Why flexible workplaces create a healthy mindset

01 Oct 2019

by Melanie Bochmann

Do you work in an office? If so, you most likely work at a desk. But how many hours of your day are you actually at your desk? Consider all the meetings, breaks, leaving early for a doctor’s appointment or working from home because you expect a delivery… Probably your desk is living a lonely life a lot of the time.

Imagine, instead of having your dedicated desk, you simply arrive at the office and can choose from a variety of options of how to spend the day: Maybe you prefer a sofa in a nice cozy room, or you need to do some focused work in a silent area, or you have a lot of meetings and just need a place to charge your laptop in between. And imagine you could move between those places whenever you want! This is exactly what a flexible workplace looks like – and we at Delivery Hero are currently piloting it in our Berlin HQ.

We spoke to Mirko Wiegert (Director, Workplace Strategy) and Mirjam Abele (Senior Manager, Workplace Strategy) who are in charge of designing our workplaces. Read on to find out how flexible working can increase collaboration, why it creates more mindspace, and how our Berlin team feels in their new environment.

Flexible working – what does that even mean?

First and foremost: flexible working is not about taking personal room away from employees. It’s about giving them more freedom, more choice, and adding quality to the space, as Mirko explains: “People can choose how they want to work in order to be most productive, and nobody is forced to change places. If employees want to work at the same desk every day, they are most welcome to do that.” The only rule everyone needs to obey: Leave a clean desk at the end of the day. That means all personal belongings need to be stored in a locker or taken home.

Within a flexible workplace, employees have lots of options that cater to the different needs that might come up on a normal workday: Do you want to get stuck into that project plan for a couple of hours? Take a seat in a cozy noise-cancelling booth. You’ve planned a design thinking session with your team? Then grab some portable whiteboards and occupy the big round table in the collaborative space. Do you feel a bit tired after you had a large plate of pasta for lunch? Just get comfy on a sofa and relax while answering some emails.

Workplace team at Delivery Hero

Mirko and Mirjam are in charge of designing our workplaces.

People have the freedom to come to the office in the morning, select a place and stay there all day – or switch locations as often as they like.

“The workplace should always adapt to the needs of the employee, not the other way around,” Mirjam points out. “Offering different kinds of furniture and also different textures can really make a difference. For example, we found out that some people feel more comfortable and creative when they work at a wooden table, so some of our desks have a wooden surface. Or, some people prefer to sit at a round table instead of a normal desk; some prefer working on a sofa and others want to be at a standing desk – we took all of that into consideration when designing our flexible pilot space.”

Why flexible workplaces are a win for everyone

Because different surroundings support individual styles of working, flexible office spaces boost creativity and productivity. Since people move places a lot, which increases interactions with coworkers and therefore fosters collaboration within and between teams.

And, on top of that, it’s healthy! “Flexible working encourages people to move more, to really be free in the workplace and also free in their minds,” Mirko says. “It’s like when you walk in the park: you just feel vitalized and have better ideas,” Mirjam adds. “This is exactly what a tech company like Delivery Hero needs: an inspiring workplace that supports creativity and innovation. And this is actually the feedback we received from our piloting department: They really grew together and work much more collaboratively now.”

Offering a flexible environment enables the company to use office spaces more efficiently.

Moreover, offering a flexible environment enables the company to use office spaces more efficiently: Firstly, as our teams across all departments are growing rapidly, an open space concept makes it possible to scale the workplace alongside with the teams.

Secondly, desks that would have been idle in traditional workplaces (because the employee is in a meeting, out sick, works remotely or travels), can be used by other employees – that means the capacity of a space can really be harnessed. For instance, the flexible space in the Hero Hub is piloted by 100 employees. It offers 140 seats, from which only 40 are desks. “Still, the place never feels too crowded, and there’s a lot of room for the teams to grow,” Mirko says.

How to transition from a traditional to a flexible work environment

“Rolling out flexible workplaces to the entire company at once probably will always fail – it’s necessary to start on a smaller scale,” Mirko knows. That’s why the people operations department was the first division to pilot flexible working at Delivery Hero’s HQ, starting in June this year.

What had to be done before the traditional office turned into a flexible workplace? “A lot of research,” Mirjam remembers. The team dived deep into the theory and also visited conferences and other companies to really create a tailored concept.

“We sat together with all teams to evaluate their styles of working: Do they have a lot of phone calls? Do they work virtually? Is there a lot of paperwork that needs to be done? How is their meeting culture? Based on that we created a concept with three types of areas: collaborative, confidential and quiet spaces,” Mirjam explains. In all these areas employees can choose between desks (that all can be turned into standing desks), big tables, comfy chairs and sofas or little booths.

Because different surroundings support individual styles of working, flexible office spaces boost creativity and productivity.

This whole process took roughly a year, and seeing how it comes to life is really exciting for the workplace team. “We always aim higher. Of course, our workplaces are no static concepts. For us, it’s a permanent journey, we’re always open to feedback, and we observe markets and trends to really offer the best experience to our employees,” Mirko says.

One of the major challenges flexible working brings is that locating coworkers is not as easy as it used to be. “But we’re going to roll out some smart solutions that enable employees to navigate through the space and find free meeting rooms or think tanks,” Mirjam reveals.

What’s next in the Hero Hub?

After about 4 months of piloting the space, the people operations department provided a lot of valuable feedback that helped improve the environment and will also influence the design of new flexible spaces for other teams.

Currently the workplace team is expanding the Hero Hub to a new floor as well as another building with three floors, which are all going to be flexible working environments. In addition to flexible offices, the new areas will host, amongst others, napping rooms, a health room for doctor’s appointments and health check-ups, a yoga space, an office space where employees can bring their kids to work, a training area and a contemplation or prayer room.

“The most important aspect for all future projects is to include the employees, make them participants in the process, be transparent, communicate a lot, and build the spatial concept together with them,” Mirko points out. “We are no architects. We are no interior designers. We are workplace strategists, and we’re working with people, for people. This is how we understand our mission, and this will always be our passion.”

And it worked out well: The people operations team is very happy in the flexible space and other teams already wanted to get a first taste. Just this month there’s a ‘flexperiment’ running in the space, where employees from other departments join the pilot to experience a new way of working and be part of the journey to the future of our workplace.

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