Experts’ Interviews: Sam Fuller; workplace experience

Experts’ Interviews: Sam Fuller; Mundipharma International Limited about the workplace experience.

The world of Workplace is becoming increasingly more fascinating and complex. Through our years of practice designing and building workplaces for organizations, small, medium and large, in various industries and from around the world, we have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and insights, all thanks to our clients.

Whether we work closely with the head of Human Resources (HR), the head of Facilities Management (FM) or the head of Corporate Real Estate (CRE), one thing is clear, over the last several years these roles have become far more connected and are increasingly overlapping. A new role is even emerging that blurs the boundaries between HR, FM, CRE, and even IT and Corporate Communication, just to name a few. We call this role ‘Workplace Professional’.

Over the past few months, we have been interviewing leading Workplace Professionals in the best companies from around the world. In this series, we engage in conversations with those at the forefront of the world of workplace, to bring you their intriguing insights, best practices, and most successful case studies. Welcome to the Workplace Experts’ Interviews series!

This week, we share the greatly animated conversation our CEO Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes had with Sam Fuller, Workplace Services Manager at Mundipharma International Limited.

Mundipharma International is a global pharmaceutical network of independent associated companies that share a common purpose to identify and accelerate the development of meaningful medicines that add value for patients and healthcare providers around the globe. The network has a presence in over 120 countries. In Europe, the network employs more than 2,000 employees from R&D to manufacturing & supply and commercial. Mundipharma strives for a high performing and learning environment where individuals can make a real difference.

Covid-19 Note:

**While the following interview was conducted before the pandemic happened, Sam was kind enough to supplement the conversation with his most recent thoughts and insights related to Covid-19 and the future of work and the workplace. These can be found in the final few questions at the end of the interview.

Sam Fuller: LinkedIn

Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes: Sam Fuller, welcome! Thank you for joining this new series of the Workplace Experts’ Interviews.

Sam Fuller: My pleasure.

Stephanie: Let’s dive right in. Would you be able to describe your role in one or two sentences?

Sam: I am the workplace services manager for a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge. My team and I are responsible for over 250,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space, and all of the building support services within the buildings, and are responsible for designing and delivering the best workplace experience for our colleagues and visitors.

Stephanie: Wonderful. Would you be able to share with us, what is on your and your organization’s agenda when it comes to the workplace? Are there any specific goals you have?

Sam: Certainly for me, it’s about having the best workplace experience possible, where our colleagues can collaborate effectively and connect. Working in Cambridge with so many pharmaceutical firms around, some of which are the giants of the industry, attraction of talent becomes particularly important. We want to stand out as an organization that is a great place to work. The culture part of our organization is really important. It’s definitely an entrepreneurial kind of atmosphere we have and one we adopt in our approach to do business. That is something which is really key for us and definitely on the agenda, along with looking at smarter workplaces and using technology better to improve our everyday lives.

Stephanie: Fantastic. So you mentioned that part of your goal is to have the best workplace experience, which encompasses quite a lot, of course. If you were to break that down, what would you say is the greatest added value you, as an individual in your function, can bring to the organization and its people?

Sam: I’m a really positive person, the kind that encourages getting on with something and making the best of what we can and learning from the experience. So when we go through organisational change, I think that my kind of personality is very suited to that process.

I believe that is what I have been to my team, that kind of grounded stability, mixed with fun and passion. You know, when we spend eight hours a day at work, we’re here to have fun well as create value. It’s great to do a good job, and at the same time, have fun getting it done. That’s my mantra.

Stephanie: That’s really spot on! That is the sense I got from you when we first met too. Tell me, what is your biggest challenge?

Sam: The biggest challenge, is also our biggest opportunity and that is helping the organization to move to an agile way of working.  We have a 1:1 ratio and a very generous allowance of space per square meter per employee. The focus is on getting everyone on to that same journey.  Some love it, some need to better understand how it works and the benefits to a new way of working.  One of the other challenges we have is two different customer groups:  the corporate offices and the manufacturing spaces and those two different groups have very different needs.

Stephanie: It sounds like it is a very diverse company.  Not many companies have this type of differentiated internal customers, as you say, especially when you combine the office and the manufacturing elements. What is one project that you are very proud of having accomplished in the organization?

Sam: I’ve been in this organization for two years now, and I really don’t know where the time’s gone. I think the great thing about facility management is that there’s never a dull day. One of the things I’m really proud of – certainly in the past year – is reducing all of our single use plastics across the entire campus. That includes plastic bottles, plastic wrappings on sandwiches, desert pots and salad boxes, as well as all the plastic bags in all the individual desk bins. Now we’ve got a centralised recycling, and centralised general waste. All of our restaurants have food waste points, and all of that goes off to be turned into compost for local farms.

Stephanie: That is a great achievement.

