The coronavirus pandemic has proven the office isn’t the only place where you can work well. Mobile working also offers many advantages and creates flexibility. “For us, it is clear that we will not return to the old way of working together; we want to combine the best of the old and the new world,” says Managing Director Katrin Stegmaier-Hermle, taking stock of recent experience. For many employees, more flexibility means that they can better manage their daily work and family life. As a family-owned company, Balluff would like to continue to support its employees in this regard and enable mobile working even beyond the pandemic. In the future, they should be able to work even more flexibly on site but also while on the road. Ramona Pothoven, who is overseeing the implementation of this idea, adds: “More flexibility – that was a very specific wish that we were able to glean from the results of a survey in spring 2021.” The business economist and logistics expert has been working at Balluff since 2014. Initially, she was a project assistant for a large logistics project, and since 2016 she has been a consultant to the management team. As such, the 33-year-old is responsible for site development in Neuhausen – this also includes the new building project and the development of a new working environment.
Moving closer together globally
“Innovating automation” – that is Balluff’s motto. It emphasizes the claim to constantly rethink and further improve solutions for customers. For this to be successful, a global team is needed that works with the trends and, above all, is in constant exchange. In this respect, the last 16 months have provided a boost: global collaboration has accelerated considerably and the team has grown even closer together. Collaborative software like Microsoft Teams has made sure of that. “Every colleague is literally just a click away. This has increased the networking and collaboration of the international teams,” says Managing Director Katrin Stegmaier-Hermle about this effect. “And this will become even more important in the future. Because it’s not departmental boundaries, location or hierarchies that determine who I work with, but the skills needed in the project.”
New building strengthens collaboration and exchange
“I see a lot of potential in the new building. It will act as a catalyst for more collaboration,” says Pothoven, who has experience in construction – she also built a house of her own this year with her husband. “The new building in Neuhausen will reorganize the previous company headquarters. The office space rented at various locations in Neuhausen will in future be bundled in one place – the Balluff Campus,” she explains. “So on the one hand the new building makes it easier to work together and at the same time promotes contact with colleagues,” says the project manager, describing the advantages. “After all, there’s one thing we learned during the pandemic: we don’t want to do without personal exchange over lunch, a coffee break or a quick drop-in.” The open and light-flooded design of the new building therefore offers many opportunities for retreat, exchange and communication with colleagues and customers. “The interior design reflects our openness to new things and promotes creative working,” Pothoven concludes.
Organizing New Work
“For us, new work is not just about redesigning the premises and the workplaces, but also includes the organization of work and the fundamental corporate culture. Because that’s what makes up the working environment. Adapting these to current conditions and requirements is my understanding of new work,” explains Pothoven. In terms of implementation, this pertains to not only external factors such as the general economic situation, sustainability aspects and the changes brought about by Covid-19 play a role, but also internal company influences such as the current company organization and changed working methods, as well as the personal requirements of the employees flow into the new concept. “A good new work concept makes work better for employees, it addresses the individual requirements of employees. For Balluff, I also see this as an opportunity. With a modern working model, we also increase our attractiveness as an employer and have even better cards to play in the war for talent,” says the consultant to the management team.
Test run for new working model
Above all, the increase in flexibility and digital collaboration has an impact on the design of workstations. Balluff will therefore be relying on the principle of shared workstations (flex desks) in the future. With its own testing area in Neuhausen, the New Work Area, Balluff is currently trying out the new workplace concept: “Various teams work in this newly furnished office on a weekly basis. Their feedback and the experience gained from the long phase of mobile working during the pandemic are being directly incorporated into the new workplace concept,” explains Pothoven.
“It was important to us to involve our colleagues in the process right from the start and to develop the new concept together with them. Not only by asking for their wishes in a survey, but also by letting them test the new working environment.”
Testing Area for New Work Area
The New Work Area offers several workstations in an open office that can be used flexibly. In addition, there are possibilities to withdraw with telephone booths and quiet zones. “Balluff has placed a special focus on the design of the meeting rooms: Hybrid meetings – i.e. meetings where participants are connected on site and by video – are just as much part of the concept as meetings where the focus is on the creative exchange of information and ideas,” states Managing Director Florian Hermle. “I’m delighted to now see how the New Work Area is being used and accepted. As a project team, we have had a lot of advice and input to deliver the most suitable solution possible. The experience we’ve gained now will improve the concept even more.”
Blueprint for New Work
The experience gained from the New Work Area will initially be implemented at the new Balluff Campus. Neuhausen is thus an example for workplace concepts in all other Balluff subsidiaries. “Working in the new office – I’m already looking forward to that today. If someone had told me two years ago that the offices at Balluff would be virtually empty and almost everyone would be working from home, I wouldn’t have believed it. The pandemic has shown how flexible we are at Balluff. If we retain this flexibility, we will be able to strengthen our collaboration even further. And the new building and the new working environment will support us in this,” Pothoven sums up.