Inspiration for free thinking

For the move to Europa City, the auditing firm KPMG has introduced a new, flexible office concept. In march, the employees move into the compledted new building on Heidestrasse.

Slender birch trunks with their white bark stand in the middle of the office next to two-metre high evergreen plants. Large palm trees also create a pleasant feeling in the space. Between them, the desks are almost invisible. What looks like a botanical garden and bears the name, Green Garden, is part of the new working world that the accounting firm KPMG has set up in Europacity. For the past year, KPMG has been occupying a floor in the Monnet 4 office building next to TOUR TOTAL, testing and optimising its new office concept. The concept will now be installed into KPMG’s new building on Heidestrasse, built by CA Immo. In April, the company will start its operations there. Around 1,000 employees from the IT, human resources, and finance departments, will soon be working there.

“It feels like we’re making a journey to Europacity, a new beginning,” says Frank Wiethoff, Regional Head East at KPMG. With the new buildings, neighbours and residents, he is convinced that the flair of an inner-city quarter will develop here, with plenty of liveliness and options for dining out. KPMG chose Europacity because of its prominent, central location and excellent transport connections. Nowhere else in the capital could such a large office building, a floor area of 12,000 square metres, be built in a comparable location and with such great transport connections. The new building will enable KPMG to reduce its eight locations in Berlin to just four. “The area around the main train station has developed rapidly in recent years,” says Frank Wiethoff.

Today’s working world has also evolved. It has become digital. And companies need to be more flexible than ever before to react quickly to the market or a multitude of different tasks. In many cases,
KPMG will have several employees working together on a project as a team. Depending on the issues, the make up of the team can be changed. “The exchange of communication has become much more extensive in the last ten years. In addition, our tax consultants, auditors, and consultants are always on the move – they are always mobile, working on their laptops,” says Stefan Kiehn, Head of Corporate Real Estate Management at KPMG.

This is why there are no conventional offices in the new building. As Frank Wiethoff says, the concept of a permanent workspace for each employee has been abandoned because colleagues now often work in project teams. That’s why the whole building has an open design. But it would be a mistake to call the principle behind this simply ‘open-plan’. Instead, the floors are divided into what are called working environments.

Nine different zones create a variety of possibilities for work spaces. One of them is the Green Garden, replete with green carpeting. In addition, there are other standard workstations with groups of two or four table combinations situated in the so-called, Home Zone, located along the ceiling-high window fronts. The furniture and floors usually feature warm and earthy tones as well as pastel colours. If you prefer to work undisturbed, you can use your laptop in the Quiet Zone, like in a library. It is forbidden to make phone calls here. Sensitive conversations with clients can be conducted in the Office Meets area. These two-person workplaces are screened off from the rest of the office world by a glass frontage.

The look of the interior uses elements of interior architecture and design and was developed by the Berlin architectural firm Kinzo, which also designed the office world in the 50Hertz headquarters across the way. The centre of each floor is a coffee lounge decked out with parquet flooring. Here you can not only relax, prepare something to eat in the microwave or drink coffee, but work as well. And of course, there is WLAN and power sockets at the counters and tables. The most popular ‘alternative workplaces’ are the seating nooks. “The best literary works were created in cafés. People are particularly creative in community,” says Stefan Kiehn.

The lounge is a meeting place where flexible working is put into practise, especially as communication can’t help but be stimulated by the pleasant atmosphere and view of the main station. These exchanges are important for creativity and in developing new ideas. This also applies to the conference rooms for meetings and project work, which can be booked for a few hours or a whole day with the click of a mouse via a special system. However, if you do not use the room 15 minutes after the scheduled start, or do not register, the booking is cancelled and the room considered free again for use by other employees. KPMG is currently implementing similar office concepts at its Hanover and Dresden locations.

It’s no surprise that such a classic business enterprise is abandoning its time-tested and trusted office standards and implementing such a sophisticated concept. For years now, KPMG has been analysing its office use as it searches for new space for its 11,500 employees, in 25 locations, in Germany. What they found was that auditors, consultants and tax advisors, only averaged between 45 and 55 per cent of their time at their workplaces. This means that about half of the desks go unoccupied over the course of a day.

Collaboration was also made more difficult because there were hardly any rooms for teamwork. “We are constantly subject to change, and have been observing international developments. With this office concept, we can react much more flexibly to the requirements of different teams, and the high rate of change in our company,” says Thomas Löhmer, KPMG Partner and Head of Infrastructure. KPMG’s Europacity building will have around 850 workspaces for its 1,000 Central Services employees.

Creativity is about well-being, and it needs inspiring space,” says Frank Wiethoff. The new concept was received extremely positively by the employees. They choose a desk in the morning, change workplaces during the day or attend a meeting, making ‘their’ desk free for others. Where the concept has already been implemented, as in Monnet 4, colleagues report that they meet much more frequently, and also with people they had little contact with in the past – including managers and partners.

“The spirit of optimism is palpable. Our employees feel they are in the process of creating something completely new in Europacity,” says Frank Wiethoff, Regional Head East. Co-working has a positive social effect. It brings together people whose cooperation is strengthened and stimulated beyond their specialist knowledge.

The office building on Heidestrasse occupies half of the building site and is owned by Austrian company, CA Immo. On the other half of the site, CA Immo has plans for a high-rise building directly on Europaplatz.

“Anyone leaving the main station to the north will see this very substantial building!”

Matthias Schmidt, Head of Development Germany at CA Immo

At 84 metres in height, the building will be 15 metres higher than the TOUR TOTAL. An architectural competition, where KPMG also sat on the jury, was decided in the spring of 2017. The high-rise will be built to the design of Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten from Munich.

According to CA Immo, the building application for the 125 million euro project will be submitted at the end of 2018. Building will not start until Deutsche Bahn has completed construction on the S 21 train line to the main station because the high-rise will be built above the tunnel. Nevertheless, Schmidt has appealed to the Berlin Senate to commence the planning for Europaplatz, in front of the main station, as soon as possible. The KPMG building and the adjoining office high-rise will effectively frame the square.