Graz, September 2023. The Changed Work Culture at the Austrian Shoe Manufacturer in the Era of New Work
Since the Covid pandemic, work has become more decentralised, but the office still plays an important role in ensuring networking and cooperation among employees. This aspect of collaboration, just like the commitment to sustainability, was one of the guiding principles in the development of the campus headquarters building of legero united in Feldkirchen bei Graz. The impressive, EMAS-certified site of the international shoe manufacturer opened in January 2020 and has profoundly transformed the company’s work culture.
The ring-shaped building complex of the legero united campus became operational in January 2020. Having left behind the former company building in the centre of Graz, which had become too cramped, it was important for the internationally renowned Austrian shoe manufacturer to design a unique place for uncomplicated and immediate collaboration among its staff. “Looking back, we have absolutely succeeded in doing this. Our campus is now a workplace that is notable on the one hand for its impressive architecture and sustainable construction, and on the other hand for its capacity to promote and strengthen exchange and interaction among colleagues. This is particularly important in the development of the collections for our superfit, legero and Think brands, for the design process itself, as well as for the development of innovations in our products and materials,” says Julia Knapitsch, Head of Human Resources and Member of the Management Board at legero united.
Working Sustainably: Climate-friendly Architecture for the Protection of People and the Environment
legero united has numerous initiatives for the well-being of its employees, including regular health care, comprehensive training programmes and flexible working time models. “A genuine concern for people and the environment is our moral compass. That’s why the well-being of our employees is so important to us,” emphasises Julia Knapitsch. With its sustainable construction and design, the campus also embodies the values that have shaped the company for 150 years. It impresses not only with its architecture but also with its key figures: On a total net floor area of 8,500m², there are 7,100m² of office space for up to 350 employees, an in-house sample production facility, and the “shoemakers kitchen” – the company’s in-house cafeteria where daily meals are prepared for the staff using regional ingredients. A geothermal system for heating and cooling in conjunction with district heating and the use of well water, exclusively sustainable building materials and sophisticated building services ensure that the campus’ carbon footprint is 28 per cent lower during operation compared to a modern standard building: This equates to CO2 savings of around 48 tonnes per year.
Always Keeping Nature in Mind: The atrium garden and winter gardens create a campus-like atmosphere
The extensive greening of workplaces is a global trend that was also given high priority in the design of the new legero united campus. “Plants elevate the mood and improve the air quality. The view into our atrium garden is possible from anywhere thanks to the circular arrangement of our workspaces,” says Julia Knapitsch. Between the departments you will find loggias that can be used for informal meetings or undisturbed working. They are abundant with greenery: the plants were chosen depending on the orientation of the room. For example, depending on the sunlight, you may find rainforest plantings, cacti or plants typical of steppe vegetation that thrive in midday and the evening sun. The combination of hanging and ground plants is intended to develop into particularly dense growth and give employees the feeling of being in the middle of nature. “The use of the green areas inside and outside for a short, personal time-out or for meetings and workshops is absolutely beneficial for all of us here. This allows us to offer various creative collaboration spaces at one location that encourage innovation,” confirms Julia Knapitsch.
Short Distances: A Positive Impact on the Development and Design Process.
With the campus, legero united seeks to offer its employees an emotional point of contact. The workplace within the company is not only a place for concentrated individual work but is primarily a place for collaborative projects and interaction. Despite all the flexibility, the company wants to ensure within the organisational culture that the colleagues on campus meet as often as possible in person. The ring-shaped campus architecture is key to this, and the staff were involved in the planning right from the start. Opinions, assessments and wishes regarding the architectural requirements for efficient workflows were obtained, collected, evaluated and taken into account as best as possible. For the design departments and the research and development team, it was particularly important, for example, to be located in the building in such a way that quick consultations, especially during the critical phase of collection development, can take place with short distances. “With the campus, a sustainable, state-of-the-art building with exceptional architecture and an inviting atmosphere has been created: the colour scheme of earthy, warm tones and the predominant use of wood and glass provide a pleasant, open spatial environment with plenty of natural light, which both soothes and motivates,” confirms Julia Knapitsch. “We are experiencing a new legero united working culture here at the campus. The ring-shaped arrangement allows for short distances. The open spaces provide more transparency into the different working worlds of the colleagues and facilitate more exchange, collaboration and understanding for one another. These collaborations reinforce the corporate culture and inspire.”
Awards for the legero united Campus
- The Austrian Sustainable Building Council awarded the campus a platinum certificate, as well as its KRISTALL Award for social sustainability.
- Its combination of functionality, sustainability and design was recognised by the Baukultur Steiermark association with the prestigious GerambRose prize in architecture.
- In 2021, legero united received the Styrian Timber Construction Award in the commercial buildings category for its campus. The jury recognised the building as a structurally and architecturally outstanding project that combines functionality and architecture to create a stimulating, creative working environment.