A recent move - Sedgwick

Tenant – Sedgwick New Zealand Limited
New Home – 139 Carlton Gore Road, Newmarket
Move date – 16 December 2022
Interview with Philip Van Zyl, CEO


How long did you stay at your previous premises?

Probably too long; 27 years was the duration of our previous lease.

How far out did you start looking for a new office premises? Was it long enough?

It was just over 18 months prior to our lease expiry that we started to think about our office needs, and it seemed like we had more than enough time to make a decision. In the end, we only just managed to move as our old lease expired, after navigating material shortages, skill shortages and supply chain disruptions.

What were the key drivers for your move?

Our old premises was dated and no longer fit for purpose. Despite over the years trying to improve the environment to accommodate a new way of working, this was unsuccessful. As a result, the space was not cohesive, with many individual offices separating the team, which was counter to everything we stand for at Sedgwick.

When we started to look for a new premises, we were 12 months into COVID-19, and it became apparent that colleagues could work from home, and we didn’t need as much space moving forward. We have ended up leasing 16% less space, of much higher quality.

The key driver for the move, however, was colleague wellbeing. It became clear that we needed a fresh start to optimise our workplace and practices for hybrid working, and to encourage our team back to the office.

How did you determine what your future office should look like? Did looking at other sites help?

We looked at several other offices and engaged multiple fitout companies to help us translate the vision into reality, eventually settling on Catalyst. We cannot speak highly enough of Catalyst and their service throughout the process. Catalyst were exceptional, they knew how to manage the difficult conversations. With post pandemic hurdles delaying the project, Catalyst were able to manage expectations very well. They were flexible, receptive to feedback and quick to provide solutions. It was a true collaboration that delivered on the brief and within budget.

Did the move enable you to change the way you are working?

The new premises has revolutionised how we work. Within three months of moving in, our colleague numbers have increased significantly and the new premises has flexed to comfortably accommodate the extra staff. About 30% of our colleagues work from home on any given day, yet the office is alive and has a distinct vibrancy.

Do you provide all team members with a fixed desk? Why or why not?

95% of colleagues work in an agile environment with a clear-desk policy and assigned lockers to store their belongings at the end of each day.

Activity Based Working (ABW) - fad or fabulous? Why?

Fabulous. Our aim was to deliver a workplace strategy to accommodate a growing team and achieve a social and value-based work setting, and our new premises has certainly achieved our objectives.

Now that you are occupying the new space, how has the feedback been from your team members? What is the biggest change?

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s been interesting to show visiting colleagues from other countries what we have done. They have all been thoroughly impressed with the new environment and how it caters to colleague requirements throughout the working day, both in a professional and social sense. Honestly, we have not had a single challenge with introducing the team to their new home. They are thoroughly enjoying the space. Bringing the team on the journey from the start helped to keep them informed and feel part of the creation of the new office space.

What piece of furniture has made the most impact with team members and how they work?

For us, the kitchen is the focal point of the office, the social hub that caters to a warm and relaxed setting for colleagues to enjoy. The word ‘kitchen’ perhaps doesn’t do it justice, as it resembles more of a restaurant lounge setting than a typical office kitchen.

Are end-of-trip facilities becoming more important? Have team members changed the way they are commuting to work because of this?

Yes, this was considered and catered for in our planning, with shower facilities and bike racks included in our building for colleagues who bike or run to the office. I think there is greater awareness now of alternative ways of commuting to the office, especially as we all seek to lessen our impact on the environment and alleviate congestion.

What happened to your on-site storage needs? Have they changed? Are you using less paper?

We had a huge amount of paper and storage in our old premises, and the move has required us to drastically change our habits. Our documents are now held electronically, which has decluttered the office and ensured a clean minimalist working office space, whilst subscribing to our obligation to use less paper.

What are some of the things you did right with the fitout?

Engaging the right fitout company, who understood our vision, but challenged us to think outside the box. The end result is far better than we could have imagined.

What is the one thing you would do differently with the fitout?

Nothing, we have absolutely no regrets. The office space meets all our requirements and much more.

What is the one piece of advice you would give another company looking to move premises?

Engage the right designers who understand your business and allow enough time to find the right premises, as lease negotiations and fitout take longer than you think. Expect the unexpected. Something we did from the start was to work with one leasing agent, and in our case it was Lorne Somerville from Barfoot & Thompson Commercial, who was instrumental in helping us find our new premises. He patiently worked with us over 18 months, eventually ensuring a successful outcome. Thanks Lorne!