MLM office design blends corporate culture with local environment

After 18 months of planning, MLM Group plc finally moved into its new offices at Felaw Street, Ipswich, earlier this month. However, the journey has been an interesting one with a focus on the need to not only provide an environment that both suits and fits into the local landscape but that also demonstrates the scale of this international business which now operates throughout the UK and internationally. Ross Bentley reports.

Over its lifetime MLM, a multi-disciplinary engineering and environmental consultancy and UK Approved Inspector, has opened a number of offices at various locations around the UK and abroad.

However, part of creating a recognisable “MLM brand” was to create a standard for their office environments that not only reflected the national and international nature of the business but also respected the local environment.

Kev Foster, managing director of MLM Acoustics, decided to take the project in hand and has been the driver in the business for developing and rolling out the ‘MLM Office Brand Guidelines’, to assist with all future office moves or existing office upgrades.

“Working with award winning interior designer and workplace consultant, Tracey Wylde, these guidelines were first created and used for MLM’s Bristol office, but they have been further developed in parallel with the fit-out of the new MLM Ipswich office at Felaw Maltings, said Kev.

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“The introduction of a corporate style is extremely important as like many businesses, we operate in a market full of well -established competitors, so our strategy requires us to be different, so that we are noticed by our actions and commitments and can attract good staff and clients. Providing an inspiring place for our people to work and interact is an essential element for success,” he continued.

Tracey added: “Our discussions with MLM revealed that its diverse range of services is delivered from an equally diverse range of offices. From the historic, to recently refurbished modern buildings, MLM’s portfolio of properties is extremely varied. In addition, some employees work from specific locations, while many visit more than one, dropping in for meetings or to catch up with work and colleagues.”

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“This gave us, and MLM, a particular challenge: to balance successfully the sense of belonging and family that can be achieved by implementing a corporate interior design style, with the local flavour that gives employees and visitors a sense of individuality and pride of place. Too corporate and a sense of place would be lost, too local and MLM’s brand would be compromised.”

However, the guidelines embrace far more than finishes and colour. They cover how the office works in minute detail, from the specification of chairs to way-finding and coffee points. They have also been created so that they can be used when an office is being fitted out from scratch, or when only a light makeover is required to bring it in line, Tracey continued.

An example of this is the specification of a particular office chair that is used in all the offices. This is aimed at making life simple as the controls that adjust the height and angle of the chair are familiar to everyone in the company, so they can all make themselves comfortable wherever they are sitting, in whichever office.

“In Ipswich, we have provided multiple breakout, meeting and collaborative working areas, including a large café area. This provides a great environment for staff to take time out and interact with each other over coffee or lunch, in addition to providing a high-quality informal meeting environment for internal and external meetings.” Tracey said.

“Also, in Ipswich a photographic competition among the staff has resulted in views of local landmarks being incorporated in the interior design. MLM is very keen to forge links with its communities, and this is a great way to achieve this. It strengthens its profile and also contributes to its corporate social responsibility targets.”

To help in adapting the corporate brand guidelines to “fit” the new offices at Felaw Street, Roger Gilles, from Ipswich-based architectural practice, Barefoot & Gilles was brought in to make the bigger picture work in the local context.

Roger said: “We worked with Tracey and the team at MLM, to take the guidelines and blend these ‘brand values’ into a layout that would work in the Felaw Street offices and meet the specific requirements of the individual departments of the MLM business in Ipswich.

“For instance, localised meeting areas were made more central to the design and layout of the floor plans in Ipswich, as these were deemed important to the employees at Ipswich.”

By providing a variety of spaces to work, collaborate, meet, interact and relax, the new offices for MLM in Ipswich provide an environment that will meet everyone’s fundamental needs, but will deliver a market leading workplace that allows ease of movement, variety and the most efficient space to be used for the task in hand.

Tracey concluded: “Flexible and efficient working are part of MLM’s culture and as a team we have achieved a transformation for MLM at Ipswich that works. The offices provide a flexible, efficient working environment for its people and the interior design is recognisably MLM, whilst reflecting its local roots and sense of community.”

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