This is how we designed the perfect hybrid workplace for

November 6, 2023

Wouter Oosting headshot

Wouter Oosting

Executive Director Workplace Strategies

How do you create a central workplace where all your thousands of employees can feel at home? And where they can be happy, heathy and productive while they work? asked themselves that very question in 2017. That is how the idea arose for a new campus on Oosterdokseiland, right next to Amsterdam Central Station. An ambitious plan – for which they engaged CBRE Netherlands to help them. It was up to me and my team to come up with a vision for their premises and a workplace strategy. The goal: to come up with a sustainable campus that would be dynamic and hybrid at the same time. Let me share the end result with you.

Sustainable job satisfaction

My personal ambition: to create sustainable job satisfaction based on innovative concepts My role at CBRE is to design hybrid working environments that contribute to vitality, engagement and social interaction among the workforce. In the process, we always focus on three themes: bricks (real estate), bytes (technology) and behaviour (social capital). I got to work for too. Together with a team of highly motivated colleagues – all of whom are specialised in workplace and accommodation consultancy – I was given the job of designing a dynamic campus on Oosterdokseiland.

Working from home? Or back to the office?

This was quite a task, especially given that the corona pandemic was upon us in 2020, and everyone was forced to work from home. The productivity and satisfaction among the workforce at was hardly affected. In other words: working from home suddenly became a serious alternative to working at the office, even though we were right in the middle of developing a new campus.

So our biggest was challenge was getting a handle on how members of staff would use the offices. We had to bear several scenarios in mind. Either employees would carry on working from home a lot after the pandemic, or go back to the office in their droves, or opt for hybrid working: in all cases, the campus had to cater effectively for all these needs. In other words, the campus had to be geared to house from as few as 4,000 to as many as 8,000 people. And everything in between. That is now precisely the challenge that every organisation faces – no matter how large or small – in these times of hybrid working.

Inclusive and international workplace

To be able to come up with a good plan, together with the workplace team we established three central themes – from very practical to abstract. These themes produced tangible conditions that the offices had to meet. To begin with, the technology and facilities at the offices had to be up to scratch. But much more importantly: the campus had to be inclusive. A lot of expats work at – people from more than 140 nationalities work there. They need a huge network. So the offices had to be a vibrant and divers place to work, where everyone feels at home.

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Testing, testing, testing

To find out what staff were looking for exactly, we decided to do some A/B testing. We developed several workplace concepts: pilot environments for a range of office uses. Over several weeks, hundreds of staff members tested various concepts. That way, we were able to define the ultimate workplace. For more information about this process, click here.

The next step: converting all this information into something practical. We decided to divide the offices into team bases, with enclosed focus areas, flexible tables, rooms for making phone calls and a place to hold meetings. Depending on actual occupancy, more or indeed fewer people are designated a team base.

Dynamic use thanks to data

Whereas before a ‘space manager’ was in charge of ensuring that all the rooms and spaces in an office were properly utilised, now does that using data. Imagine, fifty marketing department employees are linked to a team base: we can use sensors to assess whether those fifty places are actually being used. If not, then our system knows that there are places available. The beauty of this concept is that it is flexible and adaptable. By assigning the rooms dynamically based on data, is able to put its campus to the best possible use – which in turn is perfectly in keeping with the hybrid working trend.

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Camps within a campus for everyone

Throughout the process, we regularly held ‘creative camps’: sessions in which we brainstormed with professionals – from as well as CBRE – on how to shape the workplace. The aim of these creative camps was to design a workplace strategy that would match the wishes and needs of all its users in the campus – in this case: a vibrant and divers environment that feels like home for the staff.

We used this kind of co-creation when it came to designing the rooftop terrace as well. We invited a branding specialist, interior architect and project manager, as well as an external caterer and several representatives of the teams. The roof offered enough space for solar panels, which is something we had to take into consideration during the sessions. In the end we decided to create a huge terrace. It’s a place where colleagues come to gather, to have a drink or meal together, or simply have a cup of coffee. While enjoying a stunning view of the city, of course.

Dream offices

To me, it was a challenge and instructive to work together with to come up with a workplace strategy. Providing direction, and optimising and innovating based on data are part of the company’s DNA. There is always room for improvement – that’s what you notice in everything you do. It can be frustrating, no doubt about it – but it’s also inspiring. At any rate, I am extremely proud of the end result: the new campus on Oosterdokseiland is a fantastic place, one that contributes to sustainable job satisfaction.

Curious to find out how to develop innovative, future-proof offices, where colleagues can work based on a hybrid approach? Let's share some ideas! You can reach me by email at [email protected].

Project details

Lead Interior Architect: 
Project management: 
Workplace Consultant: 
Area designers: 
CBRE Design Collective, HofmanDujardin, i29, Linehouse Design, Studio Modijefsky, UNStudio
Layer designers: 
MOSS, Mijksenaar, Powerplant, Scholten & Baijings, Studio Rublek
Stijn Poelstra, Matthijs van Roon

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