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06.10.23One Year On Interviews

A tasty transformation for McCain Foods

How we created the perfect space for one of the world’s most-loved food brands

McCain Foods is one of the world’s best known frozen food brands – manufacturing some of the best loved treats from chips and fries to wedges and hash browns. But it’s dated UK headquarters was acting as a barrier to ongoing collaboration and therefore development.

And that’s where Chameleon came in. “We needed a better experience for customers who were coming in to see us and a modern and progressive space where our teams could come together to do their very best for them,” Catie Morecroft – Director, Organisational Development at McCain Foods GB said.

Here’s how we came together to cook up a tasty new HQ for the world-leading brand to be proud of.

McCain Foods: One Year On

McCain was founded in 1957 in Florenceville-Bristol, Canada and, over the last 66 years, has gone on to become the largest producer of frozen potato products in the world. Today, the family-owned business employs over 21,000 employees across six continents, including more than 1,600 in the UK.

McCain opened its Scarborough HQ in 1969 and the site has continued to serve its colleagues faithfully since. But the coronavirus pandemic presented an opportunity the team couldn’t turn down. With the site becoming increasingly dated, the need for modernisation was becoming more apparent – and, with teams working from home during lockdown, McCain made its move.

With an old-fashioned layout comprising lots of individual offices and collaboration spaces at a premium, staff ended up working in silos and opportunities to share ideas dried up. That was until Chameleon stepped in. Catie Morecroft, Director, Organisational Development at McCain Foods GB describes what happened next.

What did McCain Foods set out to achieve with its new office space?

McCain has been a cornerstone of the Scarborough community for more than half a century and is one of the largest employers in the area. Being employed at McCain passes down through generations but the pandemic brought about a different approach to the working day to which they had become so accustomed.

Gone was ‘traditional’ office life as the focus switched from the nine-to-five in favour of destination offices. With collaboration at the heart of everything we do, we wanted the end of the pandemic to herald a new dawn and reinvigorate colleagues to want to come back together, while also accommodating remote working which was such a success for many over the previous few years.

This represented a significant gear shift but one that colleagues embraced. Chefs testing the latest products and marketeers branding their packaging needed to be back together to create the very best offering. Each team needed its own space to flourish and the platform to work together.

With our new office space, we wanted to create:

  • An inspirational location that makes colleagues want to leave home working behind and return to the office
  • An office that encourages the best of McCain’s culture to flourish
  • A space perfect for our varied teams to come together and collaborate

How has Chameleon created an aspirational location?

When it comes to creating a destination office, Chameleon has really worked its magic. Its team of designers liaised with colleagues from across our business – ranging from chefs to marketeers – to make sure it worked for everyone. Most importantly, we wanted space where they could come together, share ideas and do what McCain does best – innovate.

These new spaces lend themselves perfectly to our ‘family’ and ‘quality’ values as they bring people together in a setting befitting the importance of their work. These new spaces include:

  • A state-of-the-art display kitchen and test kitchen incorporating a chef’s theatre to help drive new product development
  • A brand-inspired auditorium to bring colleagues together for formal meetings and informal gatherings
  • A rooftop terrace to provide colleagues with a flexible outdoor space in which they can work and entertain
  • A bespoke and versatile games room to allow teams to unwind during and after work. This space is also used for a weekly fitness trainer session to boost physical and mental health outcomes

How is McCain Foods’ new space appropriate for the future of work?

Throughout the design phase, we were laser focused on the importance of being future-ready and not just for today.

While our new environment is perfect to attract colleagues into the office, we know it’s unlikely that will work for everyone – flexibility is key. Some appreciate the option of home working while we also virtually meet with colleagues in Canada and in our offices across the globe. With this in mind, Chameleon integrated a specially-designed conference room table which allows everyone to be seen on camera during virtual meetings, no matter where they are sat. This was a key element of the design to ease the strains of hybrid working and meetings with external clients.

Employees can now choose where and how they want to work, safe in the knowledge that their working experience will be just as powerful and practical wherever in the world they are located.

