Agile working is the future: How Elliott Wood wants to change society

Lombard is helping the engineering company finance a new shared workspace


After 25 years as structural and civil engineers, UK firm Elliott Wood took stock. In their quarter of a century, they had provided the engineering muscle for projects as diverse as Anthony Gormley’s industrial-scale sculptures, prayer halls at London’s biggest Jewish cemetery and an extensive refurbishment of The Ned hotel.

Some businesses might have celebrated only past achievements at such a milestone moment but “rather than look retrospectively, we asked what impact we want to have in the next 25 years”, says founder and chief executive, Gary Elliott.

The answer Elliott Wood arrived at was ambitious: they wanted to make the world a better place in which to live. “We came up with our vision - ‘Engineering a better society’,” says Elliott. “How can we influence our industry to have a bigger impact on society?”

Collaboration is the solution

The firm set about working out how to prioritise the values and sectors in which engineers and builders could have a positive impact. They produced a manifesto based on the acronym “Ethics” - Education, Technology, Health, Infrastructure, Culture and Sustainability.

Now Elliott Wood knew where they wanted to go, but how to get there?

“We recognised that we can’t do it by ourselves,” Elliott says. “You can’t change things just on your own. We can make more change and have a bigger impact on society, by collaborating with others - other stakeholders in our industry or people in allied professions.

“We needed to address the problem of the lack of collaboration in the built environment - and in the construction industry. More than that, we want to have the confidence to actually lead that debate.

“The reason we launched The Building Society was very much to stimulate change in the industry.”

Long-term planning in the digital age

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The Building Society

Elliott Wood wanted to create an opportunity for collaborative change in the construction industry - and in broader society - and they wanted to be at the heart of that change. That was the impulse behind the decision to create a shared co-working space for built environment professionals, The Building Society.

One of the precepts of agile working, which originated as a concept in software development but has spread to construction, is that face-to-face conversations are always more productive. If Elliott Wood wanted to change society, it needed to bring people together into the same physical space.

And that’s where Lombard, and senior relationship manager Nick Woodroffe, came into the picture. Elliott Wood approached the firm after working with NatWest, which together with Lombard is a member of NatWest Holdings Limited. Elliott explains: “We obviously needed finance for an office fit-out, so we could create an engaging space. But it was really important to invest in the technology in that space which enables agile working - and agile working is at the heart of how we want to develop the practice.”

Lombard provided the finance both for the new space – and for the digital infrastructure that sits behind it.

The know-how to be agile

Launched on 19 September this year, The Building Society is a co-working and collaboration space specifically for the built environment. It provides office space to its members and hosts events that encourage greater collaboration in the industry.

Elliott Wood invested in up-to-the-minute technology and shared workspaces in the new facility. As well as hardware like meeting-room technology, touchscreens to review plans and networked laptops, the space also has its own app, which lets members book meeting rooms or reserve a place at events in The Building Society’s Learning Zone, including talks and discussions about the built environment. Video technology in the Learning Zone allows events to be recorded and shared, so that the wider industry can benefit from the Elliott Wood Academy.

Some members use The Building Society as their full-time office, with a fixed desk, while others on a part time hot-desk basis. The society also offers “network membership” to people who simply want to use the space as a drop-in space when they are in Central London.

“If they don’t have an office in central London, they now have a home where they can work,” says Elliott. “They know they are surrounded by a network with shared interests. They have an informal base, and the ICT infrastructure is there for them.”

As well as planning to set up more Building Society workspaces across the UK, Elliott Wood is also trialling a nine-day fortnight for its own employees, giving them an extra day off every two weeks, in addition to their weekends. “Agile working is hugely important,” says Elliott, and it has “enabled us to look at more flexible ways of working which we hope will in turn also improve our productivity. The days of nine-to-five are a thing of the past and it was important for us to embrace that so that we can be the progressive practice we want to be.”

To find out how Lombard could help your business or to get a free quote, visit Lombard.co.uk, call us on 0800 502 402, or text Relay 18001 0800 502 402

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