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DFDS, RITA arch: Culture incorporated into the design


Can the interior design create collaboration and team spirit? Yes – just look at DFDS that consulted RITA arch to design its new domicile in Nordhavn.

A different distribution of the employees and a multitude of opportunities to work and meet have shaped a house that motivates, inspires, and makes you want to come in on a Monday morning.

The foundation was created in a bottom-up process that included both the employees and the management.


Kristine Høeg


Anne Prytz og Asger Neigaard


9. januar 2023

It wasn’t just a new building that the 600 employees of DFDS had to move into when the organization´s new domicile in Nordhavn was completed. In many ways, it was a completely new workplace, since employees from two different offices and work cultures now had moved together.

The design had to reflect DFDS´ transformation into a high-tech company with sustainability as a core value – and at the same time, the management wanted a workplace that is attractive to those who returned after the pandemic, as well as to the new talent that were needed.

RITA arch was tasked with creating an interior that supports the company’s strategy and wishes.

A new house for the DFDS of the future

The goal was clear: RITA arch was to furnish the domicile of the future, and quickly, an employee-involving process became an essential part of the solution:

“DFDS wanted to go away from the mistaken perception of the company as old-fashioned, and that meant that the employee-involving process was exactly how to go about it. It created a forum where it was okay to question the traditions, and it became a very inspiring starting point for the employees to get to know each other and our cultures” says Anna-Carin Andersson from RITA arch.

DFDS, RITA arch: cafe space for employees and non-employees
DFDS, RITA arch: meeting room facilities and collaboration zone

The DFDS building – 7 floors for a better working day

DFDS’ new domicile spans across seven floors. The basement contains 71 parking spaces and 230 bicycle parking spaces, while the ground floor contains a public lounge area.

Above this, there are three floors with approximately 600 workstations, all arranged in accordance with ABW, with home zones and associated meeting, project, and flex rooms.

The two upper floors are furnished with a restaurant, café, lounge areas, and meeting rooms, each with its own unique look, as well as an auditorium with space for 300 people.

Meeting between two cultures

All this called for a rethinking of the classic office environment – the employees had to get energy from coming in.

Therefore, a part of this solution was flexible workstations that encourage employees to work in whichever place that supports their tasks. At the same time, the collaboration across departments and the good atmosphere between the employees needed a helping hand.

“DFDS has to a large extent developed into a high-tech company, and therefore, they have a growing IT department with many new, young employees.

They brought a different culture to the one that has characterized the headquarter up until now, so an important task was to integrate two quite different staff group, so that all employees can feel that DFDS is their workplace and their home”.

Breaking up of ”us and them”

Since all departments in the house collaborate with IT, it was obvious to distribute the IT department among their “new” collogues. This created the basis for flexible workflows, and at the same time, it fertilized the ground for a new culture in the new house.

“The fact that we distributed the IT department over all three floors helped to break the classic “us and them” mentality and created a new cohesion. In this way, a beneficial interaction has arisen on the floors, and it was to that extent something that the employees were concerned with in the process” Anna-Carin Andersson explains.

DFDS, RITA arch: Cantine
DFDS, RITA arch: creative space for employees
DFDS, RITA arch: collaboration zones

 It is all about creating a house that motivates…

From meeting room to meeting venue

A consistent element in the wishes of DFDS´ employees who participated in the development process was also about the meeting facilities – and not least the opportunity to meet across departments, both professionally and socially. Something that would also help raise the ambition to unite what were previously two separate workplaces.

“They wanted a setting that gave them better opportunities to interact with colleagues – in short, they should always be able to find a place to meet, and it definitely didn’t have to be a traditional meeting room,” says Anna-Carin.

RITA arch met the employees’ wishes with a sea of ​​diverse meeting options. From tiny rooms to larger, open areas. From a step over an intimate furniture arrangement to an event café.

And then there is the canteen, which, despite its size, also invites you to meet professionally – thanks to the many different seating options, good acoustics and lighting, and a fantastic view.

“On all floors there are informal meeting places which make it easy to get together. At the larger meeting rooms, we have established work lounges, where you can prepare for the meeting or end it, if you didn’t quite finish – it makes for a good experience.

On the meeting floor itself, no two meeting places are the same, which allows for many different types of meetings, but they all embrace the idea of ​​good collaboration.

And as an extension of the cafe, a playroom has been set up, because we know that social interaction is important for breaking down barriers and makes you want to help each other professionally.”

DFDS, RITA arch: relaxed meeting facilities for employees across the organization
DFDS, RITA arch: social zone with kitchen

A house you want to be in

And that brings us to another important wish from DFDS: To create a workplace the employees are proud of and that can attract new talent – ​​not least after several years of working from home and the freedom that comes with it in private life.

“In our view, it’s about creating a motivating house – ensuring functions, making the cultural spirit visible, and offering experiences and facilities that your home can’t compare to, and which make DFDS even more attractive as a workplace.

The opportunities to meet others, collaborate, and learn from each other are central. The same is true of the fact that the house is designed with freedom in mind – the employees can choose to work in a quiet place if their task requires concentration, and another place if they are for conversations and interaction.

And then there is the ubiquitous view of the sea, which underlines what constitutes the entire foundation for DFDS’ business – and which gives an extra dimension to the good working environment.”

DFDS, RITA arch: Culture represented in the design

How we did it:
A process that brought the house together

No one is a greater expert in a workplace that those who have to work there.

Therefore, we involved DFDS´ employees in the design process of the company´s new headquarter.

It was important for DFDS that the new domicile became a joint project for the company – precisely because it is a new, joint house for all employees.

So, to ensure the best possible anchoring, the employees were closely involved in the development of the interior.

Five working groups

Five working groups were set up with committed DFDS employees, who were to provide input on five central topics:

  1. Logistics and service
  2. The green agenda
  3. Digital workplace
  4. New work routines
  5. The in-house culture

How employees contrubute

# Dressed RITA Arch with knowledge of work processes, culture, and history

# Solved concrete tasks, such as naming meeting rooms or theme ideas for graphic decoration

# Validated solution proposals in each phase before executive approval

# Acted as information carriers between the organization and the design team

# Served as ambassadors for the final outcome

The result

The final furnishing and design solution is largely based on the user process, which has contributed knowledge, feedback, and ideas.

The result is an interior that reflects today’s DFDS – a modern, high-tech company with a rich history and ambitious values ​​and which supports an efficient and cooperative working day.

There is also no doubt that the involving approach to the project has contributed to great positivism and pride throughout the company.

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