With work zones towards an efficient and satisfying daily routine at Unic

The workplace is the homeland, a source of identity and inspiration, a room for interaction, but also a place to concentrate. In order to enable Unic employees to work in an efficient and effective manner, the company management introduced the strategic initiative Workplace2015+ in 2014. A concept of use was prepared and it will be implemented in the new office spaces of Unic Zürich in Altstetten as an example. The relocation will take place on 9-11 March 2016 – the preparations are at full tilt.

Sandro Dönni, Senior Consultant at Unic, who participated in workplace-related projects already for his previous employers, is the project manager of Workplace2015+ initiative. We have taken advantage of the calm before the relocation storm and asked him about the goals and cornerstones of the initiative.

Sandro, you have experienced various work environments: which factors influence work at Unic in particular?

Sandro Dönni: The primary component of Unic’s daily routine is project work. Various characteristics of our everyday work are a consequence of that.

“We enhance the success of our customers in e-Business.”

This is our mission. In order to offer the best service possible to our customers, our project teams are interdisciplinary - they are composed of employees from different organisational units. Content- and time-related considerations are very important in such a case, so it is a challenge and at the same time a success factor to bring various specialist perspectives together with view on the project goals. Many employees work simultaneously on multiple projects and therefore are members of different project teams. It is not always easy to reconcile various profiles in the project teams and to fulfil differing requirements. The project manager might find it essential that team members are immediately available, but the developer would like to work on an application with full concentration and without being disturbed. Because of project-oriented work, each day is different and it happens that work situations and constellations change within a single day. The dynamics of the project business causes a tension between individual work with full concentration and collaborative interaction, and such shifts often cannot be easily planned.

All these factors affect the productivity of each individual, the productivity of the team and as a consequence - of the whole company. At the same time they are responsible for both the burden and the satisfaction of our employees.

What goal underlies Workplace2015+ concept?

Unic launched Workplace2015+ initiative to provide optimum support to the employees in their activities. The following Vision Statement was prepared together with the company management:

  • “Workplace 2015+” encompasses the future arrangement of our work environment, including the workplaces at Unic Branches.
  • The goal is to create such a work environment where our employees can feel well and work productively. At the same time it will take into account differences in work contents as well as various modes of conduct and forms of work.
  • Workplace 2015+ enables, on the one hand, individual work with full concentration and, on the other hand, collaboration (both on-site and distributed) between Unic employees but also with customers and partners.
  • The facilities in the Branches facilitate interaction between people.

The Vision Statement is the basis for the arrangement of the office spaces. The space arrangement directly affects the organisation and the structures.

“Space influences our behaviour and our culture.” Sandro Dönni

That is why, first of all we analysed how we work today and what the needs of various roles are, together with their individual impacts on the workplace. This was the base for preparing a needs-oriented concept of use showing how we wish to work at Unic in the future.

What were the specific steps of the analysis?

We employed a participative process in order to accommodate the needs of various stakeholders. We checked what proved out, what the current problems were, and what developments should be anticipated. Great significance was attached to the inclusion of stakeholders and employees - it was reflected in the organisation of a sounding board and in the choice of measures for the analysis stage: plenty of analysis methods were applied so that we were able to identify as many requirements as possible:

  • Online survey for all employees
  • Qualitative focus groups with team leaders and project managers for discussions about various ideal zone concepts
  • Individual interviews with key persons
  • Open collection of ideas with the use of our internal collaboration tool - Yammer

Thanks to that, questions could be answered at the analysis stage, which permitted drawing grounded conclusions and preparing a targeted concept.

What are the cornerstones of the concept of use established as a result of the analysis?

The concept of use combines a zone concept with the open space arrangement. Based on various needs, the zone concept defines numerous areas: Apart from individual workplaces, there is a quiet zone (library) for work with full concentration without being disrupted, zones for interactive collaboration, telephone or mini meeting rooms for up to three people, an activity zone, an entrance and a food court zone, which can be used as a centre for interaction, a coffee or lunch together, and contact with customers. Moreover, the location of organisational units makes the paths between units and roles which have multiple points of contact as short as possible.

Great emphasis was put on creating many collaboration rooms so that employees are not exposed to excessive noise at their workplaces. The 27 collaboration rooms are arranged differently so that it is possible to choose an appropriate room depending on the context and preference. About every third room is suitable for 1-2 people and intended for ad hoc meetings or telephone conversations. This is why they do not have to be booked but they can be used spontaneously.

  • Refuge rooms for unplanned spontaneous collaboration
  • Project rooms that can be used by a project team for many weeks and can be booked
  • Meeting rooms of various sizes - many of them are not arranged in a classical manner with tables and chairs but with high desks, chairs only, sofas, etc.
  • The quiet room covers the library and is a place intended for quiet and concentration
  • The activity room provides an opportunity to engage in games and sports

The new office spaces in Altstetten, which were not fully developed, made us free to implement this concept of use. Now we are excited about the daily routine after the relocation and we will check where the concept proves out every day and where adjustments are necessary. It was very important for us to incorporate such ergonomic factors in our plans as air, light, or noise, which are essential for health, satisfaction and efficiency.

What benefits for Unic are brought by the new Zürich Branch?

With the open space arrangement we facilitate open communication across organisational units and projects. 93% of the answers in the internal online survey reveal that this cross-communication will be increasingly more significant in the future. Through the use of a unique space in the new Branch we move closer together and thanks to the ample number of project rooms - also closer to our customers, who are always working with us.

The new Branch developed according to the new concept of use supports the employees in their respective tasks and in their individual work style, so that they can work efficiently with satisfaction and in a healthy environment. Owing to diverse work zones the employees can find a perfect work environment for any work situation and any specific task. At the same time the quality in the projects and the productivity of each person as well as of the team and organisational units are supported.

The large food court zone becomes a centre for informal and spontaneous interaction and “coffee conversations,” which facilitates interdisciplinary interaction independently of projects and organisational units. We regard this as an important factor of joint development and innovation in our work.

Hence, Workplace2015+ concept and the new Branch in Zürich constitute an investment in our employees but also in our customers: they benefit from satisfied, healthy and productive project partners, who take care of their needs and projects with full commitment.

OMEA Labs: interdisciplinary exchange to create something new

Unic regards interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge and experience as an important driver for challenging the existing solutions and developing new ideas. Apart from the vessels that entangle the entire company, there are individual initiatives in the teams to share knowledge so that something new can be created.