Nov 18 2020

"The attitude towards the office is changing"

Coworking has been a successful model in recent years. Mobile and flexible working methods have become established in many areas. But what challenges are there in implementing such concepts, especially in view of the Corona pandemic? We spoke to interior designers Susanne Brandherm and Sabine Krumrey about changing working worlds and new requirements for the design industry.

How do you currently assess the demand for coworking - also in view of the Corona pandemic? 

Susanne Brandherm: Demand has grown significantly in recent years. Many companies are changing and want to have a modern working environment. In addition, the competition for talent has increased the demands on the office environment. Young companies and start-ups in particular rely on mobile working to ensure a good working atmosphere.

The corona pandemic seems to be changing attitudes towards the office even further. Flexible working models are becoming even more important, which could be an advantage for coworking spaces. Compared to the home office, coworking spaces offer the possibility to separate work and private life. They also provide a professional environment and make social exchange possible.

Helix Hub, Berlin © Joachim Grothus

What are the biggest challenges in implementing coworking in established companies and how do you deal with them? 

Sabine Krumrey: Companies are often used to traditional offices and when it comes to coworking they tend to think of office worlds like Google and Facebook. But that may not fit in with their own reality. In order to transfer internal processes from the old to the new working world, change management is usually required.

With our spatial planning we contribute to this and enable more agile forms of work through a permanent exchange and new approaches. Often we start with a workshop in order to find out the actual needs together with the client and translate them into a spatial design

And what special demands do coworking spaces make on interior design? 

Susanne Brandherm: In our design, flexibility is particularly important in order to be able to react to changing forms of work. Individual and teamwork, collaborative, focused or agile work - interior design must take changing working methods into account. Basically, modern coworking spaces are also very important in terms of catering and supply.

More emphasis is placed on meeting places and communal areas for exchange away from the actual workplace. Individualisation also plays a major role. We therefore always develop space concepts that allow the individual attitude of the respective company to be experienced. 

Design Offices Cologne Gereon © Joachim Grothus/Design Offices GmbH

How should a Coworking Space be furnished? 

Sabine Krumrey: Basically, it should look less like a classic office and more like a cosy and comfortable space. We spend a lot of time at the workplace and should feel at home there. Furniture and equipment should be as variable as possible and be able to adapt quickly to changing situations. There should be enough space to move or relax. An outdoor area can serve as an extended working and retreat area. 

How do you cooperate with other trades when creating coworking spaces?

Susanne Brandherm: In most projects we select our favourite products within the framework of the conceptual design. If possible, we communicate directly with the manufacturers. For large projects, for example, 20 or more manufacturers are involved. Here, contract furnishing companies often act as an interface, supporting us in terms of technical details, design variants or delivery processes, for example.

The cooperation is usually so good that we act as a team with the designer in our dealings with the client. This creates additional trust, as we can thus offer the client joint know-how and a high degree of security in terms of costs and implementation. 

How will office planning change with the Corona pandemic? 

Sabine Krumrey: Some companies seem to be feeling insecure at the moment. They are waiting to see how their needs and spatial requirements develop. The pandemic could lead to a rethinking of existing structures and work processes.

Great flexibility for different ways of working is therefore becoming increasingly important. Our planning for offices enables a flexible design of the working environment. Current arrangements such as distances between workplaces or the enlargement of areas for meetings could be implemented quickly. 

Author: Broekman+Partner

© Patrick Lipke/brandherm + krumrey Susanne Brandherm and Sabine Krumrey together run the brandherm + krumrey interior architecture office based in Cologne and Hamburg.

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