Media: A moment with Marquis

I visited my old associate Alastair Gornall, the chief executive of Reed Exhibitions, in Richmond the other day. He proudly showed me its new offices. No more than 50 paces across the road from the old building, the contrast could not have been greater.

Light and airy, spacious, cool, reeking of new paint and carpet, and every spanking new workstation had a brand new flat-screen monitor and a properly designed chair. The cupboards had sloping tops (so no-one can pile papers); there were no kettles - near-boiling water comes out of a special tap in the kitchen; there are snug meeting rooms and quiet spaces to think in. The new offices were uplifting. They made you feel like settling down to work to dream up great ideas. The old ones were - well, old. Tired, dreary, cluttered. Gornall was pleased as punch at the new atmosphere, the new culture he now presided over. He was certain it would reinvigorate his people.

How very true. I left Zenith-Optimedia just before its move to Percy Street. I spent eight years in Paddington, one of media's more eccentric office spaces. Not unpleasant exactly, but hardly the height of style and modernity. When I was trying to glue Zenith and Optimedia together a few years ago, I believed a new building was the most important thing we could do to make the company feel brand new. Unfortunately, it didn't come off then - the rent was too irresistibly cheap in North Wharf Road.

The new ZenithOptimedia offices are a revelation. They say something about the company and its attitude that no amount of protestations from management can match. The move to fresh premises, perhaps more than any other single change in the past ten years, has made clients and media owners reassess the company. More importantly, it has made staff feel different. A decent environment adds credibility to the oft-uttered but sometimes hollow claim that "people come first".

Next year, IPC Magazines will go through the same transformation. Its 60s tower on the South Bank is no longer fit for purpose. How exciting will its new edifice, down the road in Southwark, be?

A new building move might come every decade or so for most, but your current offices don't have to be grubby, down at heel and uninspiring. In a business that puts creativity and inventiveness at its heart, what possible excuse is there for a working environment that saps energy, cripples the brain and wearies the heart? I'll be round with the paint pot in the morning.

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