Almost exactly 10 years after the Austrian headquarters opened at Vienna’s Euro Plaza, Microsoft embarked on a renewal and redevelopment of their entire office structure. The result is a vibrant and diverse office landscape with visions for efficient working in the 21st century. For the approx. 300 employees, the construction phase meant 100 days of difficult circumstances but a wealth of experiences.
of office space on three levels. But now when you enter the reception area of Microsoft’s offices in Vienna, you find yourself in a totally new world. The entire ground floor is open plan and can be accessed by both customers and partners. The aspects that used to subliminally pose a permanent security risk owing to the prevailing environment have now been integrated into the spatial concept – the problem has been solved with transparency and a high-grade setting, enabling a wide variety of situations that encourage communication and encounters.
"Why did we decide to redesign our offices? Our aim was to increase our efficiency and improve our use of floor space, update the technical infrastructure and also create functional and functioning spatial possibilities that are adapted to suit our procedures and work processes," says Alexandra Moser, manager of the "Information Workers" business group.
"Over the years it had become clear that although we generally had sufficient space in our previous office, we needed a far greater number of meeting rooms, for example, for smaller team discussions. And there were not enough areas for real concentration or interruption-free phone calls. The cafeteria, on the other hand, was always overcrowded because it was one of the few places where you could meet people spontaneously in attractive surroundings."
At the same time, the office redesign also became an integral part of Microsoft’s corporate vision for 2012, which defined the company’s core expertise as providing optimal concepts and products for working and communicating in the 21st century. "This means that we naturally also require an office that is suited to us, our corporate philosophy of open communication and also our concept of rapid availability, high performance and intelligent customer orientation. And of course, our new office should also attract talented professionals and create a space where people will want to work," continues Moser.
The company’s own knowledge of the subject "New modes of work" was put to perfect use. Microsoft has long focused worldwide on issues relating to changing worlds of work. These results ultimately represent the foundation stone of Microsoft’s product development.
The requirements were therefore clear from the outset: today’s knowledge workers need an environment that allows discussions, encounters and networking while enabling privacy and concentration. They are mobile and work independently of a specific location. The significance of a fixed workplace has been replaced by a kind of "office base", where the office is regarded as an anchor for infrastructure, exchange and social contacts.
The Microsoft concept tailored to this idea is called Workplace Advantage and presents an optimal work environment as the result of the determinants space/technology/people. The focus is on innovation, productivity and employee satisfaction. More than 50 Microsoft branch offices have already implemented the WPA programme, individually adapted to fulfil the specific demands of the local business units and their employees.
The timeline was tightly planned for the Vienna site: the first planning phase began in January 2010. The call for tenders followed in spring, and the planning and commissioning were completed in December. The conversion began on 30 June 2011 and 100 days later, on 10 October 2011, the new offices were officially opened.
Employee inclusion was hugely important from the very beginning. With the help of coordinating, in-house ‘travel agents’, various teams researched needs, analysed activities and developed spatial units. Alexandra Moser: "In our new office, we now have flexible, but very practical types of rooms, such as ‘Call’ – a small unit for concentrated work and privacy, ‘Work’ – rooms for working in small groups, ‘Meet’ – traditional meeting rooms or ‘Think’ – real creative rooms with different visual themes, for brainstorming sessions or other informal work processes."
Microsoft Austria obtained planning support from Graz architects INNOCAD. "It was important for us to work with partners who understood what we meant by modern knowledge work and our wording, and who also had experience with ‘new modes of work’ and what really lies behind the concept," explains Moser.
For the Microsoft employees, the conversion phase meant difficult working conditions. The majority moved to three surrounding buildings, while some others worked from "mobile" offices, and it was fascinating to experience how and where spontaneous or self-organised teamwork was able to function. Of course the timing took into consideration the fact that many employees were on holiday or away on business during the summer months.
The new office had to live up to huge expectations from the very start. A survey conducted before the employees moved into their new headquarters revealed that they generally expected to increase the creativity in their own work, achieve a better work-life balance, but also – as a result of the new staffing concept in which only around 15 present of the employees have fixed or allocated workplaces – spend one day per week less at the office. This is a development which could well have interesting consequences – for example, a decrease in CO2 emissions of 80 tons per year. In the final analysis, as an employer of high-potential professionals such criteria are also an integral part of employee-oriented working conditions...
All that remains is to evaluate over the coming months whether it has all been successful. The new environment seems highly promising, and new company rules were even drawn up to reflect the new form of office living in order to be able to work efficiently with so much flexibility. Having said that, people have always been responsible for their own empty coffee cups.
If you would like to experience new modes of work live at Microsoft you can make an appointment for an office tour at www.dasneuearbeiten.at.