At #BÜROLADENCAFÉ, Konrad Knoblauch GmbH connects its offices with its showroom and a café for both visitors and employees, occupying a total area of 1,500 sqm. In such a multi-functional environment, communication is key. Julia Kohler is responsible for Marketing & Communications and has been with the company for 14 years. In this interview, she talks about her work routine in the newly designed office space.
The factor ‘communication’ has received particularly high scores from the jury. What role does personal communication play in your company?
A very important one. Our projects call for many different competences – those of architects, designers, technicians, merchants, carpenters, to name only a few –, so people need to communicate on a direct level. The new layout helps significantly here. It’s a huge open space of around 1,500 sqm. Colleagues meet here, but you’ll also find customers. They come by for a project appointment or simply enjoy sifting through our showroom and looking for furniture. Communication is always a sign of liveliness for me – I personally could not imagine working in a ‘quiet’ office. I’m glad to hear people laugh every now and again.
How has the communication in the office changed after the redesign?
For me, there are two words that best describe this change: openness and consideration. Bear in mind that there’s not a single door on a space of 1,500 sqm. Individual areas can be separated by curtains. All meetings, phone calls and even job interviews take place here. There is no more secrecy. At the same time, we have all become more considerate of each other. We adapt to the situation by reducing our own sound volume. I prefer to walk ten yards over to my colleague rather than shouting something over three tables. For long phone calls, I retire to a niche or onto a sofa, so as not to disturb my neighbours. These two attributes have automatically become part of our project communication, allowing a liveliness that regulates itself. I would even say that a shift of office culture took place. When we started the redesign, we all got together and teams were encouraged to write a kind of wish list, stating what would be particularly important to them in the new space. A quiet room was on top of most lists. We therefore planned and set up such a room. The amazing thing is that it is empty for 90 percent of the time. We use the area in such a way that even concentrated work is possible.
How flexible do you have to be in your job?
For my particular role, flexibility is not all that important, at least not in a spatial way. The colleagues from the project teams, on the other hand, have to demonstrate a much higher level of flexibility. Team constellations change with each project. Depending on the type and size of the task, the required skills and the project duration vary. No matter how, the team members always group together in order to jointly work with the customer. All participants have a direct connection and personal contact – this greatly enhances the identification with the project. On the other hand, this also means accepting a new workplace every few weeks and getting involved in a new team.
Does the new room concept support the demand for flexibility? And if so, how?
It supports this absolutely. Due to the large open space we can handle all team sizes and do not have to stick to predefined spatial boundaries. In addition to our workplaces, we also have our showroom with various seating ensembles and even a café. As a result, our team meetings can take different shapes and forms. If we need a retreat, there is still the (rarely used) quiet room, in which incidentally no telephone is allowed. In addition, we have three wooden boxes of different sizes, where you can sit with a laptop or drawing block. And in good weather, there’s the roof terrace to work and commune.
What is your personal highlight in the new office?
My personal highlight is the café. It is available to staff at any time, and we can prepare coffee or cappuccino on the portafilter machine. The café also helps catering for our customers. We have two colleagues who always come up with something tasty for our guests and, of course, for the employees. We can choose between three freshly prepared menus every day.
Julia Kohler (44) is a qualified drama teacher and master class graduate at the ‘Texterschmiede’ in Hamburg. She has been working for Konrad Knoblauch GmbH for 14 years, where she is responsible for the development of strategic concepts for the representation of the company across all relevant channels.