Schiphol site is showcase office of the future
In 2005, Microsoft founder Bill Gates published a
white paper, The New World of Work that spelled out his vision of a working environment that embraced a consultative style of management and role flexibility.
He suggested that this was necessary if companies were going to get the best out of the next generation of employees and open up new levels of productivity. Underpinning this concept are three pillars: corporate culture, working environment and technology that supported collaboration and flexible working — provided by Microsoft, of course.
Theo Rensema, general manager of Microsoft NL answered that call, taking advantage of a head office move in 2008. Here is a pictorial tour of the building now that the three year project has come to completion, highlighting some of the innovations he pushed through.
April 8, 2011
1. Microsoft NL common area
The first floor of the building is a common area that illustrates how the conventional borders of the office have been broken down. It is used as a combined dining area and informal meeting space.
2. Microsoft NL common area
Specifically designed to create chance encounters with co-workers otherwise denied by office siloes, Microsoft NL's communal dining and meeting area is the social hub of the building.
3. Microsoft NL meeting seating
Microsoft NL's common area is a busy place. It is used for a variety of purposes from the purely social encounter to the more work-focused touch-and-go meeting. Accordingly there is a spectrum of seating to choose from that suit specific types of exchange.
4. Microsoft NL sound-proofing
The Microsoft NL head office common area on the first floor is a large open space frequently used by many of the employees. To keep noise to workable levels, many of the walls are covered with sound dampening surfaces.
5. Microsoft NL meditation zone
The Microsoft NL common area inlcudes enclosed cubicles originally intended as meditation areas. Company spokeswoman Gonnie Breen admits this hasn't been well-used by the domestic workforce. She notes it has been used by their perhaps more spiritually attuned visiting US colleagues.
6. Microsoft NL integrated meeting rooms
The company's Outlook suite has been hard-wired into the fabric of the building at Microsoft's Netherlands head office. Each meeting room has a screen by the door showing who has booked it that day. Much of the thinking behind the New World of Work initiative focuses on how applications like Outlook and Sharepoint can be used to promote collaboration and business intelligence-sharing.
7. Microsoft NL relaxed meeting rooms
The Microsoft NL head office has a variety of closed meeting rooms. Some promote formal gatherings, in the conventional way around a table. Others have a more relaxed ambience. It's an innovation that some staff at the office have needed time to adapt to.
8. Microsoft NL atria
Every floor in the Microsoft NL head office has a well that opens out to other floors. This is designed to open up departmental thinking and serves as a visual reminder that everone in the office works for the benefit of the company as a whole, not just for the good of their particular business line.
9. Microsoft NL hot-desking
No one in the Microsoft NL head office has their own desk, so they store their belongings in lockers. If someone wants to sit at the same desk every day, they can, but many choose not to, especially the managers. General manager Theo Rensema is reported to change desks several times a day.
10. Microsoft NL tailored workspaces
The basic thinking behind the New World of Work initiative at the Microsoft NL headquarters is that the work environment should be tailored to the particular task. So, while much of the office space is completely open plan, there are some areas, which offer cubicles that free employees from distraction or give them a quiet space to hold a conference call.
11. Microsoft NL flexible working
As part of embracing the New World of Work initiative, Microsoft employees at the Netherlands headquarters are expected to define how they will work for themselves. It is up to them to negotiate with their manager how much contact they need to have with them and how often they need to come into the building.
12. Microsoft NL hotdesk policing
Even in a completely open-plan hot-desk environment, some of the workspaces at the Microsoft NL are more popular than others. There is a strong temptation to claim choice spots with a coat or a bag until they are needed. Workspace-hoggers are given a warning to move on with these No Camping signs placed on their desks while they are away.