HOME OFFICE? Our successful self-experiment …

The debate is becoming increasingly controversial:
How do you get employees back into the office?

On the one hand:
The COVID lockdowns have given virtuality in management – and thus home office – the long-awaited boost. Many employees have adapted their lives accordingly: Integration of work and family. No more long journeys and travel costs. More concentrated working from home.
On the other hand:
Corporate culture no longer takes place in the kitchenette. Alienation from employer and team. Real collaboration is on the decline. People no longer come to the office because no one is there anyway – not fair to those who have to be there. Leadership becomes more difficult when there is no real culture of trust: who is working on what?

How can we bring this back together?
We tried it out on ourselves:
In 2021, we had to leave our old office and thought about a completely virtual organization. This was possible for a consultancy that now has 12 employees, who spend a lot of time on-site with clients and working on different projects. But somehow we felt uneasy about it. The entire team believed that to feel comfortable and be truly innovative, we needed to see each other regularly. Good advice also comes from teamwork. And we partners wanted to know who was currently working on what. We wanted an office again – but different than before!

So we turned it into a project: how much presence do we need to be good? And what should our dream office look like?

This is what we came up with:

  • Three offices can be transformed into workshop spaces, with flexible furniture that can be used as desks but can also be turned into whiteboards
  • A kitchen for communal dining and small meetings
  • A creative space with media for hybrid working and a media station for virtual training and videos. Lots of whiteboards and a glass wall
  • Comfortable furniture for coaching sessions and discussions
  • And a balcony so you can sit outside in summer
  • The whole thing in Munich is as centrally located as possible.

Plus: an IT tool to know who is working on which project and when. Conveniently, the tool also monitors working hours and generates invoices for the customer automatically and transparently.

Also important: home office hours are flexible, but we all want to be seen in the office at least two days a week. Everyone has a key and anyone who wants to be there more often can do so at any time.

The crux of the matter was that we let the team do it and help decide – we were in dialog.
We gave the team a budget and said: make it so that you feel comfortable! The employees even designed and built the furniture themselves.
You can see the result in the photos, and it’s now working wonderfully for us.

We also offer this process to customers.

A few principles are important here:

1. Dialogue: everyone must understand what the needs and necessary work processes of the organization are – but the changing work and life needs of the employees must also be heard (when in doubt, the needs of the organization come first)! What communication needs do we have? What work processes? What needs presence – what doesn’t?

2. Look into the Future: work is changing due to digitalization, and automation (e.g. AI). How do we want to work in the future? What can/must we redesign? Where can tools help us to improve cooperation, both virtually and in person? Also about roles and skills?

3. Co-Creation: The more employees can actively help shape this process, the more comfortable they will feel afterward in the new work setup. This is the only way to realize individual needs in the workplace.

The process leads to much more than just a sensible arrangement in terms of presence in the office; namely to a deeper understanding among every one of what effective and efficient work is, which is of course also fun.

By the way: last week we got a shower!
Because some of us have longer bike routes or come straight to the office in the morning from a flight abroad.