How has the new design helped shape a new culture at McCain?

Collaboration is key. But, for a long time, this was a hurdle we were struggling to overcome – until Chameleon came along. New technologies have been seamlessly built into the design to allow our culture of teamwork to truly thrive.

But we have been keen for the outset for this new space to also be about the enjoyment of coming to work. Our culture is now flourishing thanks to the variety we can now offer. Colleagues who work better in silence can do so in our private pods. Those who benefit from the fresh air can work on our new roof terrace. And we still have fixed desks for anyone wanting a more traditional place of their own.

Culture has also been allowed to develop organically thanks to the games room which is perfect for a lunchtime unwind and the roof terrace which is regularly used on sunnier days, as well as to host drinks receptions when welcoming guests.

And drawing on the needs of our teams was an essential part of formulating the plans. Chameleon delivered the project through several phases of stakeholder consultation to ensure the whole company was aware of the plans, giving them an input in the journey and a sense of ownership.

Which element of the design has impressed you the most?

There are so many elements of the design that have impressed me but the fact the new-build and refurbished sections have been brought together so smoothly particularly stands out.

More than half of the fit-out was to transform our old office space, while the rest was a new build, but it is impossible to tell where the join is. Chameleon has seamlessly brought the two spaces together utilising our iconic branding.

In our old office layout, light used to be blocked from the centre of the room by partitioned offices around the edge of the space. However, these silos have been removed to allow the sun to flood in meaning colleagues can benefit from waves of natural light and the new, varied collaboration spaces.

What reaction have you had from the team?

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from staff who universally agreed that change was badly needed. They are really making use of their new environment and are often seen using the new breakout spaces to work together with colleagues outside of their direct teams.

The integrated technology is also a big winner. Incorporating software to book meeting rooms, desks and our range of other workspaces has also allowed our teams to have the ultimate flexibility in where and how they work. The process is so simple yet effective.

The biggest affirmation of all regarding the success of the project is that more people than ever are now using the office. And it doesn’t stop at current colleagues. It is also acting as a great recruitment tool as prospective employees see the investment we have made and want to be a part of it.

What advice would you give to other businesses considering a new workspace?

There are two main things I would like to highlight – engagement and variety.

If you can’t take your colleagues with you on the journey, then there is little point even starting. A new workspace is for them and needs to fit around their needs. They have every right to be frustrated if months of upheaval does nothing to improve their experience.

It is also important that you make everyone in the team feel listened to. It’s likely that not all colleagues will have the same demands but be wary of just pleasing the majority. Try to cater for a range of preferences when it comes to working styles – some may like open plan areas to work together but others may also appreciate quieter lone working pods to shut out the outside world.

How would you describe working with Chameleon?

Let’s start from the early days of engagement with Chameleon. It was clear from the start that the team is very customer focused on delivering and exceeding customer expectations. In a very professional and relaxed setting, the Chameleon head office overlooks the river Humber, a perfect setting for “Blue Sky Thinking”. It is from this office of multi-talented designers and specialists a full scope of works, along with designs and concepts, were developed for the Scarborough head office, later to be re-named the ‘Employee & Customer Experience Centre’.

These vibrant designs were then formatted into various presentations to allow the key McCain stakeholders to make the correct choices from several design concepts. These designs would form the ‘Project Basis of Design’ (BOD). As with all major projects, the schedule and delivery of the project tasks are always a challenge when driven by the customer, but Chameleon remained flexible during the early stages to move or modify milestones to suit the customer requirements, without impacting us commercially.

Working with us, Chameleon established an experienced project team on site. Regular project meetings allowed both parties the time to review a set agenda that would steer the team through the structured project using many project management tools and techniques. Chameleon used several approved contractors from previous projects to deliver a safe and successful multi-disciplined project that covered civil construction, electrical, mechanical, heating and ventilation, and soft furnishing with décor. I would have no reservations in recommending Chameleon for any office refurbishment project. As a result, Chameleon has since been awarded repeat business with McCain Foods GB Ltd.