»There is no substitute for personal interaction,« says Thilo Weinland. Alongside the managing partners overseeing the Munich office, Steffen Bovenberg and Jürgen Marx, Weinland as one of the managing directors at projekt//partner is largely responsible for the areas his company advises on. And what can be said with certainty is that during the past two years of crisis, this catalogue of questions has clearly changed a lot and has grown longer: how can a workplace be designed safely? Has the open-plan office outlived its usefulness? How can employers create an attractive atmosphere that fosters cohesion and enables cooperation, despite the increase in home office arrangements and safe-distance regulations?
A HUB FOR ENCOUNTERS
In conversation with Thilo Weinland from projekt//partner
The pandemic has shaken the foundations of numerous offices and raised massive challenges in terms of collaboration. Professions of the rather progressive creative industry were affected by that as well: first the mandatory home office, then the extension of a long list of measures, finally the phased return to an office that ideally is supposed to be COVID-proof. The team of projekt//partner, a pioneer in the field of New Work for 20 years, provides consulting services in this "new normal” world of work.
The human factor is key
Obviously, the one correct perspective on all these questions does not exist, and every company must find their specific answers and possibly explore them by iteration. However, it is possible to offer guidance for fundamental considerations, which is what projekt//partner has been providing even long before the first lockdown. »The human factor is key, and particularly so when creative work is involved,« said Thilo Weinland in an interview in 2019. »This is why an investment in New Work is always money extremely well spent, and with a terrific return.« No one knew at the time that the visionary ideas of the New Work movement would receive a powerful boost shortly after. Yet »the new normal« has not altered the belief that people and their needs must remain the focus of attention. On the contrary.
A quick note at this point: when Weinland uses the buzzword New Work, he does not refer to hip Silicon Valley-style office environments boasting a smoothie bar and a pool table. To him, consulting – in the past and today – is about making companies more agile and adaptable based on well-founded New Work criteria, and thereby more crisis-proof and more creative as an organisation structure.
In the cooperation with Vitra, this role as a sparring partner in planning naturally entails interior design and creative components. How can office landscapes foster the people-to-people culture among colleagues and reflect their invisible social order? How can they adapt quickly and connect remote work with a sense of community? What materials enable them to be sustainable and of long-term use?
From the initial spark to the new world of work
At the MCBW event organised by projekt//partner in cooperation with Vitra, Vitra trend scout Raphael Gielgen shows how a certain roadmap for the future can also be drawn up in a world defined by uncertainty and transformation. In particular, projekt//partner embraces these uncertainties as an opportunity to challenge long-established patterns and to reflect anew on the company's goals. The consultation takes a holistic approach: from the initial inspiration to the joint planning process to the implementation of the new worlds of work – and even beyond.
Thilo Weinland sees this collaborative journey as a chance to provide meaning and substantial support for people in their work practices. He speaks of the redefined role of headquarters, which in future will be less of a place for routine work but rather a hub for encounters. He also points out that the infrastructure but also the cooperative spirit of the co-workers must be considered.
»We expect the home office to take hold across the board. If significantly more people spend a lot of time working from home, the furnishing of these home offices will become more important. Companies will increasingly look at how they can intelligently reconcile remote and stationary work, and what functions the headquarters can fulfil in the process.«
Individual solutions emerge especially from workshop-type settings, where a company's corporate culture can be scrutinised and a suitable office concept can be worked out. One thing is certain for projekt//partner: the pandemic shaking the foundations of the world of work and driving millions of employees into home office is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary: if many universal, essential questions are being raised, the relevance of the New Work movement especially now, at this very moment, becomes evident.
The conversation with Thilo Weinland was conducted by Sonja Pham for the online MAGAZINE of MCBW 2022.