How can office layout impact working culture?

When designing the new headquarters for Outokumpu, special focus was placed on the need of a variety of working spaces and conference rooms. Another issue to figure out was how office premises can create and promote a new kind of working culture.

When Outokumpu, the global leader in stainless steel, relocated its headquarters from Espoo to Helsinki, the move in itself was not the only change to take place. When the moving trucks arrived in Helsinki in summer 2016, it marked a change towards a working culture characterised by collaboration and togetherness.

The old Espoo offices were located in a building from the 1970s with employees having separate rooms, groups and routines. There was intrigue in moving to the new Helsinki headquarters to work in open-plan offices.

Fyra received an invitation to tender and was chosen to provide the interior architecture for the new Outokumpu headquarters. “We were immediately on the same wavelength and discussing concrete ideas”, says Taisto Kauppinen, Real Estate Manager at Outokumpu.

Outokumpu, too, had concrete and detailed expectations regarding the new headquarters: for example, the idea of a centralised conference centre existed already. The centre consists of 18 different conference rooms, facilities for conducting phone calls and meeting rooms.

“This is quite the office you have here”

The starting point for the design process was to come up with an interior that would, to a certain extent, reshape the imagery of traditional steel industry without ending up being too trendy. The interior architecture emphasises the brand by using steel details, the colour blue and the simplicity of streamlined visual imagery. This is especially noticeable in the conference centre.

“When you enter the centre, first thought that comes to mind is wow, this is quite the office you have here”, Taisto says.

The transition from your own room to an open-floor plan was made smoother by keeping the personnel continuously informed on the latest news and progress of the interior project. For example, employees had the opportunity to try the new furniture and visit the construction site.

One of the topics under discussion was the meaning of an open-plan office space today. It is not a single open space where everyone hears everyone’s phone calls but rather a hybrid office that incorporates not only individual work stations but also secluded little areas and sofa sets. Other important facilities include quiet areas separated with partitions as well as private spaces for conducting phone calls and having meetings. Each floor and wing has a variety of different spaces for employees to choose from according to their working methods.

“We have been here for six months now and nobody misses the old office. The atmosphere is happier. You are more engaged in conversations with your colleagues since there are no separate rooms where to spend the whole day. I believe this also improves collaboration between teams”, Taisto says.

Coffee, anyone?

Starting the project, a great deal of thought was put into how to maintain the team spirit and togetherness when people have settled in the new premises and are slightly scattered. Coffee machines were the answer, or rather, reducing the number of machines: the new office has basically just one big coffee machine encouraging interaction between colleagues.

“Occasionally you have to wait for your coffee but that’s alright. The coffee tastes good and people are happy”, Kauppinen says.

“The outcome was immensely successful and working with Fyra was effortless. It’s always a pleasure to work with professionals.”

Photographer: Sampsa Pärnänen

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