Concentra is the largest regional media company in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Its publications include Gazet van Antwerpen — the grand old lady of the Belgian press, which has been in existence since 1891, and is the leading daily newspaper in the port city of Antwerp.
In 2007, Concentra made the decision to add a new company building. It had to meet the needs of an innovative, high-tech multi-media group. Particular attention was paid to the accommodation of the editorial office. As the heart of the business, editorial had to have a central position, but the main concern was that it should not be a closed island within the activity of the company as a whole.
The editorial floor of the Gazet van Antwerpen is an open workspace of more than 1,000 square metres. The side of the building facing the street is an entirely glass facade, which makes it look like an open house. The journalists literally have a view on the world.
For the general public the newsroom is the “open house of the Antwerpenaar.” Being able to see how the news is made ensures greater involvement and means that the newspaper becomes, as it were, a source of inspiration in the everyday world of the general public.
The interior design of the newsroom is sleek and functional. There are screens everywhere. These allow the editorial staff to follow breaking news on different international TV channels, but also symbolise the multi-media nature of a journalist’s work.
Unlike in the past, the newsroom is no longer the exclusive territory of the journalist. The open editorial floor is shared by the journalists, photographers, news managers, editor-in-chief, info-centre employees, marketing colleagues, and the publisher.
The editor-in-chief, publisher, and managers do not have separate offices. It is not possible to determine the hierarchical relationships from the way in which the space is divided.
The main advantages of the way in which the work environment was conceived could be summarised as follows:
- The open space ensures an open working relationship between the journalists themselves, as well as between the journalists, the news managers, and the editor-in-chief, and between the marketing and sales departments and the editorial staff. The journalists work as independently as possible, but are also closely involved with the commercial results of their work: the sales figures, the reader ratings for specific columns, etc.
- The editorial team no longer works solely for the print newspapers. Apps, digital newspapers, mobile, breaking news: all of these now have their own place in the multi-media mindset of every journalist. Once again, the work environment has contributed to this by literally having the walls knocked down and allowing the old and the new schools to blend harmoniously together.
- An open workspace reinforces people’s inner drive through the increase in social interaction, greater feedback, creative cross-fertilisation, etc. There is still however, a need for privacy, peace, and discretion. This is the reason for the large, transparent meeting room, as well as the telephone corners and two seating areas set at a higher level in the middle of the open office landscape.
- An open workspace requires order, structure, and respect for colleagues. The “clean desk” is part of the company policy and was respected by everyone from day one.
Environmental factors have a considerable influence on the way in which an organisation functions. The design and the philosophy of the new media building have a positive effect on the way of working, the creativity, and the innovative power of the Gazet van Antwerpen.
The work environment influences the production process of the newspaper, but also has an indirect influence on the way in which the company and its environment interact and inspire each other.