Rate my office. Part 2: Novo Nordisk in Warsaw

This is part two of a cycle to be published on the pages of Real Estate Manager. Aleksander Szybilski from Cushman & Wakefield will visit offices across Poland in search for an answer on how to create a friendly and competitive workplace in an office project.

2019-05-27 15:20:25


  • Company: Novo Nordisk
  • Architects: Bit Creative, Barnaba Grzelecki, Jakub Bubel
  • City: Warszawa
  • Sector: pharmaceutical
  • Office opened: 2018
  • Office space: 1,648 sq m
  • Headcount: 104 employees
  • Home office: yes
  • Desk sharing: no
  • Photos: Piotr Ostrowski



DESIGN 4.8/5 4.6/5
AIR QUALITY 3.4/5 4.9/5
LIGHT QUALITY 4.1/5 4.8/5
GREENERY 4.6/5 4.6/5
ACOUSTICS 3.1/5 4.9/5
TECHNOLOGY 4.0/5 4.7/5
Wi-Fi 4.2/5 5.0/5
WORKSTATION 3.9/5 4.9/5
MEETING PLACES 3.5/5 4.8/5

An employee survey was carried out to evaluate factors impacting on the quality of a work environment and their importance according to office users. The weighted average for all ratings was 4.01, which demonstrates that most employees have a positive opinion about their new work environment. Survey findings can be presented to representatives of individual departments during special workshops to develop ways of improving employee perceptions of areas which were important to employees but received poor ratings, e.g. acoustics or air quality.


1 – Poor, 2 – Fair, 3 – Average, 4 – Good, 5 – Excellent


1 – Completely unimportant, 2 – Rather unimportant, 3 – Hard to say, 4 – Important, 5 – Very important



The key idea behind Novo Nordisk’s fit-out work in their new Warsaw office was to build an office to foster a sense of community: a flexible space that will nurture a more creative collaboration, support information sharing between departments and improve face-to-face communication among employees. The previous office’s drawbacks included office space spread over two floors, undersize kitchens, the lack of places for creative work, an inadequate number of small meeting rooms, and cellular offices with long corridors. Due to the office space design, emailing was very popular and face-to-face contacts were basically maintained only by those working in the same room or a room next door. That’s why the new design project focused on creating an attractive and diverse environment which would support employee integration and be suitable for their scope of responsibilities, enabling both silent and group work. Keeping the right proportion between such zones is particularly important to firms going from a cellular layout to a more open space office. The high quality of the interior fit-out was equally important.


Before making any decision, Novo Nordisk wanted to conduct an in-depth analysis of its current office space use, find out employees’ opinions and the latest fit-out trends in the pharmaceutical industry. The company’s directors decided to hire workplace strategy consultants who arranged vision-building workshops for the directors, observations of office space use and employee workshops. Vision-building workshops are arranged as meetings to present market standards and are held as discussions. Key decision-makers (the managing director of the Polish office, the HR director, the financial director and the procurement director) were invited to the workshops. Current trends in office design for pharmaceutical firms in Poland and the world were discussed during the meeting. Areas for improvement were indicated based on the evaluation of Novo Nordisk’s office with regard for best practices. What worked and what did not work well for the company’s leaders was also important in the evaluation of the current office. After the information on trends and the directors’ expectations was collected, the focus shifted to identifying the project’s business objectives from the viewpoint of the company’s key people. Business lines may have diverse objectives, e.g. the financial director may want to bring costs down, the HR director may want to create a work environment that will improve retention levels and attract young talents, while the managing director may wish to have a good seating plan for the firm’s departments and to improve internal communication, which will have a positive effect on the firm’s bottom line. Each objective was important, but in this case setting out priorities relevant to strategic decisions to be made about the new space was the top priority.

Subjective opinions on office use had to be compared with objective data obtained during the Time Utilisation Study (TUS) comprising observations of workstations, conference rooms, kitchens and other shared spaces. Interestingly enough, the study revealed that at Novo Nordisk most meetings (76%) included up to four participants. The study also showed low desk occupancy due to employees’ workstyle, travels of some team members and the introduction of a remote work model (home office). In this case, desk sharing was justified as it would help reduce the number of desks. This solution is most frequently connected with introducing Activity Based Working with a variety of spaces designed in an office, including telephone booths, high back sofas, creative rooms, silent work areas, etc., for employee use depending on the type of activity currently performed. However, due to the major transition from the cellular office layout to small open spaces, the directors put their final decision on hold until employees’ opinions from workshops were in.

Employee workshops are frequently a measure of an organisation’s willingness to embrace change. Upon seeing the findings of the current office utilisation study, employees raised some concerns about the new work environment in conversations about office design trends in the pharmaceutical industry. In the course of a discussion it turned out that many employees had no experience of working in an open space.

Based on the study findings and workshops, the company directors decided to keep dedicated desks in small open spaces for all employees and to create places to support a variety of activities.  


