blank_error__heading
blank_error__body
Text direction?

Tech entrepreneur spends £3m to renovate castle HQ

Is this Britain's best boss? Tech entrepreneur spends £3m renovating his castle HQ - then treats staff to a Star Wars cinema, free breakfasts, an ICE CAVE and an all-expenses paid holiday every year
  • Chris Morling, founder of comparison website money.co.uk, treats his employees to a dazzling array of perks
  • Staff are given free meals, an annual bonus of up to 45 per cent and an all-expenses paid holiday each year
  • Mr Morling recently spent £3m transforming the grade II-listed castle headquarters into a modern work space
  • He worked with celebrity interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen who brought colour to drab rooms
  • The 'office' now boasts themed toilets, arcade games a Star Wars cinema and an ice cave meeting room

By Stephanie Linning for MailOnline

Published: 16:06 EST, 17 January 2017 | Updated: 05:21 EST, 18 January 2017



Most employees feel grateful for a free cup of tea or money-off vouchers.

But staff at this comparison website enjoy a dazzling array of perks, from free beer and monthly socials to a 45 per cent bonus and an annual all-expenses paid holiday. They are also given £5,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.

This is all the work of Chris Morling, founder and managing director of money.co.uk, who has made it his mission to create 'the best place to work'. He said: 'Looking after [my] team is paramount... [they] are my most valuable asset.'

The latest stage of this employee satisfaction plan is a £3million renovation of the company headquarters - a Grade II-listed castle in Cirencester, Gloucestershire - that was carried out in consultation with all 50 members of staff and in collaboration with celebrity interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

Now Mr Morling's employees can hold meetings in the 'chalet', 'library' or the 'ice cave' and have use of a Star Wars cinema, arcade room and Rolling Stones-themed toilets. At the heart of the 10,000 sq ft 'office' is playfulness, creativity - and plenty of orange paint.

As Llewelyn-Bowen put it: 'It is like being hit round the face with a dirty, great big tube of Berocca.'

Playtime: The open plan kitchen extends into a games room complete with pool table, table football and arcade games

Playtime: The open plan kitchen extends into a games room complete with pool table, table football and arcade games

The ice cave before
Stimulating: Boring meetings are brought to life in this ice cave themed meeting room, complete with a sled coffee table

Stimulating: This boring meeting room, left, was transformed into this ice cave, right, complete with a sled coffee table

Pop art: Bold colours and graphic prints bring a new lease of life to a previously tired and bland office

Pop art: Bold colours and graphic prints bring a new lease of life to a previously tired and bland office

Pop culture explosion: This rock and roll gentlemen's toilet is fitted with urinals in the shape of the Rolling Stones lips icon
Mirrored walls and pencil drawings bring a touch of feminine sophistication to these spacious women's toilets

Pop culture explosion: This rock and roll gentlemen's toilet, left, is fitted with urinals in the shape of the Rolling Stones lips icon. Right, mirrored walls and pencil drawings bring a touch of feminine sophistication to these spacious women's toilets

In a castle (not so) far away: This amazing Star Wars-themed cinema offers employees the chance to watch a film together

In a castle (not so) far away: This amazing Star Wars-themed cinema offers employees the chance to watch a film together

Mr Morling said the idea behind the project was to 'make a great place for people to work'.

'It is about making this a wonderful place, a productive place to work,' he said. 'What we have done is modelled all the design around the needs of the team. 

'Some people want to stand while they work, some people to work alone. Ultimately it boils down to creating a space where you feel comfortable.' 

Britain's best boss? Chris Morling, founder and managing director of money.co.uk
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen

Britain's best boss? Chris Morling, founder and managing director of money.co.uk, left. Right, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen

A 'nurturing Narnia': Employees are treated to a vibrant combination of colours and textures from the moment they walk in

A 'nurturing Narnia': Employees are treated to a vibrant combination of colours and textures from the moment they walk in

The Chalet before
Alpine retreat: This cosy ski chalet-inspired space is the perfect place for meeting on a cold and blustery winter's day

Alpine retreat: This bland room, left, became a cosy ski chalet-inspired space, right, that is perfect for a winter's day

Historic: The Grade II-listed castle, pictured, has been given a new lease of life with the dazzling £3million renovation

Historic: The Grade II-listed castle, pictured, has been given a new lease of life with the dazzling £3million renovation

In seven years money.co.uk has gone from having a workforce of seven to 50 - although Mr Morling continues to interview every candidate and remains invested in each individual.

At the start of the 14-month project the entrepreneur asked each employee what was missing from their current office. He also commissioned design firm Interaction and TV designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

Mr Morling explained he brought the famously flamboyant designer on board - the men were introduced through their personal trainer - because he needed someone who could 'think outside the box'. Llewelyn-Bowen saw the project as a chance to re-imagine the 'ugly, unfriendly and un-creative' interiors of the modern workplace.

From there it was a case of ticking off the employee wishlist - from coffee machines to standing desks.  

At one with nature: A forest wall paper brings the outdoors into this collaborative space, which also has a whiteboard wall

At one with nature: A forest wall paper brings the outdoors into this collaborative space, which also has a whiteboard wall

The room before the redesign
All you need: A changing room gives employees plenty of space to change

All you need: A changing room, right, gives employees plenty of space to change. Left, the same room before the re-design

Cosy: A cavernous room with plain beige walls was transformed into this welcoming library space during the renovations

Cosy: A cavernous room with plain beige walls was transformed into this welcoming library space during the renovations

Mr Morling said: 'Looking after your team is paramount and it’s really important I give them the best of everything. Ultimately my team are my most valuable asset.'  

