November 26, 2020

Ambition in the face of adversity: Eiswerk pays off?

Why we moved earth, wind and fire to launch Eiswerk amidst a global pandemic.

Techspace updates
Ambition in the face of adversity: Eiswerk pays off?

What a year. Amidst a global crisis we have opened our largest location to date. Reviving one of Berlin’s most iconic industrial warehouses into a beautiful new Techspace location. In the heart of Berlin, our new Eiswerk campus is ready for teams embracing the new normal.

Opening our largest location to date during a global pandemic is pretty downright bold, but then again, Eiswerk is bold; as a project and as a statement of intent. 

We’ve overcome a construction fire big enough to hold up Mariah Carey’s convoy on the way to a concert (that actually happened-video here), withstood a global pandemic that sent everybody to WFH through two government imposed lockdowns, and ‘flown in the face of adversity’ (quite literally) as the majority of our international flights were cancelled in the final weeks before opening. 

As is the reality for everyone since March, 2020 has been a challenging year, but hard work and persistence from our incredibly talented team has delivered our most advanced location to date, and although the world of work has shifted to a new normal, we’re all feeling optimistic about the future of the sector. One could even argue that Eiswerk is fortunately timed after all.

The tip of the EIS-burg?

After 3 years of hard work this unique landmark in Berlin has become what is undoubtedly our most impressive location yet. Standing at 4,600 m² over 5 floors, it most definitely deserves the grand opening party we’d intended, but of course we’ll just have to wait a little longer (and if you’re lucky you might get an invite to the opening party next year).

Interestingly however, whereas on the surface you might think Eiswerk’s doors opening in 2020 might seem unfortunately timed, there are lots of reasons why flex operators, ourselves included, might be feeling quietly confident about 2021 and the months ahead.

Eiswerk’s launch comes at a time when businesses are craving more flexibility than ever. 

The structural shift towards short and flexible leases over the past 5 years has been well documented and we’re already starting to see the effects of COVID-19 fuelling this trend. 

As more companies adapt to agile and distributed modes of working, flexible workspaces across the globe are well positioned to support businesses returning to work post-pandemic.

With less than 10% of the world’s office space considered ‘Flex’, there’s certainly scope for growth in the sector. 

We believe this really is just the tip of the iceberg (sorry couldn’t resist another Ice pun)! 

Throw into the mix the German capital city’s vacancy problem, and it could well be Berlin’s flex market that is best positioned to bounce back stronger than its European equals. 

The shake up; a balancing act.

This year many of us have had to completely change the way we work. The pain of a busy commute has been replaced by the hardship of isolation and ‘death by Zoom’. 

Kitchen tables have become workstations and our work-life balance has become a conflated mess of jogging bottoms and cereal for lunch. 

Of course, some of the benefits have been duly welcomed, a little more freedom, less time on public transport, maybe you welcomed saving a bit of money or the slightly more relaxed dress code for work?

On the other hand, we have collectively struggled with group communication “you’re on mute” is quote of the year, and rightly so. We’ve also lost those spontaneous chats with our colleagues and the lines between work-life and home-life have blurred somewhat, making the two harder to balance.

So where does this leave collective opinion about the office? Has the workplace been replaced by digital infrastructure the world over? Or do employees and businesses still see the value of physical interaction? 

This year Hubble dived in and asked over 1,000 employees what they thought in a survey aptly named ‘Should we ditch the office?’ and found that most employees (86%) wanted to work in an office a few days a week, but have the flexibility to WFH (or elsewhere) at least once a week.

Safe then to conclude that perhaps the office is valuable (or at least perceived as productive for some activities) for the majority of us? Albeit, many of us would like a little more freedom than before... But that seems sensible and reasonable given the technology at our disposal to work quite literally anywhere. 

So... There's data and research out there that says we collectively believe the office is still a valuable asset. But we also know remote and distributed working is a cultural shift that needs to be embraced to support individual circumstances and in turn, our wellbeing.

