Known as a Headquarters (or HQ) in America, a head office is the central location of any business. While regional head offices may be responsible for the day to day governance of a company, it is here that most of the key decisions regarding company policy, direction and strategy are decided upon.
Though numbers of day to day staff are usually minimal in head offices, the impact that decisions taken there have huge consequences for all employees. Usually, the Chief Executive, Financial Officer and Chairman are based at a headquarters – though for the largest companies, it is often the case that these positions may be spread across the globe.
It is often the case that many customers attempt to escalate their complaints to head office in the hope of getting a resolution for their issue. However, it is likely that any decisions regarding issues for consumers are dealt with elsewhere, and only the largest of problems will ever even be listened to by those at a HQ – and even then, it is often due to the scandal making waves in the press first.
The truth is that the day to day working of a head office will largely be mundane to the general public – with financial objectives, wider human resources issues and internal disciplinary measures being irrelevant to most, outside of those actually employed by the company. The issues dealt with by companies in these buildings are often considered too complex or too private for the larger public to be alerted about them.
Though it may be the main base for their business operation and strategy, it is rare for larger companies to be incorporated or registered in the same building as their head offices. The reasons behind this are largely due to tax – companies like Amazon, Google and Starbucks have their business structured in such a way that much of their profit is funnelled through tax havens like the British Virgin Islands – so that they, rather than local government, keep the bulk of the money they make. It is often argued that this is unethical – something that the companies counter is more than paid back by the amount of jobs they create.
Headquarters sometimes have a historical link to the city in which they – or the founder – are based. One notable example of this in the UK is that of supermarket giant Morrisons. Started in a Bradford market by founder William Morrison, they have kept their head offices in the city ever since, despite now being the 4th largest company of its kind in Britain and having stores of all sizes across the country.
Many companies try to have head offices that reflect their values. Companies that place an emphasis on creativity – such as Google – have headquarters that are tastefully decorated, and filled with innovations that would not normally be seen in other offices. Google’s London base, for example, has rooftop allotments and individually designed meeting and breakout rooms, in order to try and encourage innovation.