Suzanne Kwakkernaat - chief of Business Support,
Hospitality and Facilities at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek
Relocations are always a complex puzzle requiring loads of time and effort. But when you’re moving a whole office with a staff of about seven hundred, that’s in a league of its own. As chief of Business Support, Hospitality and Facilities at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Suzanne Kwakkernaat is guiding the law firm’s move from the iconic The Rock on Claude Debussylaan to the brand-new Tripolis-Park complex. With everything involved in the construction of a new building, designing the interior and layout and coordinating a hassle-free transition to the new workspace for a massive workforce, Suzanne has her work cut out for her. Fortunately, she’s more excited than anything, and although the company as a whole isn’t scheduled to move until early 2024, she has been busy laying the groundwork for nearly three years.
Suzanne, what should we know about De Brauw?
“For starters, we are a large, independent law firm. The largest in the Netherlands, in fact. Our business is mainly with multinationals and we operate both domestically and transnationally. So, we have offices in London, Brussels, Shanghai and Singapore as well. In my opinion, it’s just a brilliant firm to work for.”
Why did the firm decide to move from The Rock to Tripolis-Park?
“It was really a whole constellation of factors. The end of our current lease was nearing, and we had to weigh up whether the property still aligned with who we are and if it fit us. Back when it was built in 2005, the work dynamics were very different. Hybrid and online working were still unknown. At The Rock, you basically enter the building, take the lift up, head into your own office and after closing the door there are few opportunities for spontaneous encounters. Especially with people working from home more, we wanted to avoid losing a sense of connection and, when we added everything up, decided it was time for a change. Though we’ll be a bit smaller dimensionally, the layout will be completely different to what we have at our current premises. There, we have loads of unused space and everyone sits stationary in their own room, whereas at Tripolis-Park we’ll have lots of collaboration spaces. It’s much more geared towards new, dynamic forms of working and wellbeing. Going into this process, we asked questions like: What are the elements of a good workplace? What do people need? What fits the phase our firm is in now? After extensive research, we decided on this property. Because of all the possibilities it offers us, mainly for facilitating our people and creating a welcoming homebase for our firm.”
Lawyers tend to need their own space for concentrated work, so presumably the new building is not just one big co-working office, right?
“True. When interviewing staff to find out what people need, we noticed there was a kind of fear we’d become a completely open workspace. That was never the idea at all. However, when you’re working together on projects, you do need dynamic workspaces. We also have more spaces to confer quietly. And the flow through the building is designed around a massive green staircase. That’s what connects different floors and simultaneously embodies that connection. It’s where people see and greet each other. What’s more, we’ll have a fantastic barista bar and a great company restaurant where people can get together, and the building will be furnished with loads of plants and also art , for which we are working closely together with FOAM and our architect.”
The neighbourhood around Tripolis-Park is still a bit empty. Do you think other companies will be brave enough to make the leap out of central Zuidas?
“This is an up-and-coming location. There are a growing number of restaurants and lunch places in the area around Olympic Stadium, so I’m not worried. Although I can’t speak for other companies, I have heard more are facing the same challenges and are reassessing how they’re working and if their office premises still match that. For us, at any rate, the new location lets us give our people what we want to give them, and comes with facilities we don’t have in our current building. I can well imagine that if you’re looking for more space, this is a brilliant option.”
How did people at De Brauw respond to news of the move? Won’t many miss their own spot in Zuidas?
“Sure, moving to a new location can be a rollercoaster. We’re well aware of that and are trying to involve everyone in the process on topics such as mobility, nutrition and technology. Webinars, sounding boards and walk-in sessions allow people to be part of the relocation and have their say. Of course, not everyone is as excited as we might have hoped for from the get-go, but we always try to listen and take everyone’s input on board. Thanks to all of that, we’ll be able to create an amazing premises here that’s representative of De Brauw and our future. What I love about my role in this whole story is that whereas in the first two years I mainly liaised with the builders, now I’m also sitting down with teams like HR and IT. More and more people are being drawn into the process, and that makes it fun. Now, we’re all heading for the finish line together. And that fits De Brauw too: striving for quality and maximum results together.”