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Coworking Luminaries with Big Plans — An Interview with… Design Offices

In this day and age of digitization and flexible working, coworking is of increasing importance. One of the most active players in the field in Munich is the company Design Offices, which has already opened several offices in the city. We spoke with CEO  Michael O. Schmutzer about their plans for the future and Design Offices’ visions.

Design Offices now has quite a few locations in Munich. What makes the Bavarian capital city so attractive to you? Are you perhaps planning to open even more offices here?

Munich is an extremely important business location for us and also a little piece of home. After founding the company in 2008 in Nuremberg where we also opened our first location, our next destination was Munich in 2011, and we are now well known and established here.

Our instincts have served us very well up to now when it comes to selecting locations. With Munich’s Highlight Towers, we’re located at the heart of “Silicon Schwabing.” Arnulfpark and Nove are perfect matches for the urban startup scene to the south of Arnulfstraße. Next year, we’re planning to open in the Atlas building in the Werksviertel, the new media meeting place right by the East Station. But that definitely won’t be our last location in Bavaria’s capital city.

Experts for flexible work environments

What distinguishes Design Offices from its competitors? What makes your offer special?

Our top priority is to be recognized as experts for modern and flexible work environments. Of course we also stress the importance of premium furnishings and excellent design. But for us, a professional business environment is made up of so much more: the appropriate infrastructure, suitable security solutions and a high degree of functionality. In addition to our office and coworking spaces, we also offer multifunctional meeting rooms in different sizes as well as awesome event spaces. The combination of spaces and services that we present at more than 24 locations in Germany is something no one else offers.

Who uses Design Offices and why? What is the added value?

Michael O. Schmutzer, CEO Design Offices.

Michael O. Schmutzer, CEO Design Offices.

Our clients come to us for different reasons. For one thing, the amount of project-based work is continuously increasing, which means the demand for space that can be rented temporarily is increasing accordingly. We’re able to quickly respond to that kind of demand and are flexible in terms of how office and project areas are furnished. It goes without saying that we offer consultation to make sure everyone receives their own customized workspace.

We’re also an attractive option for companies interested in implementing New Work and Work 4.0 but want to try out new work concepts somewhere else to begin with – that might be in a project space or in one of our meeting rooms.

Agile working and creative workshop formats such as design thinking, scrum or BarCamps simply work better in an exceptional environment because that promotes creative cooperation and increases innovativeness. We like to call it beta style. And because we know how important mobility is, we offer real added value by providing bikes at our locations that can be used free of charge by our Office clients.

An enabler of New Work and agile working

To what extent has the working world changed to have also made it necessary to change the workplace?

The term new work includes three main drivers that are changing the working world: digitization, the war for talent and sharing economy. These three inevitably impact what is required from work models and also from work environments, and flexibility plays an extremely important role in this case. That’s where we come in: As a company offering corporate coworking space, a flexible work environment is exactly what we offer, which means we understand ourselves as an enabler for New Work and agile working.

“There is no such thing as an ideal workspace”

How would you currently define the ideal workspace? And to what extent do you think that vision will change in the next 20 years?

In our opinion, there is no such thing as an ideal workspace. Depending on the task at hand, I’ll either need a place of retreat for concentrated working, a room for creative breakout sessions or a comfortable corner lounge for relaxed conversation. Our locations offer the whole range. If you book one of our work lofts, then you even get it all in one package as a kind of working landscape to meet your individual needs.

What’s important is that our clients feel good and can completely dedicate themselves to their work. That’s why in addition to functionality and design, service is also important to us for an ideal workspace. All of these aspects have a positive impact on our performance and motivation.

Current studies have shown that project work will continue to increase while the number of people with steady employment contracts will continue to decrease. So it is safe to assume that the desire for flexibility – which also includes workspace organization – will only continue to grow.

Where do you see major room for improvement in the working world in terms of workspace? Are there industries / areas that you think are way behind in the game?

New Work was still just a niche topic just two years ago. Since then, it’s turned into a major movement with disruptive and far-reaching consequences. Although that’s something most companies have come to understand, actually adjusting to new conditions – and a lot is still emerging as we speak – is going to take a while. A large corporation can’t just transform itself in six months.

Startups that have developed – just like we have – into mid-sized companies are facing entirely new challenges now. For example, they have to consider the effects of digitization in a much different way. That’s why we think virtually every industry – particularly the automotive, finance and consulting industries – still have development potential.

Design Offices wants to help shape tomorrow’s working world

What is Design Offices’ vision for the future?

The strong growth of the coworking market will continue for years to come and we’ll grow with it. Our plan is to continue to increase the density of our location network and to operate a total of 100 sites by the end of 2020. Moreover, our expansion to other German-speaking countries is waiting in the wings since we would like to tap into neighboring countries as markets.

Our aim is to also stay on the ball as experts for modern work environments and to continue to develop the working world of tomorrow with fantastic partners. For example, we’re part of Munich’s LabCampus at the airport, and also serve as co-initiators of future projects in other cities that will also play a role in terms of urban development.

Of course, we’ll also continue to develop our own product. Something that’s brand new is our first DO Café, which is both for our clients and outside guests. The first café got off to a successful start just a few weeks ago at our location in Stuttgart Tower. The roll-out is underway.

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Coworking Luminaries with Big Plans — An Interview with... Design Offices - Munich Startup