"It was a good thing that I didn’t see the office when I interviewed with Microsoft Austria. That would have been a reason for rethinking my decision", says Petra Jenner. The software company’s old office space actually offered a lot of room, but was "not really appealing or used creatively." Time to change things, the new boss decided, and led her more than 300 employees in a renovation plan that definitely qualifies as a pioneering project in Austria. As she moves on to the Swiss branch after her successful change management, she will leave above all one thing behind: an exemplary space for communication and creativity.
During the renovation, you gave up your established workplace in the building. Where are you working now?
To be honest, everywhere and nowhere. Truly, "my office is where I am."
What do you associate with the phrase, "the new world of work"?
Well, I could talk a half an hour about that subject alone... I think that the most important thing to associate with "the new world of work" is that we really create a space of interaction, where people enjoy coming to exchange ideas and work productively together... and above all don’t just come because they have to. So I go to work, but I also go to exchange ideas with my colleagues on a specific topic.
How do you experience that personally?
As a manager, the "new modes of work" place a lot of new challenges on me. We’ve been experiencing it live now for a few months – it has certainly been the greatest social experiment that my managers and I have ever initiated. But already it has become so natural that I can hardly imagine how things were before. This process goes pretty fast.
Are physical workspaces still important?
I think the mixture is what makes it function. There are a lot of tasks that lend themselves wonderfully to virtual work. That’s what we found out in recent months in our interim space – other tasks, though, require a fixed environment. What keeps coming up, though, is simply the need to exchange ideas among people. At the end of the day we’re not robots - we’re people. And accordingly, personal interaction will always be important. The spaces that you find for this purpose are crucial in determining how people interact.
The new office will be furnished with several different themes and theme areas. Do you have a place where you think you would particularly enjoy working?
Everyone who knows of my love of Asia will also know that the "Zen" room is probably the one that I would visit first. Nonetheless: I believe that all of the rooms will have their appeal, precisely because they are so different, are custom-tailored to various work situations, and enable various kinds of interaction. And diversity is what makes the difference! That’s why we’re offering a good balance for the requirements of everyday work life.
Aside from the new office, is there a place where you would really like to work some day?
Yes, definitely. I have a clear vision of this. It would be in my house on the sea. I don’t know where exactly, but definitely with an ocean view. That would be my dream.
We already have WLAN everywhere, and IT enables access to all of the relevant data, so....
all that’s missing is the house!
And on the other hand: Where would you not want to work?
There are a few places. Based on my own experience, I find it hard to imagine working in the USA right now. And I never want to work in a cellular office again, with one cubicle after the other. People can personally design their own area, but that layout doesn’t promote communication. In the end, we’re all people who like to communicate. We’re only really strong as a team.
Does that mean you prefer working with others than alone?
Yes, I prefer working with people, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do my job at all. As people say in my line of work, if you don’t love people, you probably shouldn’t become a manager. It’s very rare that I work alone, but when I do, I really have to have absolute silence. This usually works best at home.
How important is design in the workplace to you ?
The surroundings should be attractive. That’s important. I’m a very visual person. And an attractive work environment helps me personally to concentrate on what’s essential.
Are there certain rituals that are important for you at work?
Of course. People are raised from a young age with rituals, and that continues on throughout your entire professional life. One of my rituals is important whenever I have a lot of appointments lined up. I use every free minute, including travel time, to tune into the people that I’m about to meet with. I got into the habit of doing this several years ago, and in my position, it has become very important.
You’re going to Switzerland, which means you won’t be able to use the new office for very long. Which experiences are you taking with you? What would you wish for?
I want this office, which was designed and created by the team alone, to become a space of encounter, and hopefully the most innovative office in Austria. That’s my greatest wish. That’s why we initiated the project.
The experience that I have gained above all is the confirmation of my faith in teams. A team is simply cleverer than a single person can ever be, and that for me was the most beautiful thing about this project. The office in Switzerland was also renovated at the same time, so we’re going to experience the "new modes of work" there as well.