What’s it like to work for Ahrend in China?
“Very special. I’ve been here almost eight years and made a conscious decision to work in China. A number of the products we develop, such as Qabin, are made here. In my role as product developer I found it important to be nearby. It’s the best way to continue to improve our products and processes; that’s almost impossible if you are 9000 kilometres away from where things are made.
“That distance can still be a challenge sometimes, but I have the freedom here to make my own decisions. That brings a certain amount of responsibility with it, and that’s one of the things I like about this job. And the time difference is actually quite a good thing: by the time we have almost finished, the Netherlands starts work. We then hold a brief handover, so you actually get more done than when everyone is working at the same time.”
‘It’s almost impossible to develop a product from 9000 kilometres away.’
Which trends in the Chinese workplace can we expect to see in Europe soon?
“It’s interesting to see the differences in the work cultures in China and in the Netherlands. People spend a lot more time in the office here, for example. And that time isn’t just spent working: you spend an hour at lunch, we exercise, play games, you can even take a power nap. The office was designed for this, too.
“That’s something we are seeing more and more: consideration for the balance between work and leisure, in the workplace itself. When you’re relaxed, you work better. You have to feel at home in the workplace. The work environment of the future is undoubtedly going to contribute more and more to that. It makes people happier.”
What are you most proud of in your work?
I’m most proud by far of my own team. Not so much a particular product that we’ve developed, but the way we work together, the work culture we’ve created together and the connection we have with each other. There are around a hundred people here, including three Dutch people, one German and a Canadian. The rest of our colleagues are Chinese. It’s not easy to bring the right people together into a strong team, but it’s worked.
‘I’m really proud of the work culture we have created together here.’
How did you come up with the concept for the Qabin acoustic box?
“We are always coming up with new ideas. We look at the needs of employees and ask ourselves the question: how do we make work future-proof? A lot of workplaces are open plan, but everyone needs or wants to retreat now and then in order to focus. We did an incredible amount of testing as part of this process. Assume nothing, test everything.
“It’s amazing to see that the final product really works. Installation is simple and fast and the ventilation and acoustics are good. For the employee, comfort is what matters. And that is in the smallest details: from the feel of the tabletop to the sound of a closing door. We spent the most time on those interactive components, the things people hear and touch.”