People and Culture

Our Zurich office – home for a new world of work

Markus Thoma has been with Zühlke for 12 years and is responsible for facility management. His most extensive project to date has been the planning and design of the new Zühlke site at Zurich. It brings together a total of 500 employees in an area of almost 10,000 square metres in a former printing works

Zühlke Office Switzerland
  • How do you plan a building that not only fits for when you move in, but far beyond that?
  • Was moving to a new building - considering the pandemic that has constantly accompanied us since we moved in 2020 - even the right decision?
  • And how is a building also a reflection of our company culture?
5 minutes to read

A time for new thinking

The idea of finding a location for the growing Zühlke company began more than 10 years ago. Back then, the world of work looked very different. 'Everyone had their own workstation with an in-tray on the desk and an engraved nameplate on the office door, and the management each had their own office. That was very static and not at all project-oriented, let alone progressive,' explains Markus Thoma. With the growth of the company came a change of strategy and the realisation that change was necessary.

What will the office of the future look like?

Key milestones were defined in strategy workshops and also discussed in employee surveys. This involved questions such as, 'From an architectural point of view, what is the most important point or the most important place? What are our employees' most important needs?' In this area, the respondents were unanimous: a huge part of the foundations of our culture at Zühlke is interpersonal exchange. That is why everyone wanted a central meeting place for a lively dialogue with one another.

The second major topic was flexibility. 'Around 7 years ago, when we were planning, we were faced with the challenge that, on the one hand, we were constantly growing and adjusting our growth forecasts every year. On the other hand, of course, there were times when we had to pin down the project planning and make decisions.' From the very beginning, flexibility has been a priority. In 2017, the objective was 'Design an office that will be right for 2029, not for the planned 2019 occupancy.' So the strategy was to provide more room for manoeuvre in the future.

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More than an office

Of course, we needed more than just an office. Adaptable laboratories, a machine hall with CNC machining centres and a large number of meeting- and workshop-rooms also had to be incorporated. In addition, we needed space for events with up to 300 people, as well as a complete catering service. These special requirements meant that the quest for a site was not an easy one!

After years of searching, the former printing plant of the newspaper "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" proved to be ideal. On the one hand, its two-part layout offered exactly the flexibility we needed. On the other hand, we were able to use the Piazza Hall as a centre for the interchange that everyone wanted. The idea itself is not new. At our previous location, as well as in our Bern office, central locations – always equipped with a coffee machine – were and are important magnets for people, which also explains why there are coffee machines in only one location. It brings people together at the piazza level, reducing silo thinking within departments and project teams.

The Piazza Hall: coffee meets team spirit

The Piazza embodies the core of our new understanding of work and more than ever answers the question: why do employees go to the office in the first place? Because they are looking for interaction with one another. The Piazza offers this openness and promotes the teamwork that is so crucial at Zühlke. 'The fact that the Piazza Hall offers so much space and so many different uses is quite extraordinary and says a lot about our culture. We have deliberately designed different, complementary zones that form an integral part of the piazza. These include meeting rooms, open workshop- and collaboration-zones, but also individual workstations, all directly adjacent to the Piazza's catering area. All these zones make it possible to work close to the centre. The result: colleagues do a whole lot of communicating there! We intentionally take this focus on communication and interchange to the extreme. People experiencing the Piazza for the first time sometimes find it over-the-top or almost a bit luxurious. But when you recognise the history and the awareness of this venue as a place for communication, interchange and work, it's very justifiable.'

Project-focussed instead of personnel-focussed

This also explains the high number of meeting rooms that can be used very flexibly. It was increased from the original 35 rooms to 70. More than two-thirds of the space is reserved for teamwork; groups look for the rooms they need to suit the particular project. This, too, is a result from a workshop that dealt with the changes in the world of work. 'Even before Covid, we were aware that we would be working in a highly distributed way, including working from home, sometimes at the customer's site, and in other locations too.' This resulted in a desire to create spaces that resemble home. This also explains the high proportion of wood used in the office. 'The decisive factor in all our efforts is to create an ideal working atmosphere in which it is possible to work well and efficiently. It's not finished: it's an ongoing theme.'

The experience with the new building shows that we have chosen the right strategy – especially against the background of Covid. Since moving in in 2020, the pandemic has been with us constantly, but it has also confirmed how invaluable this flexibility is for us. And we intend to consistently cultivate this work culture in the future.

Zühlke Office Switzerland

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