Headspace client Applause IT are a technical recruitment business which have been based in Birmingham for 22 years, and since March 2019 have resided at Somerset House on Temple Street.
We spoke to Managing Director, Mike Scotney, about his business and his experience as a Headspace client.
“As a customer facing business we are dealing with clients and companies all the time and how we deal with our clients filters back to how we treat our staff. We find that engaging in lots of internal social activities makes the team happier and more efficient, which is obviously good for the business and for building brand value as well.
“There is a big turnover of staff in IT recruitment with some companies so it’s critical to be located in a place where people feel comfortable working and where they feel included in something like social activities, which is very much the case here in Somerset House.”
Applause has around 120 clients, some of whom have been loyal to the company for 20 years. Mike explains: “The majority of our clients are software houses and end users, coincidentally the sort of businesses which are typically attracted to serviced offices, indeed, just this morning we had a meeting with a fellow Somerset House client to see if we can help them grow.”
Serviced to leased and back to serviced
From 2010 Applause were in serviced offices for around four years before signing a five-year lease on a property which was opposite the town hall: “An enormous space at a time when everyone wanted table tennis tables, pool tables, antique furniture.
“We took on an empty property and spent a lot of money refurbishing it, and we were happy there for the five years. Then, as with a lot of city centre properties, the rateable value went up dramatically and dealing with the landlords was a lot tougher than we ever expected, so at the point of release we had a look elsewhere.
“We looked at the place we had been at before, but the standout location for us was Somerset House and we’ve been here ever since. We really needed flexibility. Pre-Covid we were a typical five-days in the office business, but we needed the flexibility of scaling up and perhaps scaling down depending on the market and in fact we have done that.”
Flexibility to scale up and down
“We moved here in 2019 on the first floor but within six months we had taken additional space, moving from the room we were in into a bigger space. We also extended our lease at the same time.
“At the end of the lease, during which time we had to overcome Covid, and by the way, you guys were great at supporting us through that, we actually needed a smaller space. We went out to look at lots of other properties and identified a few alternatives based on cost and location. We also conducted an employee engagement survey and asked all our guys where they wanted to be. Unequivocally they wanted to stay here, so we decided to stay put but we moved up to the 6th floor to a smaller space. Since then, we’ve once again scaled the business up and your maintenance officer was able to remove a wall for us and extend our space to what we have today.
“Somerset House has really suited our purposes very well since Covid. We pay a bit more for being in quality serviced managed accommodation, but it really does take away that headache and obviously when people are also working from home but have the option of coming in, it really helps us to know that we have a fixed cost that we can forecast for. In traditional office space, when you are paying for rates and utilities and other elements, you never really know what you are going to be charged for.”
“All we need is good stable Wi-Fi and good mobile reception for making calls which we have here. Also, I have an interest in architecture and it’s a lovely building, it makes you feel good when you come in and, what we hadn’t appreciated before is that although we had a much bigger space, we actually have more room here. What I mean by that is that there is no issue having informal meetings outside of the office using some of the communal space, such as one of the kitchen breakout areas, so it’s much better for person-to-person communication than it was having one big room.
“Most of our client engagement is through Zoom or team meets, so the phone booths are also really useful. The location of this place too is exceptional. We have a young workforce, some living at home, and by being this close to both New Street and Snow Hill stations, it’s really easy for us to attract talent from places like Wolverhampton, Coventry, Leamington Spa and Worcester. Our previous office was further afield and even that extra ten-minute walk can be a deterrent. We don’t want location to be a constraint for new people joining us and here it most certainly isn’t, everyone we have is very happy with where we are located.
Support for the local community
“In addition, we have a couple of guys who are really keen golfers, and they are always using the indoor golf simulator. Some of our guys use the gym too and the Peloton bikes are popular. Also, we have a real interest in supporting local charities and we managed to introduce a local charity here, St Mary’s Hospice, and they ran a couple of events here, which was brilliant. We had a little triathlon in the gym for example.
“We are really grateful to the team here for their constant support of our charitable endeavours. We recently switched to supporting Acorns Children’s Hospice and started a challenge in May to raise £10k in a year. We also donate a small portion of every invoice to the charity.”
So, what else attracted Applause IT to Somerset House over other providers they looked at, and what are the best things about being here?
“Compared to other providers, it’s the space and the natural light as much as anything else. Cost obviously, although you are not the cheapest, we could have a cheaper option elsewhere but when it came to the usual players, some of them had low ceilings, the buildings were a bit grubby, had tired furniture, or were in slightly the wrong location.
Natural light and original features
“The best things about being in the building are the invisible things. We don’t have to think about where we are working, the location is great, the building is lovely, and I love the high ceilings. On the 6th floor it feels very industrial with the air ducts, the original wooden parquet flooring throughout, you get a great vibe then you come in. It’s great when we bring people in too. When we hired our four new graduates earlier this year there was a lot of competition for them and bringing them here was always really impressive, nobody came out of here saying they couldn’t work here. We had a few who had been to interview at other places and other office environments hadn’t been attractive to them.
“Also, the individuals that you have working here are fantastic! Ben is brilliant and has become like a friend really, but always with the right level of professionalism. He’s always really good when we need a bit of assistance with something, always very accommodating. The girls too. We love the treat trolley and the monthly events such as the wellbeing brunch this week, which was great.
“The events provide a great opportunity to network with other companies in the building and as a result, just today, like I said, I had a meeting with another company in the building to see if we might be able to help them and vice-versa.”
“We did another employee engagement survey to ask the guys what they wanted to do in terms of hybrid working and they wanted three days in office and two days out. A few guys do come in on their WFH days as they find it difficult to work from home, so we have to accept that the office is a bit empty a couple of days a week. We used to have Mondays and Fridays at home, but we find its better to have them in the office on a Monday and at home on a Wednesday and a Friday, so on a Wednesday people can deal with the work that’s come in on a Monday and Tuesday.”
More productive in the office
“Young staff are struggling to get themselves motivated at home and others are missing out on the soft skills that you learn from more experienced colleagues. It might be that this setup will need to be finessed a bit more as we are definitely more productive as a company when we are in the office. We have something called ten before ten, so making ten calls before 10am using the sit stand desks in their standing position, a feature which is great to have with you.”
“The flexibility you guys offer is great and gives us the option the bring people back in more often if we need to or alternatively if we needed less time in the office that’s also an option.”
“Client events and being present in the office is great for team bonding, our staff have come from different backgrounds, most from university but different courses or friendship groups and the social element of work is really important to them. Friends they will make now at work are potentially those they will keep for the next 15-20 years. I wouldn’t like to run a business that had a significant level of homeworking for that very reason.”
“When the time comes to renew our lease, providing the space we need is available here, more or less as the case may be, having been to other sites before to look at what else is available, assuming that we can agree on pricing, we are not in any hurry to go and in fact, I would be very sad to leave Somerset House.”