Together with her brother Michael, Sabine has successfully built up the largest provider of corporate coworking, Design Offices, and shaped New Work in Germany and beyond. The two have remained loyal to the theme of "shaping workplaces" as they are working on exciting projects again, which Sabine reveals more about in this interview.
1. Sabine, with Design Offices you were on the road a lot in cities, while your current projects have taken you mainly to the countryside. How did that come about?
At Design Offices, we have mainly been looking at how work environments and the office environment need to look in order to positively influence the people who work in them.
We have explored what employees need in their working environment today and how rooms need to be designed. Lighting, air and acoustics play an important role here, as well as the topic of a feel-good atmosphere and the creation of genuine meeting spaces.
At the same time, my brother Michael bought the Hammerhof seven years ago, an old inn in the countryside western of Nuremberg. Over time, this place not only became his private favorite place and family meeting place, it also attracted more and more people from our work environment.
In the midst of nature, you can let your thoughts flow and think about different things in peace and quiet, develop new ideas and get into conversation with other people around the campfire. This opportunity rarely exists in the urban context. So, we realized that places in rural areas can be used and developed differently.
Therefore, in 2019, we bought two more houses together in the same place, in Neuhof an der Zenn. Then we started on a journey to discover how we could design these places. We wanted people to enjoy coming to meet there and to be able to work, live and celebrate in a new way.
2. Specifically, you are working on Neue Höfe. You describe Neue Höfe as an ecosystem for new land culture. What does this land culture look like?
The basic idea of the Neue Höfe is that the places and spaces where people work should always adapt to the jobs they do. Through nature, you get a different perspective, because other senses are stimulated. I smell the fresh air, hear only silence and see more green. All this affects us humans.
Also, in my daily life, I have to balance personal and professional life. However, many people realize in our locations that this does not have to be strictly separated. It's more about the people you're around and making the place work for you. In the countryside, there is not only the particularly beautiful nature, but also a completely different sense of community. An inn, for example, has always been a place that has centrally provided for people to come together. From birthday parties, family dinners, regulars' tables to local councils, there have always been many discussions there. We want to revive this culture!
In the countryside, there are many opportunities to develop places and locations, but the people living there must also be integrated. Craftsmanship and local characteristics play a major role in our concept as well. We ask ourselves the questions of how we can reactivate local food producers, as well as other local resources that have become forgotten, perhaps, with digitalization. They are also part of our ecosystem. We are happy to work closely with the local hotelier and other businesses in Neuhof an der Zenn. Such collaborations are crucial to the success of our projects.
3. The Macherhof is currently under development as well. Nomen est omen, so what is being done there?
The idea behind the Macherhof is that we are now transferring everything we have learned about coworking and collaboration to crafts and small businesses. This is actually nothing new, since crafts have always been based on the principle of 'sharing'. They have come together and settled in places where they could take advantage of synergies. At the moment, however, small craft businesses are finding it very difficult to rent space in rural areas.
We asked ourselves how we could support these businesses and further develop the idea of the craftsmen's yards. We want to develop and operate real estates in which everything from individual rooms to larger spaces and also content offers can be used. Craftspeople and tradespeople can rent or buy the space they need.We also want to promote networking with gastronomy, event spaces and much more. We want to bring everything together in one place at the Macherhof and are now very excited to see how this will be received.
4. Who is the target group for this new way of working? Who do you think is suitable for it?
The target group for our NEUE HÖFE-locations are mainly medium-sized companies and also corporations. We are increasingly being approached by companies interested in alternative work locations. For single days as workshop and offsite location, but also flexible working and coworking. Through Corona and the possibility to work 'remotely', entirely new requests have arisen. Many companies have understood that their employees are looking for alternatives to the office. Our locations can be part of a big solution, bridging the gap between city and countryside and enabling professional work with a high quality of stay.
This applies to individuals who want to come to us by the day, to small teams and larger groups who hold conferences, training or event formats with us for one to three days.
We are very fortunate to have great cooperation with Philipp Schneider, from the on-site hotel, which covers the entire operational business and also offers accommodation. This has resulted in a great full-service offer with great benefits for guests and customers.
5. One of the New Farms, the Hammerhof, has now been in existence for 7 years. But you' ve also been working on the other projects for quite a while. What are your most important lessons learned? What surprised you, what did you not expect or imagined differently?
Since the founding of Design Offices (2009), we have been continuously gaining experience and learning what people are looking for in workplaces and how they use the offers. You can see that a lot has happened, digitalization and the pandemic were big drivers.
We were particularly surprised by the great interest shown by industry and medium-sized companies in our concept. We are located with our farms in the triangle between Nuremberg, Würzburg and Ansbach. There are many successful companies in the region that are wondering how they can remain sustainable. They want to meet the needs of their employees in the workplace, to retain them in the long term and thus ensure economic success. This is a very nice development, which I admit is still in its early stages. But you can see that something is happening. That makes us happy and of course motivates us to continue working to create new places that support people in doing their work successfully and happily!
Thank you very much for the interview, Sabine!