Unilever
Co-creating agile spaces
Space and Culture
What if employees themselves decide what their workplace of the future should look like?
The Challenge

When Unilever DACH moved their headquarters, they wanted a new office design to meet the individual needs of employees. Unilever sought a space where a new culture could arise and workers were free to develop and thrive. The path to new agile work practices and a forward-looking corporate culture began with a radical transformation of the physical work environment. For space shapes culture, which in turn shapes space.

For about a year, more than 60 employee volunteers worked in self-organised workshops on the design of a new building. They were fully responsible for the budget and had a free hand in decision-making.

The teams were accompanied by TheDive. We were allowed to design, moderate and continuously accompany the journey programme, the workshops and the feedback processes.

Multidisciplinary, open-minded
& non-hierarchical
The Approach

Together with the employee volunteers, we embarked on a journey of co-creation to design an office space tailored to the needs of workers. We called it the Columbus project. Instead of the conventional top-down approach, we took on the challenge from the bottom up. The diverse members of the teams understood the requirements of their co-workers better than anyone, which is why they were responsible for determining the outcome.

The employees worked together as equals as they designed the spatial and cultural parameters of their new work environment. The non-hierarchical, cross-functional teams of the Columbus project cooperated with external providers for almost a year to develop solutions for New Work practices and spaces. Through a variety of methods – sprint sessions, design thinking and prototyping – the participants developed and tested a variety of New Work strategies.

The Outcome

The teams came up with a versatile office concept with places of assembly and exchange as well as concentration and inspiration. The spaces were designed to facilitate hybrid work, balance out periods of remote work and respond dynamically to change.

Sarah Dubbert, Transformation Manager Space & Culture

“TheDive helped us approach the subjects of work space and work culture holistically. We developed a successful pilot project in which employees not only learned about New Work but experienced it directly.”

If you want to find out more about hybrid spaces, send an email to Constanze. She’ll be happy to help.

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