A modern glass building at The Park Warsaw, an office complex of 11 low-rise Class A buildings, was chosen for the firm’s new head office. All the employees were accommodated on a single floor with two different business functions separated by the reception area. A bright, spacious and mixed-use kitchen (100 sq m) became a meeting place for all the staff. The office interior features a modern design with bright colours, lots of greenery and wooden accents. The design embodies the firm’s Scandinavian origin, imbuing the interiors with a warm homey atmosphere which is appreciated by the employees. Thanks to the building’s layout, small semi-open spaces facing the meeting rooms were built. Unlike in the previous office, all managers gave up their cellular offices to be with their respective teams. This is enabled by a variety of workspaces for work with concentration such as zones for silent work or individual work rooms used for telephone calls or videoconferencing. In addition to standard conference rooms, the new office also features semi-open booths, project tables, rooms for creative work and the large kitchen for more informal discussions – all designed for group meetings and work.

Having selected the right furniture, Novo Nordisk is now able to take care of employee wellbeing and has provided electric adjustable desks that help adjust the height of desk tops to people of various heights and offer a choice of standing positions. Apparently, the “sitting is the new smoking” campaign has been conducted in London in recent years for a reason. Long hours of sitting at a desk may be a health hazard, which is beginning to be acknowledged not only by employees, but also by employers. For instance in 2018, Apple changed all workstations policy and ordered sit-stand desks for all its employees.

All the above solutions were developed in collaboration with employees who took part in workshops with a workplace strategy consultant and an architect. The only limitations were the budget, the brand book and the concept of a more open space agreed after the study. The representatives of the company’s departments had been heard and thereby assumed joint responsibility for the future of the entire organisation. This helped increase their commitment and willingness to embrace change.


1) Please consult an acoustician or a building technologist to check whether vertical partitions were properly built and guarantee appropriate sound insulation of the enclosed rooms.

2) To improve the acoustics in individual areas, some fit-out items could also be added. The market offers a variety of options whose effectiveness could be discussed with an acoustic consultant.

3) A Time Utilisation Study should be repeated to check how the new office is used. In the event of a limited employee rotation in the office, we recommend organising workshops and encouraging employee to change workplaces depending on the type of activity they are about to perform.

4) Sensors measuring key parameters will help check the air quality. They can be fitted in designated areas of the office.


If you would like us to provide you with an unbiased assessment of your office and ways of improving the work environment in your location, please send us an email at: aleksander.szybilski@cushwake.com


The Warsaw Park is a low-rise development that provides good access to natural daylight and appropriate lighting of office spaces thanks to large distances between buildings. The complex also features lots of greenery around the buildings and a variety of services on the ground level such as stores, banks, restaurants, cafés, a post office, a dry-cleaner, a travel agent, a fitness club, a kindergarten and a beauty parlour. A broad range of options is particularly important to employees and may have an impact on their work efficiency and satisfaction.

At the entrance to Novo Nordisk’s office we are welcomed by a smiling receptionist sitting behind a modern reception desk. Our eye is immediately caught by the company’s logo on the wall behind the desk and on the counter. The colours, the dominant white and blue elements, in combination with the wood and plants make the interior look modern and smart, drawing on the company’s long tradition. A bigger storage room for parcels arriving in large numbers was designed by the reception desk in line with the employees’ request. This guarantees impeccable aesthetics of the place being the firm’s showpiece.

The firm’s three biggest conference rooms for more formal meetings are located by the reception desk. Two feature a sliding wall to combine their areas and accommodate up to 20 people.

The windows of the conference rooms overlook the building’s internal patio.                                              


The coffee and dining zone, which is located close to the reception desk, is a meeting place for all the employees. The room measures approximately 100 square metres and comprises a dining area with a long table facilitating conversations with other team members. Smaller zones with upholstered furniture suitable for more private conversations or informal meetings were also designed. The kitchen has become a place where employees enjoy being outside lunch hours. The multifunctionality of this place is complemented by the sound system, the television set and the screen with an overhead projector to hold town hall meetings.                         


The open space was divided by enclosed or semi-open premises, which improved the acoustics in the entire office. In addition, the smaller open spaces gave the office a cosy feel despite the absence of cellular offices which were available in the previous location.                                                                       

By the desks there are filing cabinets for teams of employees seated nearby. An additional element skilfully incorporated into this space is greenery.

Project tables provide an opportunity to work on interdepartmental projects without having to spend time in the conference room. They are also ideal workplaces for guests from the firm’s overseas offices or those working remotely on a daily basis.   


The zone for silent work with workstations which face the windows affording a beautiful view and enable employees to work with concentration are a substitute for cellular offices. As in a library’s reading room, no telephone calls or loud conversations are allowed there.                                 


Rooms for individual work are provided for those who value more confined spaces. They are equipped with two chairs to increase the number of functions and enable F2F meetings when other rooms are unavailable. These places are ideal for telephone calls, videoconferencing or work with concentration.                                                               


Small conference rooms are located near standard workstations. Booking and availability checks are easy with the tablets mounted by each entrance.      


Taking notes during a meeting is easy with the white glass writing board in the conference rooms.   


Upholstered structures looking like small houses complement traditional meeting places and workspaces. The employees took to their shape right away and enjoy using them for less formal conversations or individual work as they afford good acoustics. In addition, on account of its size, the furniture divides the open space, giving it a more cosy feel visually.                                                         


Two rooms for creative work were designed to provide a variety of meeting places. Their design and furniture are hardly typical of a standard conference room. The strong colours and various shapes of the upholstered furniture create a less formal atmosphere which generally nurtures creativity.                                                                     


For its visual identity of the space, the firm used graphics associated with its products and area of activity.


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