New Work: a field test by the Berlin Senate’s department for finance
The age of digitalisation is changing our work environments – for the better. Mobile Internet, modern conferencing solutions and technological developments have made location-independent, flexible work possible in many professions.
While there were just 75 co-working spaces in the world in 2007, the German online statistics portal Statista predicts that there will be around 26,300 shared workspaces in 2020. In huge metropolises across the world, New Work – meaning digitally and globally connected work – has long since become a part of professional culture.
The “nine-to-five mentality” with its fixed working hours and fixed workplace seems to be slowly becoming obsolete. Growing numbers of people are seeking greater flexibility in their daily working lives. And that is true for all professional groups.
For the first time, the German civil service is now also asking what it can do to be perceived as an attractive and, above all, modern employer in the future in the age of the home office and co-working spaces. The Berlin Senate’s department for finance is attempting to answer this question with a pilot project: It launched the initiative Work Different – A Work Culture Fit for the Future in the Senate’s Department for Finance (Arbeit mal anders – zukunftsfähige Arbeitskultur in der Senatsverwaltung für Finanzen) in January 2020.
Open-plan, bright shared workspaces instead of individual offices
New technologies are calling for and shaping new work environments. This is also true for Berlin’s public administration. Since the beginning of January, the Senate’s department for finance has shown how the requirements for digital working, flexitime and interdisciplinary teamwork can be translated into a physical environment in model spaces in Klosterstraße 59, not far from Berlin’s City Hall.
The department has needed to experiment with a new work culture and a different organisational culture for several reasons. Its staffing requirements have increased significantly in recent years, and demand for flexible working hours and teleworking is constantly growing. But first and foremost the digitalisation of Berlin’s public administration is expanding. This is the backdrop to the launch of the pilot project Work Different – A Work Culture Fit for the Future in the Senate’s Department for Finance.
The project seeks to foster flexible, efficient and effective work and to develop a needs-based facility and space management strategy. Instead of having fixed desks, the model provides workstations solely based on actual demand.
The workstations are equipped with docking stations for laptops so that employees can access electronic files at any time from any desk. The space concept also provides for attractive separated and open-plan meeting areas. Staff can make mobile phone calls anytime without being interrupted in specially designated spaces.
“As the administrative department responsible for the staff of the State of Berlin, the department for finance is conscious of its central role in the design of future workplaces,” explains Dr Matthias Kollatz, Senator of the Berlin department for finance. “These spaces demonstrate that contemporary work environments are also possible in old properties from the existing building stock, many of which are listed monuments.
I am especially pleased that the initiative for the pilot project came from employees in our department’s digitalisation unit. The project has come into being in conditions that are very close to reality: the constantly growing team already has a high level of digitalisation today. What’s more, many of our colleagues are making use of the opportunities for teleworking. This meant that the conditions were ideal for a realistic and meaningful implementation.”
The Senate’s department for finance collaborated closely with the Fraunhofer IAO Center for Responsible Research and Innovation CeRRI on the project’s concept and implementation. The institute specialises in issues such as participatory work design and changes in the world of work. Swedish company Kinnarps provided expertise on space management and spatial design to support the pilot project.
Test phase completed at the end of March 2020
The pilot project finished at the end of March 2020. Following a successful test phase, the plan now is to roll out the project within a larger space in another office of the Senate’s department for finance. The aim there is to develop a standard for the State of Berlin in collaboration with BIM Berliner Immobilienmanagement GmbH. Subsequent roll-outs in further sections of the department’s head office in Klosterstraße 59 are then envisaged.
The progressive digitisation of all occupational groups goes hand in hand with more flexible forms of work. Thanks to mobile devices, many employees can already do their job on the move. Flexible and mobile work is done on business trips, in co-working spaces or in the home office. Especially in the current corona situation, this is becoming increasingly important.