’s always a proud moment when one of our projects wins an award, or we receive outstanding feedback from a client, but there are too many work moments to be able to single out one or two specifically, but giving back to the community has always been at the heart of the company’s culture and is something that I’m particularly proud of. Each employee is given three charity days a year to support worthwhile causes, which has resulted in the business donating over 2,000 working days to charitable causes so far. The business is honoured to support Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, and has raised over £500,000 for the cause, as well as undertaken various refurbishments for their hospices in Guildford and Hampton.
It’s down to individuals within this business to make this happen. Last year alone we raised nearly £120,000 for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices. The Group’s Charity Committee voluntarily give up their time to put on fundraising events, and I’m thankful to have these people within the business. My teammate and Area’s client support manager Justin Lewis project managed the refurbishment at the Hampton Hospice and then took on the monstrous challenge of walking the Thames Path. We have some true legends in this business, and that’s what makes working here special.
What’s next for Area?
Other than to continue building on our success across Europe, our aim is to provide the best client experience within our industry. Clients remain at the heart of everything we do, which is why we established our own CX programme to ensure we provide the very best service we can at every stage of the project journey. This has resulted in achieving a fantastic client retention rate and high NPS score, but there is always more we can be doing to improve and it’s something we’re constantly reviewing.
The quality of systems and processes are key in being able to offer the right experience for our clients. We have held both the quality management ISO9001 accreditation and environmental management system IS014001 accreditation for some time now, but it’s important that our processes are beyond reproach, so we have also recently passed the rigorous undertaking of obtaining the anti-bribery management system ISO37001 accreditation as well.
As a business we’re committed to providing excellence in delivery across the whole project journey and upholding high health and safety standards plays a massive role in achieving this. We’re thrilled to hold ROSPA Gold certification – the highest health and safety accolade. Everybody deserves a safe place to work, and this should be no different for people who choose to work in the construction industry.
How has the office changed over the past 20 years?
One of the major changes is agility. 20 years ago, people came to the workplace and sat at the same desk every day, had a computer with a desktop computer. Pretty much everyone had a desk and working remotely was not even a consideration. The evolution of technology, connectivity and having laptops transformed this; giving people the ability to work from anywhere, within the office or away from the office, whether it is home, a client’s office, coffee shop or even abroad. We have someone in our London office who heads up Marketing for our Australia partner Amicus – as far as remote working is concerned it does not get more agile than that!
How do you see the future of work changing? And how will Area adapt to these changes?
We face huge challenges worldwide such a climate change, and buildings contribute 40% towards greenhouse gases so something has to change so we actually all have a future!
Companies worldwide and the RE sector will have to work hand in hand to ensure buildings are sustainable and create their own energy, like the Edge in Amsterdam which led the way. Sustainability is obviously closely linked to wellbeing of people who occupy buildings, and companies again will increasingly have a duty of care for their employees. We must reconsider how we commute and travel, therefore technology will play a big part; your hologram might be attending a meeting abroad, not you in person!
With AI and automation work will inevitably evolve and we will have to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist. Therefore, companies will need to get ready for a gear change in upskilling their workforce. In the future, buildings will be smart, sustainable and people will connect in different ways. That does not mean the physical workplace will disappear. As humans, we need to interact and feel part of a community, but those workplaces might be hubs that people will use in a more flexible way. What this means for us is helping companies through change, creating healthy workplaces, ensuring our supply chain is aligned with our sustainable ethos, continuously innovate and invest in training and hiring exceptional talent.