June 26, Zalando celebrated the official opening of its new headquarters with a series of events and panels topped off with a sunlit gathering on the rooftop. One of the driving minds behind the new Campus and headquarters is VP Corporate Real Estate, Raimund Paetzmann, who here shares his views on future ways of working.
How would you define “the future of work”?
There is no single way that defines the future of work. In the case of Zalando, the future of work relates to the platform thinking we already implemented in our strategy. This means that Zalando employees should understand our working environment as a platform for collaboration.
Our vision of the future of work means providing an environment where employees, partners and clients from diverse backgrounds can work and learn together in order to become the Starting Point for Fashion. The new way of working is about acknowledging diversity and making sure that all work styles are supported, striking a balance between “we and me” space.
You discussed this topic in a panel at the opening of the headquarters. What was the outcome?
We had a very fruitful discussion on how to respond to challenges of the times of growth. Professor Weinberg, the Director of the School of Design Thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute, Potsdam, stressed that companies have to foster a culture of collaboration and experimentation. We found that many of us already have a vision of how we can work in the future, and even how working environments should look. Still, we see a gap between vision and reality, because even newer generations are shaped by the way they experience work environments and structures in schools and universities. Hence, it will take time to adjust the way we work. The future of work is not a job for one department, but rather requires joint effort to create a vision that is accessible to everyone from a cultural, technical and physical perspective.
How can a building support new ways of working?
The building is the physical place to come together. It has to provide the tools and means for a diverse workforce and different tasks. The way a building is designed and furnished also influences the way we work. In the past, offices reflected hierarchies and classical silos. By implication, this also means, that we can change the way we work with the building design. Our new headquarters is built in a way that encourages people to stroll between different floors, without having to use an elevator. This supports serendipitous encounters across functions and levels.
What is the strategy behind the Zalando working environment, and how did you come up with it?
We call our strategy "Work Your Way" because we want our employees to find the right environment for different tasks and work styles. For some people, it might be a single desk in the same team zone; for others, it might be frequently changing environments with different teams. Working styles change faster than we can change a working environment. That’s why we need to provide a flexible space that can tackle the diverse needs of our employees.
The way people work is constantly changing and evolving. How can the design of a working environment stay up to date?
The only way to stay on up to date is to leave room for variations and changes. We are in the middle of a transition from the industrial age into the digital age and our universities and workplace are still set up to deal with the industrial age. Hence, we need to leave room for experiment with new setups. For us as Corporate Real Estate, it means learning from User Experience Design: Observe how people work, involve them in fast ideation cycles, prototype and test with our employees and support them to part of the development. However, whatever we do, we need to make sure it’s done together.
How does a future-oriented workspace tackle employee needs?
For our new offices we use the analogy of a gym. Every gym has basic equipment, but it also has specialized equipment depending on what type of sport is being played. The same works for teams at Zalando. The basic equipment of an office includes multifunctional living rooms, team areas with desks, meeting rooms and lockers. Every team can add equipment that best suits their work: whiteboards, sofas, phone booths, extra storage, project tables, etc.
What role does the new headquarters play in Zalando’s aim to be the most magnetic employer in Berlin?
The new building is a testament to our culture; a reflection of our diverse and open workforce. The architecture and interior design set a new standard for work environments in Berlin. Employees can feel proud to work in such a beautiful building, and experience how elegance and humility can come together design-wise. The headquarters is the heart of our campus area; a place where all employees are welcome to work their way.