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A new era began for Robeco in May when 800 employees moved to a new state-of-the-art head office in Rotterdam to work in a smarter and more client-centric way.
Redefining the whole concept of ‘open plan’, the new FIRST building allows staff to work more effectively together, sharing ideas and working collectively to get the best returns for clients in a more modern way.
OUT went the outmoded idea of ‘everyone has their own desk’. Employees can now sit where they like, using ultra-modern laptops to plug into the area which best suits their upcoming day. This could be much nearer colleagues who share a current project, or in a quiet zone if they want to get something finished without interruption.
IN came truly modern ways of working. There are no desk phones; staff have their own iPhones which connect to their former desk numbers from anywhere in the world. Desks can be moved up and down electronically (allowing someone to stand while working if preferred) and staff now have extra-wide screens to allow multiple projects to be viewed at the same time.
And although the new FIRST tower in Weena is only seven stories high compared to the 20-floor Robeco Tower at Coolsingel, the new building’s design means it actually offers more room for working than the more physically constricting old office.
“We wanted the new environment to stimulate communication, cooperation, creativity and innovation,” says Monique Sturmans, a member of the FIRST project group who led the transition. “At first, employees were naturally wary of the upheaval; it’s never easy moving house. Having worked for a few weeks now in their new working place, there is more an atmosphere of ‘hey, that’s cool’; ‘it looks great’; and ‘wow, that is innovative’. The building has even been described as ‘modestly chic’. There is a positive vibe of working in FIRST, being open to change and thinking about the opportunities that the new building offers.”
At the end of the day, it’s the client that counts – and everything was planned with the client in mind. When drafting the Robeco long-term strategy, ‘Accelerate Growth 2014-2018’ back in 2010, Robeco’s Management Board asserted that cooperation, knowledge sharing and innovation were key preconditions for the successful implementation of this strategy.
Central to this vision was the need for an open, transparent and flexible working environment that facilitated activity-based working and stimulated communication, cooperation, creativity and innovation. It became clear that Robeco House was no longer suitable. Its outdated set-up with lots of smaller office spaces was not open and transparent, did not stimulate cooperation and did not support flexible working.
The management team also though it essential that the new premises should be in Rotterdam to stick to Robeco’s roots, and be located at a recognizable location in the city so that it had good accessibility by public transport, and could easily be reached by clients or other visitors.
And last but not least, the board believed that the building should practice what Robeco has long preached about sustainability. Subsequently, all the building components have the latest insights into sustainability in mind. For example, FIRST has a thermal energy storage system for cooling and heating the building using as little energy as possible. This led to the building receiving a BREEAM Excellent award, one of the most comprehensive rating systems in sustainable building design.
A new era dawns – and we came FIRST.