Pre-pandemic, dedicated desks at Glenmorangie’s head office, The Cube in Edinburgh, were often cluttered with paperwork and personal belongings, much of which was abandoned when the work at home order was issued in March 2020.
In the aftermath, surveying the chaotic office landscape, the facilities team embarked on a refurbishment project to transform workplaces at The Cube and MacDonald House, Livingston, into modern, tidy, flexible, and healthy spaces, supporting the company’s commitment to ‘provide the best possible work environment’ for its employees. As part of the project, the whisky makers embraced the concept of biophilic design, bringing a little of the ‘outdoors’ in by incorporating interior plants into the contemporary work environment.
Sandy Fraser, facilities management, employee experience, explained that many of the employees utilising the two office spaces can spend hours on laptops with little opportunity to get outside during their working day. “Although we’re lucky enough to have two terraces outside The Cube,” he says, ‘the weather’s not always that nice in Scotland, so we wanted to bring a little of the outdoors in.” And while a flexible working approach has been adopted at the company, with employees able to split their time between home and the office, there is still a requirement for occasional face-to-face meetings and having ‘plants around keeps people happier.’
Previously, the contemporary open plan office at The Cube accommodated around 90 team members, over a floor and a half. Now, only 50 desks remain, with a booking system in place, creating more space for functional office furniture and plants. As staff no longer have dedicated workstations to gather their gear, sleek wooden lockers with built in planters have been installed providing storage for ‘drop in’ employees as well as a view of nature. Planted with a mix of tropical foliage, the displays not only create natural divisions, but plants absorb sound and chemicals in the atmosphere, not to mention the psychological and productivity benefits that have been proven to result from incorporating natural greenery indoors.
At McDonald House, a similar refurbishment process was undertaken. Partitions in the orange and grey corporate colours of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg were erected, artwork was totally modernised, and tropical plant material added to cabinet tops. And while a trio of giant Jenga containers, placed on pedestals reflects the quality image of the prominent distiller, there was also room to have a bit of foliage fun.
Due to its stills being the height of a male adult giraffe – the tallest stills in Scotland – images of the African mammal have been used in Glenmorangie marketing material and have become a fun symbol around the office. When a sticker of a giraffe was placed on a conspicuous wall it seemed like a quirky idea to erect a green wall to provide some fodder for the office pet. To continue the theme, a polystyrene giraffe head situated overlooking a braided stem, ball head, Ficus Amstel King, giving the impression it’s about to dive in for lunch.
While only around 20% of the team having touched down in the offices since the refurbishment, Sandy says people are itching to get back to work and experience the refreshed working environment. He said: “My job focuses on making the buildings safe and then comfortable.
“I want to make sure people have a nice experience within the company, whether that’s your chair, your meeting room booking tool, what’s happening in the canteen.
“It’s multiple mediums, plants which are wonderfully natural and the explosion of colour on the wall with the artwork.
“It’s a touch of your own home.”
The Glenmorangie facilities expert’s role is a big juggling act, managing multiple projects and contractors concurrently, but Sandy explained that working with GP Plantscape on an ongoing basis makes his job simpler.
“We have a rolling contract for exterior and interior landscaping maintenance, and I love your weekly emails; they are just so good.
“I get an email saying ‘we can confirm Dougie McCrimmon was on site at 11.37am, or that Lesley was on site at The Cube.
“If a contractor turns up and they are not booked in it makes my life very stressful and difficult, but with GP we know when the team is arriving, we know what day they are arriving, what time they are arriving and its normally always the same people, but if it has to change, we know in advance.”
So, while Glenmorangie’s office staff convert to a more flexible working pattern, the company has recognised the value of continuing to invest in the physical working environment to ensure that when employees do attend work, they are safe, productive, and happy. Interior plants tick all those boxes, creating that home away from away from home and working with GP, Sandy can rest assured the foliage will be well looked after.