Kinnarps has launched an office concept for Deutsche Bahn in the “Baseler Arkaden” administrative building in the heart of Frankfurt. The creative working environment was primarily shaped through employee participation.
New flexible working environments have been a topic of discussion at Deutsche Bahn for some time. Five years ago, the DB 2020 concept set in motion a comprehensive process that included a variety of initiatives to make Bahn AG an attractive employer. Working from home and flexible working hours are now well established, especially since spring 2020. In order to increase satisfaction, Bahn AG focuses on the well-being and work-life balance of its employees and it quickly became clear that conventional office spaces and layouts are not conducive to this. But who knows, and who determines, when people feel comfortable? Deutsche Bahn decided it was best to ask the employees themselves and for the new Procurement team offices in Frankfurt am Main, it launched a comprehensive workplace analysis. The result is a creative, varied and colourful office environment.
A workplace analysis helps to map and analyse needs and work patterns before designing a new office. With specific tools and workshops, the staff is involved throughout the change journey to create engagement and participation. Based on the results, recommendations are given regarding the layout, space allocation and working methods. Read more about our workplace analysis Next Office® here.
“The words we’re seeing most often are ’excellent’ and ’great’. I would definitely keep designing the process like this in future, because I think we’ve really created something great here.”
144 employees from various departments were previously spread across four locations in Frankfurt. A combination of outdated structures in cell offices, large quantities of hard copy records and a lack of meeting rooms for team meetings and project work did not achieve the desired levels of employee satisfaction, nor did they take into account new forms of teamwork and collaboration.
“First of all, a new, centrally located property had to be found which would bring all departments in the division together,” reports Detlef Frank, Head of Facility Management and Environmental Services Procurement at Deutsche Bahn. This space should enable new ways of working and incorporate both increasing digitalisation and modern technology for workspaces and employees. Flexible working hours should also be introduced and the organisation should only pay to rent space that is used effectively.
There was already a longstanding cooperation with Kinnarps as a contractual partner of DB AG. The DB 2020 furniture concept had been developed in collaboration, and now the Kinnarps Next Office® workplace analysis process was being set in motion for the first time.
“In this project, Deutsche Bahn ran through the entire Next Office® workplace analysis. The requirements were defined, while an occupancy rate study was conducted in conjunction with a needs assessment and a study to identify working patterns. Employee participation and involvement, including various workshops, was the key to success.”
The concept envisaged an activity-based workplace environment.
“In 2,039 square metres of space, we tried to provide the right workplaces for the wide range of specific work requirements,“ adds Detlef Frank.
Baseler Arkaden, an office building completed in 2000, is just a few minutes’ walk from the main train station. The workspaces are now located on two floors where the upper floor is accessible only to the department’s 144 employees, while guests can be hosted on the lower floor, known as the conference floor.
Involving the employees closely meant they could design their own working environment. Organising the project and developing the change concept posed a particular challenge. A project team consisting of managers, employees, works council and change advisors got to grips with this. “Many companies would like to run a workplace analysis, but they often don’t dare to do it in full,” reports Peter Labohm.
Several workshops with the employees focused on interior design, color and choice of materials as well as equipment for the office.
Various ideas and requests were presented to architect Jennifer Winkler from DB Immobilien and the interior designers from the Kinnarps. Collating them, structuring them and converting them into a concept that was both feasible and professional was a joint effort: “we worked very well together as a team because we speak one language and we reached an agreement very quickly,” reports Jennifer Winkler. Maritta Kavanozis, Interior designer from Kinnarps adds:
”The cooperation with DB Immobilien and DB in general has been very positive. It is based on mutual trust and good communication. Having managed several joint projects over the years, we all know what needs to be done and we design the environments according to the needs that have been identified.”
Going one step further, it was particularly useful to be able to visualise the potential new office space using virtual reality. “A virtual inspection of the new office based on the initial plans was organised at the Kinnarps showroom in Frankfurt and at a trade fair stand during an employee conference. With VR glasses, we could enter the rooms, compare them against our vision and make adjustments,” says Peter Labohm, describing another aspect of the participation and involvement.
As a result of all the processes and studies, the seven organisational units now have home zones. The open office zones with a maximum of eight workstations are used flexibly according to the work patterns that were identified. In addition there are secluded workstations available. The technical standards for personal equipment such as headset, wireless keyboard and mouse, laptop, mobile phone, locker and a personal bag for this equipment are state of the art. The Series P standard workstations are height adjustable and fitted with two screens. Digital ways of working are no longer a futuristic dream as we move towards going paperless.
When it comes to choosing communication and meeting areas, no request has been left unmet: a full range of sizes and equipment is available, including creative rooms with IT connections and video technology, and they’re just waiting to be booked through the new reservation system. There is also a wide variety of quiet zones and secluded areas. Detlef Frank has the numbers at his fingertips: “The seven home zones offer 88 standard multi-space workstations, 14 secluded workstations, 9 touch-down workstations, 22 meeting and creative rooms of various sizes, 8 communication areas and 4 kitchenettes with seating. We have capacity for a occupancy rate of up to 72.3%.”
Anyone walking around the two floors is struck not only by the range of working environments, but above all by the creative bespoke room designs, inspired by nature. Large-scale, homely photo walls transport viewers to different landscapes. You might find yourself in a North Frisian dune landscape, or standing among autumn grass or, as with the office of Head of Procurement Ralf Lüthi, floating on clouds in a blue sky. Each department decided how its own rooms should be designed and Jennifer Winkler and Maritta Kavanozis channelled these wishes and fed them into a coherent overall concept. Some conference attendees enjoy the view of a breathtaking mountain landscape, while others prefer to hold their team meetings against the backdrop of an Italian orangery.
Upholstered furniture by Kinnarps in a wide range of colours complement these landscapes. The Fields series is available in light yellow or in combinations of mauve and blue. The Fendo chair with its characteristic wooden legs is upholstered in beach colours and Pax chairs are available in bright red, clear blue and orange. The wooden chairs in the kitchenettes, such as Neo Lite, are also painted in matching colours. Nothing is dull here: everything about this harmonious colour concept creates a real feel-good atmosphere.
Many colleagues have already told us in writing and verbally that they hadn’t expected the result to be this great, even with all the preparatory work. Detlef Frank is pleased to report that, “the words we’re seeing most often are “excellent” and “great”.” “I would definitely keep designing the process like this in future, because I think we’ve really created something great here.”