What is the added value of the office?

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Office situation with se-Matrix furniture by Sedus
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Jasmin Najiyya Jasmin Najiyya ·
5 Minutes

During this period of hybrid work models, there’s been a lot of discussion about the added value of offices. That’s because more and more companies are offering their employees the opportunity to choose, in consultation with their supervisors, which tasks they would like to carry out for the company, either from home or in other workspaces. But what would the world be like without offices, and what is the concrete added value of the office? I’ve gathered some stimulating ideas from experts for you.

Solidarity and team spirit

The IBA Forum topic day “The added value of the office” was held on 1 March 2023. In his presentation, Stephan Grünewald, founder and a Managing Director of rheingold institut, emphasised that the office is a social meeting point, because many bonding factors operate only when people are meeting face to face. And team spirit, an important driver of employee loyalty, decreases when people aren’t present at the office. Employees working from home don’t have a chance to meet their colleagues face to face or to experience the social component of work. Appreciation, the company’s corporate culture, and developing a shared overall goal and striving to reach it are also important factors in promoting cohesion — and today, they’re more important than ever.

Kick-off lecture for the “Office added value” topic day

IBA Forum media center Lecture by Stephan Grünewald, psychologist and founder of Rheingold Institute, on the topic of cohesion – the binding forces of tomorrow.

Performance and self-efficacy

The office is a place where people meet, connect and identify with the company — but that’s not all. It’s a place where we can find the optimal conditions for productive and creative cooperation. The added value of the office refers to the employees’ physical presence in a shared workplace, according to the trend researcher Birgit Gebhardt in an interview about the publication of the New Work Order study “The power of space”. She is convinced that offices will still have a role to play in the future if employers manage to add further unique selling points in the areas of performance (capacity) and self-efficacy to the advantages that offices already have.

Flexibility and room for innovation

The work environment is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage. Employees need flexible work settings that can be quickly adapted to a variety of requirements so that they can deliver optimal performance. The Digital Lab of SCHOTT AG, which Erkan Karakoç and his team from Dark Horse Workspaces helped to design, is an example for the office as a space for innovation. Like a flexible construction kit, the spaces at SCHOTT can be used for a variety of activities such as tech talks, hack weeks, project work and conferences, without allowing these activities to disturb one another. The offices, which were planned in a user-centred process, offer enough flexibility to meet the current requirements.

Please also read

Digital Lab of SCHOTT AG, photo: Lennart Wiedemuth
Added Value Office A gigantic construction kit for experiments: the Digital Lab of SCHOTT AG

A place of learning and meeting

If the office is designed correctly, it can be a place that gives people the space they need to work together and learn with and from one another. The office will gain in importance as a place of learning and meeting that enables New Learning as well as New Work, according to Philipp Müller, the Managing Director of the furniture company VS Vereinigte Spezialmöbelfabriken. He believes the most important thing is to create a work environment that fulfils the whole spectrum of the employees’ needs and supports their process of lifelong learning. That requires user-centred space concepts for informal exchanges and concentrated work as well as project and creative work, and teamwork — activities that are hard to pursue if the employees are working from home. Good spatial design can successfully promote people’s self-development and give them the environment they require in order to do their work in ways they determine for themselves. Of course they’ll need the right mix of the analogue and virtual worlds and of human and artificial intelligence, as well as the necessary technology.

Please also read

Philipp Müller, the Managing Director of the furniture company VS Vereinigte Spezialmöbelfabriken GmbH & Co. KG
Learning world office The educational dimension of architecture and aesthetics: Interview with Philipp Müller from VS

Hospitality and a sense of belonging

The office is a place of work that welcomes employees. It offers space for interaction and is more than just a place to work. The office creates the framework in which employees feel comfortable. An appreciative and hospitable attitude combined with a high quality of stay gives the office added value and offers a good “employee experience”. According to the spatial psychologist and designer Uwe Linke, offices designed in ways that make employees feel that their needs are perceived and that they are appreciated are a good foundation for work. They promote the employees’ identification with the company and loyalty to it. The recent study “Longing for Belonging” by Karin Krobath, Sabine Zinke and Wolfgang Berger emphasises the role of the office and real-life encounters in the employee experience. A forsa survey commissioned by the IBA and conducted in the spring of 2023 similarly reported that 82% of the respondents said that personal contact with their supervisors and colleagues was a key argument and one of the most important motivators for coming to work in the office.

The factor of corporate culture should not be forgotten. The office is the place where people can experience all the facets of a company’s corporate culture. Personal contact promotes mutual understanding, team spirit and identification. This is an important topic that will remain with us next year at the IBA Forum and put us in the mood for the Work Culture Festival at the ORGATEC trade fair.

Work Culture Festival

ORGATEC 2024 As part of ORGATEC 2024, the first Wherever Whenever – Work Culture Festival explores the future world of work.

More information on the Work Culture Festival will be available shortly at https://iba.online/festival/.

Cover photo: Sedus Stoll AG