Office Design That Drives Work Productivity

Only recently PIABO moved into its new office at Gendarmenmarkt in the historical center to the of Berlin. In cooperation with the leading design manufacturer Vitra and the local furniture department store designfunktion Berlin, PIABO PR has developed an agile work environment for creative minds. The new office embraces the latest work environment insights and sets new standards in terms of functionality, form and flexibility. In an interview our CEO and founder Tilo Bonow talks about how he successfully established a productive working culture. He not only points out several tools that help to get the work done, but also refers to subconscious cues, and why it is important to involve the entire team in the realisation of the agency’s mission.

1. In your opinion: How does the work environment impact the productivity of an employee?

I personally believe that an employee’s productivity derives from a high quality approach towards his work in general. This is strongly mirrored in the DNA of PIABO. Within this concept, we constantly ask ourselves how to create a work environment that has a positive impact on everything that we do and helps us to succeed. Looking at our office today, I would add that our office structure and furniture not only contribute to this quality approach of work but also the well-being of our team. Consequently, I’d say that the office design has an impact on many aspects which are mission-critical for a people’s business like we are.

2. How does the new office structure improve work quality?

Before we started with the office concept, we wanted to find out what the individual needs of our team members are, for instance in terms of preferred working conditions, meeting frequencies etc. Based on that we included various working opportunities in the new office design in order to meet everyone’s working style.

For example, we decided to include two types of desks. The first desk type looks like a working bench with fixed workplaces. Thereby the employees can sit together in teams and work on joint projects. Additionally, we offer height adjustable desks, which ensure more individual working space, but don’t restrict to work in teams.

Moreover our office structure supports several rooms which are purpose-oriented and can be used for specific kind of meeting- or business situations like workshops, roundtables, press conferences etc. For instance, we have a big event area that can easily be turned into a conference room. In our reception area, we established a little co-working area for our freelancers and clients, so that they can work parallel to our consultants. We have a room for video conferences entailing a trapezoidal desk, as well as soundproof telephone cells for more intimate calls. Another important feature is our recreation room that our team members use when doing high concentration tasks like brainstorming for a concept, doing research or intensive reading.

Furthermore, we support a green image at our PIABO office – not only in terms of our colour scheme, but also because we support the idea of working in a comfortable, cozy and kind of natural environment. We feel that different kinds of shapes and patterns are inspiring plus supportive for the work environment. In the same regard, the colour green supports a sustainable working attitude, which we additionally  integrated in our office concept. As such, we follow a zero plastic policy. We don’t order plastic bottles anymore. Everyone owns a glass bottle, which can be filled directly from a filtered system connected to the tub. We follow the same rule for food that we order for our staff. Thus, we have a lot of vegan snacks, muesli, and other healthy options like fruits and vegetables.

3. By moving to the new office it was also important for you to constantly enhance the PIABO working culture. What is the key?

A great working culture has always been at the core of the PIABO DNA for one simple reason: we are a people’s business! We are not a high scalable startup, and we are not in a high growth phase, we don’t pursue the idea to become the largest PR agency in the world. Instead our focus lies on a certain industry, particularly the tech-industry that is driven by innovation and digital technology. In this field, we’d rather be the best than the biggest.

Our agency culture supports this aim, making our employees searching for the best solutions, not the fastest. And by getting positive results, they start admiring their work, and enjoy coming to the office. This really stands out in the industry. It even could work as a role model. Moreover, we care for our team members well-being and distance ourselves from the typical agency situation like working extra long hours, or working on weekends, which results in a high staff turnover. I clearly don’t resonate with this. In contrast, we implemented a very family-oriented culture, since many of our employees have children. That’s why we maintain flexible working hours including home office and remote work.

This is how PIABO lives its very own unique working culture. Our Flex Desk policy is just one example. We want to give our colleagues the freedom and flexibility to choose the best option for themselves to do the best work they can. This is a very individual and personal decision for everyone. Therefore in the management team we make sure that we have different options from which the employees can choose. Because only if you support individual ways of working you help the team to achieve the best possible outcomes.

I like to describe our agency model as a triangle that guarantees the balance between work force, network and clients. Each of the components is equally important. Without our clients, we would not have the great work we are doing. But also our clients wouldn’t come into the benefits of our great work, if we didn’t have our professional staff with its network contacts and creativity. But in order to do their best possible work, the team also needs to feel appreciated – otherwise they don’t manage to stand up for their ideas when getting in touch with journalists and multipliers. As follows, everything is equally important, and we have to make sure that this triangle stays in balance.

4. After one month of working in the new office, what is your impression: How did the work mentality of your employees change?

Honestly, I have to say that I was very surprised how quickly everyone adapted to the new surroundings. I was expecting that it might take some weeks until everyone would have adjusted, but starting from the first day, the team came in with a bright smile on their face. I could see right away that they were  loving it. They immediately had fun to try out all the different meeting facilities, and were curious to test all the new techniques of the different room concepts.

I was really amazed to see how quickly everyone engaged in finding out which working styles were best for them. Giving everyone the possibility to individually structure their own work flow while providing them with the best possible tools, is a good way of motivating everyone in the team to work towards their best possible results.

Thus, when I enter the office in the morning, I can feel the positive energy. Also our guests, clients and journalists, were astonished by the spirit of our office. Some of them even asked for the opportunity to arrange board meetings and internal events at our site. Now we have a variety of events taking place each month. We like to show how the future of work and community work in a communications agency looks like. In the end, it is very nice to see that we did not only transform our ideas within six months of hard work but furthermore that our work is already paying off in that short amount of time.

5. You involved your team in every step of the design & construction of the new office.  From your experience, is it important that employees play an active role in the design, construction & development phase?

I could not have done this without the input of my team. Also I never wanted it to be a CEO-led process, since decisions such as how to design and structure an office are mission-critical. Hence, for me it was of great importance  to involve the team. There are so many details that you have to put into consideration. You really have to understand how the team works on a daily basis, how they think the quality of their work could be improved, and what they like and what they dislike. We gave everyone the chance to express their personal vision and asked them what is important to them in order to take the next big step.

When it got to the design of the office, we tried to include as many perspectives as possible. On the one hand there was the design aspect which we worked out in various  workshops and especially with the help of vitra. On the other hand we thought about it from an HR perspective, an actual working perspective – in terms of functionality – and not to forget, we also took the perspective of our consultants into account.

We consciously tried to involve everyone to be part of this process. That’s why I think if we didn’t involved the team in the entire process right from the start the office design wouldn’t be half as good. It was fascinating for me to see that my team challenged our service provider repeatedly with their ideas and improvement suggestions. Only by setting our expectations high, asking for different options, questioning the materials and the design, we achieved astonishing results.