Aug 18, 2020

How One Team Facilitates Our Workplace Experience

Katharine Bendele
Workplace Operations Team Lead

Katharine Bendele, senior facilities manager, shares how she and fellow facilities manager, Norma Benkert, make it possible for the Berlin team to work comfortably and efficiently in the office. From setting up the office for social distancing to building maintenance management to giving welcome tours to our new hires — the duo makes a big impact on getting our office building set up and running.  


What does the Facilities team do?

The Facilities team manages:

  • the building facilities management and services
  • our cleaning and security providers
  • onsite handyman, maintenance contractors, and technicians
  • general workspace and health safety measures in the office due to COVID-19.

Regarding the last point, we set up hand disinfectant stations in and outside of the office, reduced and distanced staff seating in the office, created a sign-in system for when people choose to work from the office, and introduced contact tracing measures.

The responsibilities take up a surprisingly large amount of our time capacity. At the same time we have our hands in quite a wide variety of other things:

  • onboarding
  • work safety
  • company events
  • building or office security
  • real estate and workplace capacity planning
  • WFH policy

Where does facilities management placed in the company structure?

Currently, support functions like Facilities, IT, and Office are grouped under the Workplace team. Workplace operates in the larger People department.

Here’s how teams in the People department are currently organized:

How the People department is organized.
How the People department is organized

The Facilities team is led by the Head of Workplace, who guides and supports our team’s collective efforts, coordinates large projects, and connects us with the right correspondents in different teams. This gives Facilities additional support of the greater Workplace team.

Workplace works closely with fellow People team members such as HR Services, Talent Acquisition, and Talent Development. As an entire department, we align on improving our colleagues’ employee experience during their GetYourGuide journey, with the goal of making it an incredible experience, end-to-end.

What are some interesting challenges of working in the facilities team and how do you overcome them?

Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has become the Workplace team’s focus — not to mention, has been a great testament to how well Office, IT, and Facilities work together.  From one day to the next, we were able to transition from the typical in-office work week to work from home (WFH). The IT team did most of the work on the first day, handling the technical part of transitioning everyone to remote. This was a combined Workplace team effort rather than purely facilities. Since then, we have even managed to safely reopen the doors with reduced capacity to employees.

Our biggest challenge though is managing the Ampere office headquarters in Berlin. Who would have thought that we could convert an abandoned mid-1920s electrical substation —  that was transformed into a nightclub in the ‘90s —  into the magnificent office that it is today. The sheer size of the 11,700m² Berlin GetYourGuide campus keeps us busy daily.

The Ampere office: From electrical substation, to 90s night club, to the GetYourGuide office
The Ampere office: From electrical substation, to 90s night club, to the GetYourGuide office

And we’re not finished yet.

As the office building used to be an electric substation that provided parts of Berlin with electricity, we started with a vision of integrating the workspace with remnants of the building’s colorful past. As you walk to your next meeting in the building, you may pass by the old transformers in steel cages. To inject our company’s personality into the interior and to give it a breath of fresh air, we gave each of our meeting rooms a travel-inspired theme. We are most proud of our Amazon Jungle Tour meeting room. The green oasis with walls full of luscious plants framed by the original steel windows is always a show stopper.

Amazon Jungle: The meeting room that’s always booked…
Amazon Jungle: The meeting room that’s always booked…

The basement is still waiting for a full makeover. The old control room — equipped with the original switchboard — will be turned into a meeting room and the so-called Phasenschieber Halle (Phase Shifter Hall) still offers more than 600 m²  for an innovative workspace. As you can imagine, there is still a lot more to do in the coming years.

What are the future plans and goals of the Facilities team?

It isn't easy to paint a clear and accurate picture of the future of the Facilities team. We are in unprecedented times, COVID-19 has flipped everything on its head. Despite social distancing measures, we still maintain the office space — and somehow have just as much work to do as before. The only difference is that the focus has shifted away from employee requests and events to employee health, work safety, and the WFH policy.

After an initial shutdown of the office in March, we reopened to a reduced social distanced capacity with various health and safety measures in place. Defining the Facilities team's future goes hand in hand with setting the vision and plan for the use of the office space post-COVID. Facilities will play a role, but to what extent will be determined by the company's Workplace and WFH strategy.

This future is one of the big topics that the Head of Workplace will be tackling. We look forward to supporting them in developing this policy and implementing the companies' future vision of the workplace.

As a team, we're proud to support the whole company. Even though most times, the teams will never know about the times the office was close to a post-apocalyptic reality: e.g., total power outages or the whole company getting locked out of the campus before the workday.  

The bigger goal of GetYourGuide is to be customer-focused. One might now question how much Facilities impacts the customer. It may only be indirect, but without a running Facilities team, our colleagues would not be able to put as much energy as they do now into their daily tasks. With us around, they don't need to worry about water for the coffee, lights on in the kitchen, or feeling safe and socially distanced while working from the office.

From startup to level-up

As a small team, we have been able to establish our baseline tasks quickly. Today we continue to develop our skills as we push the envelope and continuously take on new responsibilities. We have a substantial impact on the direction the team takes and play a significant role in leveling up the Facilities team. If only two people have been able to establish so much in a year, imagine what we can accomplish as the organization grows in the coming months and years.

Interested in working in the Workplace team? Check out our open roles.

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