Sam: I think when we’re looking at the environment, we’re looking at the planet and how we use those resources responsibly. It’s really important as a professional and as an industry. And we take pride in that.

Stephanie: It’s absolutely fantastic. What is a dream or a goal that has not been accomplished yet?

Sam: That would be a better agile working experience. I believe a prerequisite for that is to enhance the way we work with HR, IT and finance. We all need to collaborate a lot more to deliver a better working experience across our property portfolio. So that’s certainly one thing which we’re focused on achieving.

Stephanie: You know, with so many definitions out there, I have to ask: what do you refer to exactly when you say agile working. What is kind of your definition?

Sam: So my definition of agile working is being able to choose how and where and when you want to work. And consequently, what tools do you need, what kind of furniture, technology, and what kind of space.

Stephanie: Right. Have you been in any situation where the workplace has been problematic for the well-being or the productivity of employees?

Sam: I do not think that we have many problems in terms of the workplace being problematic. I think we have lots of challenges in terms of storage and people wanting to put in more desks because they’ve got another new team member. And the challenge really lies in trying to re-educate people that you don’t necessarily need to put in new desks just because you have newcomers.

Stephanie: Exactly! A bigger picture kind of question is also: what do you think are the biggest challenges and the biggest opportunities that you see for the future of work?

Sam: Like many businesses I think it’s about how we best use the office environment to get the most out of our time coming together.  I think that’s a great opportunity to embrace. Certainly in looking at the environment, the challenge of our industry is that we are a consumer of power and resources. So we need to think a lot more carefully about how we buy and how we refurbish our buildings and the types of workspaces which we have. I don’t want to throw out anything, not because I’m a hoarder, but because I don’t particularly want to throw stuff into landfill. So there are challenges there. I want to aim at protecting and reusing everything which we can and get as much use out of it as possible. As an industry, we have to be mindful of this. There are certainly some big challenges coming up about how we use all of our resources and energy in order to protect the future.

Stephanie: I’m very pleased you’re mentioning that because, you know, we as architects face the same challenge and therefore have a huge opportunity to help with that, based on how we choose to design, source and build.

Sam: Absolutely, it is a big challenge. I think it is something which we should all kind of really push for in the industry. It is something which is really important to me. I hope other people feel so too.

Stephanie: I hope so too.

Covid-19 Note: While the interview above was conducted before the pandemic happened, Sam was kind enough to supplement the conversation with his most recent thoughts and insights related to Covid-19 and the future of work and the workplace. So we asked him three additional questions:

**Stephanie: How do you think Covid-19 has and might continue to affect our ways of working and our workplace?

Sam: Historically across the UK, employers have been incredibly resistant to employees working from home (some have been great, but we still had a long way to go before Covid-19).  Now that pretty much most of the population has been working from home for some time, I think this presents a great opportunity to show that we can work in a more agile way, and I hope that despite the difficult circumstances, we embrace a positive change to how we work in the future.  With our workplace, there is still a need for an office. It’s the human connections, the social interactions, and the collaboration which take place face-to-face (rather than over the internet) which I personally miss. But, do I need to be in the office five days a week from 9-5pm in the future?  Absolutely not. We are currently exploring new ways of working to find that right balance, but as an organisation we’re still big advocates for those human connections and providing a great environment for people to come together. 

Stephanie: What would you say is the most important thing to focus on right now, to ensure a successful recovery for our workplaces, employees, and organisations?

Sam: In the short term, ensuring that our workplaces are safe is absolutely paramount. When an eventual return happens, for a lot of people, this should be phased, not only for social distancing measures, but for making sure that employees can adjust.  For our organisations, they need to be able to adapt to our employees changed working practices.

Stephanie: Since we last spoke, have you been able to achieve your dream of agile working?

Sam: Yes!  While the pandemic has been difficult for everyone, it has given us an open door with the organization to look at how we work in the future and accelerated the adoption of agile working.  We’ve just finished off a refurbishment of our global headquarters in Cambridge, with some really cool, innovative features.  Some of the challenges we faced last year, such as everyone having to ‘hot-desk’ was completely unthinkable.  Now, everyone is asking ‘when can I book my hot-desk’. We’ve started to let people back in small numbers, ensuring that our offices remain safe, but I’m really excited to welcome our colleagues and visitors back in the not-so-distant future.

Stephanie: Well, Sam, this has been extremely insightful.

Sam Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

To find out how optimising your workplace can help you retain your employees by fostering better social interactions, download here AKKA’s Innovative Workplace Expert guide, which contains the full version of one of our case studies and more practical examples of other projects that show you how AKKA has increased team engagement and boost productivity over and over again for small, medium and large organizations, in a variety of industries and countries from around the world.

Use your workplace as a strategic tool to attract and retain the best talent.

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