State-of-the-Art Office Case Studies:

Offices Supporting Management

Air France-KLM

Interview conducted in June 2017

*This article is based on research conducted at an earlier date; some details may differ at the present time.

An Ideal Office Combining Transparency, Openness, and Flexibility

Bouldering wall

Wall of erevator hall

Air France-KLM’s modern vision and the office which stylishly embodies it have received a very favorable response from visitors. Below, we will describe the office interior.

Upon stepping out of the elevator, visitors find themselves facing a giant photo of Mount Fuji viewed from an airplane, which covers the opposite wall. This image linking Europe and Japan was created based on a photo taken by an Air France-KLM employee. Then, when they open the glass entrance door, the first thing visitors see in front of them is the café area.

“If all you can see is this area, it really doesn’t look like an airline company office,” remarks Gaikema. “There’s a gap between expectation and reality, which is the effect we were aiming for. One of the factors contributing to this effect is the pleasant color scheme, which creates a relaxing environment. For the same reason, the furniture in this area mostly features wood tones.”

It was expected that employees would naturally gravitate toward the café area and that it would become a gathering place for them. It can be used for various purposes: such as taking a coffee break, having lunch, or holding meetings (with attendees bringing their laptops with them). The stools and desks that furnish the space are semi-custom-made. They have been designed with careful attention to the users’ line of sight when seated. There is also a retractable screen and projector mounted on the ceiling, making it possible to use the space to give a presentation at any time. The office is laid out so that the café area is in the middle, with the employees’ working space spreading out to the left and right of it.

“By setting up the café area in the middle, we have facilitated interaction between personnel on either side,” explains Gaikema. “Changing how employees circulate inside the office has definitely increased the amount of communication between them. In contrast to the wood tone-based design of the café area, the office features modern materials with a predominantly white color scheme. By opting to mix up the materials, I think we have been able to create diversity within the office environment.”

Stretch area

cafe space

Bar chair & desk

A large conference room is located to the right of the café. Its movable glass walls can be retracted in order to join the conference room to the café, creating a space that can be used as a hall for all-hands meetings, parties involving customers, and so forth. Parties and talks by senior management visiting Japan from the head office take place several times a year. The meeting rooms are named after cities in various countries; the name of the large conference room, for instance, is “Bordeaux,” after the city in southwestern France. This was based on an employee’s suggestion.

“Since Westerners tend to be tall, the low office ceilings were oppressive for them,” says Gaikema. “We therefore tried to create a space that feels more open by removing the ceiling boards. Glass walls were used for all the meeting rooms in order to produce a sense of transparency and make the entire office bright.”

On the other side of the large conference room is the sales team’s area. Employees here do not have assigned workstations; when they return after being out of the office, they find a vacant space and do their work there. There are also private booths available on either side of the area.

“In total, there are four of these private booths. Since they don’t need to be reserved, they are used quite frequently,” explains Gaikema. “The old office didn’t have them. Many employees use them for doing work that requires careful concentration, taking part in videoconferences, and that kind of thing. With the exception of certain positions, we’ve switched our phone system to cordless PHS technology, so employees are free to make calls from anywhere in the office.”

Behind the sales team’s area is an area occupied by sales-related departments. The head of the Japanese division has a desk in this area. In the past, the division head was provided with a slightly larger private office, but with the relocation, an open floor plan was adopted.

“By not creating a separate office space for managers and having them sit alongside employees, we’ve been able to reduce the sense of distance between them and their team members. This has made it easier for employees at all levels to communicate with each other,” observes Gaikema.

A notable feature of the new layout is the large amount of free space. This was achieved by reducing the size of individual desks, resulting in a proportional increase in the amount of common free space. The number of seats available is considerably more than the number of employees.

“For 76 employees, we have provided 130 seats, including those in the meeting rooms,” says Gaikema. “Given the importance of chairs in the new office, we obtained samples from several furniture manufacturers, surveyed employees about their comfortableness, and decided which chairs to use based on the results.”

As part of the comprehensive focus on making effective use of space, the new office also eliminated the use of individual garbage cans placed on the floor.

Large meeting room

Sales department area

Cubicles

Administrative/Cargo department area

“Each desk is equipped with a garbage container attached with a magnet. Once garbage accumulates in the container, the employee brings it to the café area and disposes of the contents in a large garbage can located there. We expected that this would have the effect of increasing spontaneous communication between employees there. It also seems to have made them more conscious about reducing waste and, by extension, I believe it has helped us make progress toward becoming a paperless office,” says Gaikema.

The free space also includes an area known as “Denny’s,” where two family restaurant-style benches have been set up. Each of these benches can seat up to six people. This is another function that can be used without a reservation.

“Emergency kits for all the staff are stored inside the benches, which is another notable example of the office’s efficient use of space,” remarks Gaikema.

The meeting rooms’ dividing walls are also distinctive. This was due to the influence of a facility manager from Europe, who considered natural light to be a priority.

“Clear glass is used for all the walls,” says Gaikema. “The new office’s windows are also designed to let in a lot of natural light, so the building is ideal from a lighting perspective.”

Restaurant-style meeting seats

First aid kits stored in the seats

 
 

On a Mission to Improve Communication Between Employees and Maintain a Comfortable Work Environment

The new office aims to be an open space, and with that in mind, it has even eliminated the use of partitions on top of desks.

“In the old office, the desks were equipped with 30-centimeter high partitions, but we took advantage of the move to do away with them entirely. Some people argued that the partitions are necessary when handling confidential documents and the like, but we decided that promoting an open work environment was a greater priority,” recalls Gaikema. “One unexpected benefit has been that all employees are now more concerned about trying to keep their desks tidy. Thanks to that, even though six months have passed since the relocation, the office looks just as clean as it did right after we moved in.”

There is no doubt that the move has also improved the efficiency of operations while having a positive impact on productivity.

“Our company’s mission is to transport customers around the world by means of comfortable air travel,” concludes Gaikema. “To do that, we believe it’s important to maintain a comfortable, positive work environment for employees as well. Going forward, we would like to continue incorporating employees’ opinions on the office environment as much as possible.”

 
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