Many of us discovered during lockdown that the problem with work was not the work itself – we all have to earn a living – but the office. Or rather, the enforced trek every day to a building that was the locus and symbol of our job. Lockdown showed us what we already knew in our hearts: we could do our jobs just as easily at home.
Maybe. But in fact there are lots of advantages to office life. Collaboration. Team spirit. Corporate culture. Free coffee. So how do you reinvigorate enthusiasm for the office when some employees now regard it with a wary eye?
The German group Serviceplan may have an answer. It recently moved its headquarters – The House of Communication – to a new location in the upcoming Werksvietel district of Munich (pictured). The building in which Serviceplan is now a tenant is called the iCampus. In fact it’s three buildings – called “Join”, “Heart” and “Lab” – connected by a walkway.
If all that sounds a bit sci-fi and chilly, the architectural design may warm your enthusiasm. It embraces light-filled atria, high ceilings, outdoor spaces on every floor and roof terraces with views of the Alps, no less. Interiors range from open-plan lofts to areas designed for socializing and collaborating, and yet others created with solo concentration in mind. There’s a cafeteria on the ground floor of the main building, with 27 other coffee stations dotted around, as well as sports facilities and a playroom.
Collaboration has always been part of Serviceplan’s ethos: The House of Communication means exactly what it says, with all the disciplines under one roof. But the new building’s flowing open-plan design was conceived to favor mobility and integration. There’s even a space called the überlab for guests and additional tenants (with co-working, conference and events facilities), which potentially allows clients to move in and work directly alongside their agency partners.
Serviceplan's Karin Maria Schertler and Florian Haller. Picture by Thorsten Jochim.
Although plans for the move began four years ago, before the pandemic, Serviceplan Group CEO Florian Haller sums up the environment employers are now keen to provide: “An office people enjoy coming to because they WANT to be here, not because they HAVE to be.”
Serviceplan Group’s Chief People & Culture Officer, Karin Maria Schertler, suggests that its employees are keen to return.
“After more than two years of pandemic and a high degree of mobile office, many of our colleagues yearn for all the aspects of work we had to miss out on during this time: the informal exchange, the chat at the coffee machine, the socializing, the nurturing aspect of working together, the laughter, being seen and acknowledged, the after work get-togethers, having fun together.”
She agrees that remote working will remain a “strong pillar” of the work context. “But we also love coming together and fostering, celebrating and evolving our strong company culture. We give people the choice of how to best combine the best of two worlds.”
She points out that the group’s success depends on the seamless integration of all the disciplines. “And for this it’s important to see each other from time to time. We are not lone wolves all working independently from each other. Our work is always to a large degree teamwork. For this you need trust and joy. And this is best nurtured by getting together physically.”
It’s fair to say that home working is not for everyone. Schertler cites recent studies showing that depression is on the rise among young professionals. Not everyone has access to a large home with extra office space to make remote working comfortable, she adds.
“It’s also good to bear in mind that the space and the people around you influence the quality of your work. Just like going to a restaurant gives you a completely different experience to eating take-out at the kitchen table. Or traveling gives a completely different experience to watching a travel documentary. Our people are aware of this. And our new office facilitates exactly these experiences. We have a high degree of community, socializing and collaboration areas, a great new caterer, art to inspire us – and much more.
The “iCampus in the Werksviertel”, to give it its full name, houses 1,700 Serviceplan employees over 40,000 square meters. Assuming it meets the demands of the new work context, there will always be plenty of people to chat to over coffee.