The important question the whole Flex market has been asking since March is... “post-lockdown, what type of work will the office be used for”? 

If the majority of employees enjoy having freedom and flexibility day to day… then which types of work do they believe are best done in the office?

WFH is ‘Good for Me, Challenging for We’.

What have we learned from WFH? 

Maybe that Zoom is ruining our lives one delayed sentence at a time? Our home WiFi is not quite as reliable as we’d hoped? Investing in an absurdly expensive ergonomic office chair is totally worth it?

Well, to put it simply, and to quote Herman Miller, I think we’ve all learned that “WFH is ‘Good for Me, Challenging for We’”. Well done Herman Miller, that’s the nail on the head.

Although equipped with brilliant technology at our fingertips all day long, there is no substitute for collaboration in person. Planning, workshopping, meetings, one-on-ones and presentations are best done in person, they always will be. Social cues, body language and human connection (at a social distance of course), is not replicable through a screen (just yet).

So although it seems our designers and developers are enjoying their home setups 100% of the time. The reality is that most teams will still choose to meet in person, regularly. Large groups may still choose to video conference in the near term (for covid-safe reasons), but on balance in-person meetings are necessary for generative learning, productivity, group alignment and ultimately—for the big one—innovation!

Preparing Eiswerk for the future.

So how did we adapt Eiswerk mid-construction? 

Well in short, Paul and our interior team have remodelled Eiswerk’s space plans to create a more collaborative environment for our members. 

Although restrained by ongoing works, we managed to dial up the Eiswerk design to make more spaces available for collaborative modes of work. 

Some examples of key adaptations include introducing our very first Techspace member’s lounge and cafe! A key focal point for the community to come together and engage socially and informally. 

Cafe’s have a wonderful knack of creating positive energy through a community-focused environment, so we decided to combine the front desk with a professional barista coffee bar, complete with lite bites and snacks for members. If you’ve got a building that’s big enough, it helps promote team productivity, human connection, and an increased appreciation of enjoyment at work. 

It’s also worth mentioning here that Mona, our brilliant Eiswerk community team barista, certainly makes the morning commute worthwhile! 

Over and above the Cafe we also increased the capacity and number of shared and bookable meeting rooms available across 3 floors. In turn bringing more on-demand spaces for members to book flexibly and ad-hoc. 

All of the 13 shared meeting rooms are fitted with acoustic panels and beautifully crafted cork wallpaper to minimise echo feedback on conference calls. Don’t knock it until you try it, honestly, you won’t be able to go without it afterward...

Inevitably, as agile working is ever-popularised, now more than ever office designers will need to pay great attention to communal areas, ensuring they are inspiring, comfortable and collaborative for users.

Luckily, at Eiswerk, we just snuck in ahead of the curve, adding an industrial-chic, cosy jungle of biophilia with bright artwork and friendly staff. The EIS Cafe has undoubtedly become, and is likely to remain, the epicenter of the building.

An incredible journey.

It’s been a pleasure working on such a significant project. A challenging year indeed, but sometimes doing hard things gives us even more motivation. Getting it done in 2020 makes it extra satisfying. Short term pain will give over for long term gain. This 3 year journey has culminated in the delivery of a spectacular building. Well done team.

So... I’ll remember 2020 as the year we moved earth, wind and fire to launch Eiswerk, and although the pandemic has shaken things up pretty much across the globe, the shake out looks pretty good for Eiswerk. 

Stay tuned to hear more about our official launch party (date TBC right now, and Government guidelines depending)! Also stay tuned for more stories from our fantastic member community at Eiswerk (and Kreuzberg) as Techspace in Berlin gears up for the new normal, in a new building, in a New Year…

Bring on 2021.

Learn more about Eiswerk, see some more internal photos or take a virtual tour of the offices on our website.

I'll leave you with a few of our favourite photos...

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