Q&A – Home from Home

Staff spend a large chunk of their lives in their working environment, so making it pleasant for them and visitors, is a worthwhile investment, says Andrew Hill

Q. What, in your view, constitutes a good place to work?

A. It’s all in the eye of the beholder of course. There is no typical working environment in our industry, resulting in many and varied experiences. Rarely hamstrung by location, we can witness everything from the proverbial shed in the garden right through to well-furnished offices in city centres, and everything in-between.

Arguably, those fortunate to work from home have the best of all worlds, as they work in an environment entirely of their own creation. However, there are several arguments against the home office. One is the permanent temptation of distraction; another is the perception that they can be interrupted at any time to pursue a‘more important’ matter. The main one quoted to me though is the lack of human contact, a natural requirement for many of us.

Q. Do Senator employees have a good environment to work in?

A. Well, we are lucky that the UK building in which we are housed was designed and built from scratch. During the process of design, our architects were briefed on providing a pleasant work area for all employees starting, funnily enough, with the outside. The land we eventually chose to build on is next to a golf course which means that two sides of our building overlook an area replete with a view of the changing seasons. In the spring, summer and autumn, our HQ based staff can sit outside and enjoy their break periods surrounded by nature’s colours. Perfect!

Q. What considerations did you have to make for the inside?

A. Work flow was the main factor in deciding where to place the key areas within the building. Offering us complete functionality, Senator House (a.k.a. PenCity) has been built with the customer featuring in every aspect of what we have created. Everything slots into place like the proverbial well-oiled machine and allows us to provide a service to our customers which is entirely process-driven, backed with the knowledge that we are fully compliant.

Q. Are your processes the same then for all the markets you supply?

A. Senator is an organisation with only one route to market. We are entirely trade-specific – a global policy – and therefore the focus is entirely on the promotional products market. This trading platform helped enormously with the overall design of the building and meant we had no ‘what if?’ decisions to make. This also enabled us to factor-in growth requirements – particularly for machinery – which doesn’t impact on personal space and has, subsequently, proven to be great planning.

Q. A purpose-built operation is rare for our industry. What are the upsides for your staff and customers?

A. Well, it’s all very contemporary. From lighting to ambient temperatures to rest areas, we like to think we have a well-cared-for and happy crew. This is, perhaps, reflected in the relatively
low staff turnover we enjoy, coupled with the amount of collectively organised charity fund raising our staff are involved in. This feel-good factor also extends to what we produce. Our teams are all individually responsible, resulting in what we understand to be the lowest level of returns in the industry.

Our customers love to visit us. At this moment, we are preparing for a visit of 18 people who will have the full Senator Experience. We were named a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by our German parent a couple of years back, and this relates to the number of overseas visitors.

Q. What can other companies in our discipline learn from all this?

A. It’s simply about people. We all know that sound relationships are a key element within the promotional industry but, in turn, we all share an obligation to ensure that our own people are never taken for granted. Whether it be a small office or a large factory, people come first every time. It isn’t necessary to spend a fortune on making people’s working lives more pleasant. It’s relatively easy to start the process, just set up a staff forum and take it from there..

Andrew Hill is MD of Senator Pens in the UK

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