Helge Barthelmes

Three questions to Helge Barthelmes

Helge Barthelmes is the founder of the planning cooperative plan-up and develops new models for corporate workspace design with his team. In our interview, he tells us about the status quo of New Work.

Anna Moldenhauer: Mr. Barthelmes, at the moment the former spirit of optimism for a new work seems to have come to a standstill again. How would you assess the situation?

Helge Barthelmes: After the first lockdown at the beginning of 2020, we actually noticed a sense of optimism. Some managers were almost surprised that productivity was possible despite the employees' home offices. So it worked - and without any management or supervision. With the next lockdown at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021, our impression was that some companies were unsettled. Investments were partly put on hold. It was again a matter of staying liquid and minimising costs in order to weather the next storm as unscathed as possible. It is clear to many managers that something has to change. Only the "how" is not yet quite present. Since the end of the second quarter, plan-up has felt a mad pull to change working methods and worlds. The questions of: How, where and when do we work today? and How, where, when do we want and need to work tomorrow? are at the forefront. Companies are looking forward to working with us to find answers for their roadmap. Corona is "just" another reason for the change. Important topics such as digitalisation, demographic change, globalisation, etc. have already been discussed before. However, from our point of view, Corona is the turbo for a faster change.

Reduction of space, desk sharing, home office and individual solutions instead of daily attendance at the office and fixed working hours - in your experience, to what extent would you say companies have so far put their foot down and changed their own structure?

Helge Barthelmes: Looking at our "cosmos", most companies are making their way. A little more courage is needed here and there, and certain framework conditions such as a company agreement have not yet been finally clarified. Nevertheless, we sense the urge to change something, especially in very traditional companies. From our expertise, the first step in the change is the individual adaptation of the utilisation concept. In other words: together with the employees, it is important to work out good solutions that are oriented towards the future, that fit the work processes, that ignite the sense of possibility and that are in harmony with the maturity of the company. Interior design is the next step. As planners and "conceptionistas", we have a high architectural standard when it comes to the materialisation of the projects, but at the beginning there is clearly the "why".

You founded the company plan-up at the beginning of February 2021 and specialise in the planning, conception and design as well as the structural support of living and working environments. What should be considered in the transformation to more flexibility?

Helge Barthelmes: There is no universal answer to this question. Companies should first take a very close look at their ways of working, the workflow and the roles of employees, today and tomorrow. In the future, there will be another dimension besides the office and home office: The third places. These are co-working spaces, also within the company - corporate spaces, hotel lobbies, public areas such as parks, restaurants, partner companies, etcetera. The goal must be to find the triad of office, home office and open office. In addition to productivity, it is essential that the company focuses on the well-being of its employees. This is particularly important in view of the increasingly difficult distinction between work and family. The task of dealing responsibly with work-life blending has emerged from the examination of one's own work-life balance. This means the overlapping of professional and private activities, detached from time and place.

In addition, one is certainly in a position to recruit employees for a Düsseldorf company from the Black Forest, for example. But how is identification ensured? How are employees retained over a long distance? Our claim is to create strategically relevant places that make the corporate vision tangible, have a culture-shaping effect and support the performance of the users in terms of profitability to a high degree. Together with and for people, with a high interior design standard. But take care! Interior design should not be an end in itself! Good interior design needs to support the desired utilisation concept, but not make it a condition.

In short: Our workshop findings from the intensive examination of the organisation, the people, the roles, the spaces, the culture, the technical tools and the resulting utilisation concept are the basis for the planning of the respective "New Working World". The role-related results we determined in terms of desks per employee and the resulting ratio creates space for communication, concentration, collaboration and for innovating. Places that recharge, promote culture and create identification. Sensor technology also helps employees, who are highly mobile, to book a good place in the company. A "corporate social media app" can also be used to see which colleagues will be in the office at what time, so that they can actively engage in exchange. And the staff members who are firmly located in the office environment due to their role ensure that the working world remains "alive".