The Sheffield-based team of Mott MacDonald, the international engineering, management and development consulting firm, is enjoying the benefits of activity-based working, thanks to its new space in the city's Derwent House. The transformation of the 16,500 sq ft space was delivered by national fit out and refurbishment specialist Overbury to accommodate the business' 150 strong team in the city with additional capacity to grow.

Speaking about the project, which was designed by Sheffield architect practice HLM Sheffield, Rowan Crossingham, Project Principal at Mott MacDonald said: "Our brief was very much about creating a workspace that promotes collaboration between colleagues and promoting innovation,  providing it with a much more fluid environment for people to choose the best way to work on a day-to-day basis."

This was achieved by installing a new internal feature staircase in the office to link two floors, creating a more open and collaborative workspace that helps different teams to interact easily. Its prominence in the space encourages people to take the stairs and maximise opportunities for colleagues to engage in dialogue, reinforcing that employees are part of a wider team.

In addition to providing a large kitchen, a neighbourhood design with ancillary break out spaces was implemented so that teams can sit together or move to other areas that support the task at hand. The space layout reflects new trends in office design models, with activity-based working providing a variety of settings that aim to support different types of working including collaboration, connectivity, creativity and community.

As an investment in a technology infrastructure that supports movement around the office, Wi-Fi was also installed throughout the space and laptops issued to all employees to further promote the culture of agile, flexible working.

Speaking about the project, Overbury's project manager Matt Hurley said: "This project has been really innovative by introducing a new and exciting way of working for the Mott MacDonald team here in Sheffield. The most critical aspect of activity-based working is being able to move away from your desk without question, and inclusive design recognises that multiple work styles must be represented in the modern workplace. The desk is no longer the only place to do work and Mott MacDonald's new space reflects this ethos, with the client already reporting back a positive impact upon its culture."

Rowan Crossingham concluded: "During the short time that we have been working from our new space at Derwent House, we have seen a real transformation in the way in which the whole team communicates and works together. The space, with its focus on allowing individuals to work in collaboration with each other, is relaxed and comfortable whilst enabling a high level of productivity. We are delighted with the outcome."

The new workspace took 11 weeks to build and is on track to achieve a SKA rating – if successful, it will be only the second office in Sheffield to achieve a Gold (the highest rating) under the environmental assessment scheme. 

Demonstrating the specific construction expertise that was required for the project and to undertake the important staircase feature of the fit out, the Overbury team had to confirm that the existing structure would take the new loads imposed on it. The works included cutting a 24 sq m hole through the existing slab, supported underneath by a crash deck with new trimmer steels. A vertical steel post was also installed into a stud-wall to support the cantilevered mid landing.