The result is a breathtaking combination of colour, eccentricity, and state-of-the art technology.

Splash of colour: Vibrant pink air conditioning vents and stool covers liven up this meeting space within the castle
The room before

Splash of colour: Vibrant pink air conditioning vents and stool covers, left, liven up this once drab meeting room, right

Personal needs: For staff who prefer to work alone, spaces such as this private meeting room are also available to use

Personal needs: For staff who prefer to work alone, spaces such as this private meeting room are also available to use

Unrecognisable: The same small meeting room, pictured, was dreary and soulless before the multi-million pound renovation

Unrecognisable: The same small meeting room, pictured, was dreary and soulless before the multi-million pound renovation

Employees walk up the imposing steps of the castle into a reception space whose walls are planted with lush green foliage. 'A very, very nurturing Narnia,' Llewelyn-Bowen said, adding: 'And Chris is Mr Tumnus!' 

During the consultation process staff asked to be given spaces of varying sizes and their wishes were granted. They now have the choice of airy open planned rooms or cosy nooks that are perfect for working alone. 

The design also places an emphasis on humour and social interaction, with popcorn machines, table football and the Star Wars cinema all adding to the sense of play. 

PERKS ENJOYED  BY MONEY.CO.UK STAFF

All expenses-paid holiday abroad once a year to destinations including Florida, New York and Copenhagen

Flexible working hours 

Free breakfasts 

Bonus of up to 45 per cent of the annual salary 

Free use of the gym and yoga studio

Weekly football and basketball games

Monthly lunchtime and weekend socials - all expenses paid

Free beer

Use of the on site cinema and games room with table football and arcade games 

Three days off a year to volunteer to charitable causes

An extra £5,000 each year to donate to a charity of their choice 

While such a bold renovation might seem to sit in opposition with its historic surrounds, a huge amount of time and money also went into 'not only preserving this building but also augmenting it,' Llewelyn-Bowen said.

Mr Morling - whose favourite room is the stylish 'Steam Punk' men's lavatory - said the response from his employees has been 'universally positive'. 

And it is perhaps just as well given the entrepreneur's ambition to create 'the best place to work'. The commitment to his employees is even more essential given Mr Morling's decision to base the company outside of London.

He added: 'When I first decided to build my business outside of London I knew recruitment was going to be tricky.

'Eight years on, I’m lucky enough to have built a team of 50 best in class individuals... In the next year, my search for the kings and queens of tech will be ongoing as I plan to grow my team by a further 20 per cent.' 

The castle might seem like an extravagant base for still a relatively modest company but Mr Morling insists it is a 'really cost effective choice if you compare it to 10,000 square foot of space in London.'

However even with the flat screen TVs, SONOS sound system and hamster murals, the castle remains the 'icing on the cake', according to Mr Morling. 

He explained: 'An amazing physical environment is just a small piece of the jigsaw when you’re creating a great place to work. 

'When your team truly feel valued and their opinions are listened to they feel empowered and that’s worth far more than any of the perks and benefits we offer.'

Although the 'perks and benefits' go far further than free cups of tea or discount at the local cinema. money.co.uk employees can take advantage of a free onsite gym, yoga studio and flexible working hours. 

More than a fantasy: Artwork of dragons and castles sit next to high-tech screens on the wall of this first floor workspace

More than a fantasy: Artwork of dragons and castles sit next to high-tech screens on the wall of this first floor workspace

Sense of humour: Giant hamster wall stickers continue the feeling of fun and playfulness even in the staff weights room

Sense of humour: Giant hamster wall stickers continue the feeling of fun and playfulness even in the staff weights room

Keeping fit: money.co.uk staff members are all given access to the free gym, pictured, as well as the on site yoga studio

Keeping fit: money.co.uk staff members are all given access to the free gym, pictured, as well as the on site yoga studio

And for the days when they are feeling a little less motivated, they also have access to pool tables, a PS4 and free beers. Once a month there are lunchtime and evening socials - paid for, of course - and games of football and basketball are organised every week. 

Staff who perform well can also receive up to 45 per cent in an annual bonus. Each employee is offered an annual all inclusive mini break abroad to destinations such as Florida, New York, Budapest, Dubrovnik and Copenhagen.

Mr Morling added: 'When employees truly believe they are valued and their opinions count they feel empowered and productivity becomes limitless.'

Creative: Colourful lockers, a vibrant carpet and different desk heights add a feeling of individuality to this work space

Creative: Colourful lockers, a vibrant carpet and different desk heights add a feeling of individuality to this work space

The 'bored room'
The bored room

Stylish: The uber-trendy 'bored room', pictured left and right, features a neon sign of a Lord Tennyson quote 

Personal favourite: Founder Chris Morling said this 'Steampunk'-themed toilet was his favourite new room in the castle

Personal favourite: Founder Chris Morling said this 'Steampunk'-themed toilet was his favourite new room in the castle

Measure
Measure
Related Notes
Get a free MyMarkup account to save this article and view it later on any device.
Create account

End User License Agreement