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Vodafone sees 90 per cent reduction in paper use in a month at new office

Vodafone’s new offices at Skyparks are bathed in natural light and feature noise absorption furniture and fittings throughout. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Vodafone’s new offices at Skyparks are bathed in natural light and feature noise absorption furniture and fittings throughout. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Vodafone Malta has experienced a 90 per cent drop in paper use since moving to its new head office at Skyparks Business Centre in Gudja just over a month ago, according to property manager Antoinette Camilleri.

People now walk to talk to each other rather than call or e-mail

The remarkable statistic is one of the first to emerge since the mobile operator implemented radical work practice changes at its new, paperless headquarters, and suggests the company is beginning to meet its ambitious green objectives.

As it moved out of its previous premises at Msida’s Valley Road, only essential team and individual documents were set aside for archiving with a third party, and the company dispatched around 13 tonnes of paper to be recycled.

At Skyparks, meanwhile, where all waste paper is recycled, employees are encouraged to consider their printing decisions carefully.

There are four mini business centres across the one-and-a-half floors Vodafone occupies at Skyparks, which house printers and stationery.

Employees who choose to print documents walk from their desk to the printer where they can select which documents they really need to print.

Vodafone’s pioneering work practices at Skyparks have scored a groupwide achievement – the Malta office is among the top headquarters to implement ‘hot desking’ across all its teams. Only chief executive Balesh Sharma has his own – minimalist – office. Everyone else is able to choose a new work station everyday.

Employees have been assigned a small cabinet drawer to store their ‘hot box’ (a lockable and portable filing cabinet for important documents), a laptop and keyboard, a headset, some personal items, and a red non-spill mug.

Teams have also been granted a small cabinet each, which double as dividers on the open plan floors. After choosing their work station, employees set up and plug in.

“Hot desking means people take a few minutes longer to settle in in the mornings but we have already seen the benefits. Employees now work in close proximity to different people all the time and we have seen team dynamics improve considerably. We have also found that people now walk to talk to each other rather than call or e-mail,” Ms Camilleri told The Sunday Times.

“There are 236 work stations across the fifth and sixth floors. We actually have 280 employees at head office, but we examined our desk usage over three years and found that 83 per cent are in the office at any one time.

“Other people are either away or on sick leave. This statistic has proven to be consistent and so far we have not experienced any shortages. We have succeeded in working towards the projected efficiency levels.”

Bathed in natural light and enjoying stunning panoramic views, the offices are spacious and colourful, and noise levels are surprisingly low, even at the 24-hour call centre.

Ms Camilleri explained that the use of headsets and the elimination of ringing phones contributed significantly to noise reduction, and it appears the new environment has encouraged people to be more respectful of colleagues’ work spaces and to be more productive.

There are three ‘break out’ areas on each floor with different themes – one has cinema seats against a black backdrop, another features wooden deck chairs against a beach-themed mural – all with informal seating and settings.

There is also a silent bay, complete with a library-themed mural, for employees seeking some privacy. Employees are also able to plug in at various areas of the floors where they can meet separately from other teams and use their devices, besides the high-tech boardroom. The entire office and its wide terraces enjoy Wi-Fi connectivity throughout.

There is an ample, colourful coffee point on one floor with a mug-lined wall, a fully equipped kitchen on another for the preparation of hot meals, adjacent to which is a cafeteria which doubles as a presentation room.

Designed by Demicoli and Associates, the offices’ decor is enriched with graphics and the use of different textures and colours.

Coupled with Vodafone’s dress-down policy and an average staff age of 29, the office is a reflection of the business – dynamic, connected, efficient and fun.

Ms Camilleri and human resources head Martin Gregory admit the challenge to implement such radical change was possible only after 18 months of preparation.

Back at Msida, all employees were involved in the ambitious change management programme. There were numerous information sessions and teams were asked for their feedback and even contributed to the design of the new office. They were asked to name the meeting rooms and were allowed to bring in personal and company trophies and awards for display in designated areas in a bid to foster a true sense of ownership.

“People were prepared for the move and we worked hard to address fears and doubts,” Mr Gregory explained.

“We moved our first team in December and then two groups of 90 in one day in January. Many people thought it would be far more challenging to go paperless but they are enjoying the new way to work at Vodafone.

“Our company culture is based on trust and value and managers have to be able to align objectives and culture.

“We will measure employee engagement at some point. I am confident the scores will be higher.”

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