On Labs – the new global On headquarters in the heart of Zurich West – sets a new standard for the future of work.
The conscious decision to stay in On’s home country of Switzerland has resulted in its new campus for innovation, creating space for 1,000 employees.
On Labs represent the centre of product development, design and innovation. This is no conventional office: cutting-edge technologies meet modern design to spark creativity and social interaction. In achieving this, both movement and human inter- action play a central role. Also, part of the building is Europe’s first On Flagship Store, and the vegan restaurant Roots.
“Today, nobody returns to the office simply to have a desk,” said David Allemann, On co-founder. “That’s why the social interaction among our diverse teams is a focal point at On Labs. Because by living our shared culture, we stay creative and innovative.” The new headquarters are dedicated to the identity and start-up spirit of the company.
Interior design as a catalyst for innovation
At On, we believe innovation is fostered by social interaction and collaboration across diverse teams. The interior design at On Labs raises the bar to solidify the very DNA that helped the company grow so rapidly within the last 12 years.
Working with renowned architects Spillmann Echsle (Zurich) and Specific Generic (Stockholm), the project team around David Allemann was able to create a space that breathes the On design philosophy and also satisfies all functional needs of the modern workplace.
Approximately 700 employees work across the 17 floors of the campus with a total size of 15,000 sqm.
A trail scattered with symbols – The main elements of the social office:
On was founded during a hike that led through small villages in the Engadine mountains and concluded on a mountain top. The story is also reflected in the new office featuring a continuous path up to the top floor. The so-called “Trail” promotes movement, just like the guiding principle of On: To ignite the human spirit through movement.
The Trail is a special walkway, consisting of different staircases from the first floor all the way to the 17th. It starts spacious and wide, but gradually gets narrower the higher you go. Along this path, the employees pass special installations (so-called Gems) that either fill a functional or inspirational purpose.
Among the installations are the Hanging Tree from the Engadine, the rock garden and the sofa landscape with the topographical map of On’s birthplace printed on it. Further highlights on the Trail are the blue library, the red storage room, the miniature museum of the first prototypes with CloudTec® and the plant room which can be turned into a meeting room. These are meant to surprise, inspire and encourage escaping into your own ‚village’ and think outside the box.
Flexibility and versatility as pillars of the company culture
There are no assigned desks at On. Instead, to ensure the 600-plus employees feel a strong sense of belonging, ‘villages’ have been created. Every team member is assigned to a village, each of which spans three floors and includes around 250 team members.
By deliberately overpopulating these villages, the team members are encouraged to break out of their own floors to spend time with other teams. This promotes social interaction and innovation. All workstations are flexible to adapt to the needs of the fast- growing team. And in the Hack Garages, the design of which is inspired by start-up culture, there are movable screens, standing desks and tools for brainstorming sessions. To kit out these rooms, On collaborated closely with the Swiss design company Vitra, as they did when the company was founded.
Another guiding principle of On is transparency, and that runs through On Labs. Even the meeting rooms are equipped with large windows. Only highly sensitive areas such as the research and development department are separated with orange-tinted glass to keep future innovations private.
Since the beginning of On, lunch runs have been part of the daily life in the company. What started with just one washing machine and a shower, has now grown into spacious changing rooms with lockers and a whole wall of washing machines. These are for employees as well as the run community, which On wants to provide a hub for with its new headquarters.
Moving together also means recovering together: in areas such as the 5th floor, there are long tables for team lunches, and a rooftop garden with seating and landscaping.
Europe’s first On Flagship Store
The On Labs Flagship Store Zurich offers shoes, apparel, accessories and a personal shopping experience on 350 sqm of retail space. But it’s more than a place to buy gear – it’s also a community hub. The expansive room has been designed to be 90% modular. That means the walls and installations can be moved for a wide range of activities and events.
The hub offers space for courses, presentations and community initiatives. All following On’s mission to create an inclusive and accessible space for people with various backgrounds and abilities. The On Run Club takes place every Wednesday with multiple distances and speeds catered for. There, runners are provided with On test shoes, lockers to store their valuables and some much-needed hydration after the run.
Header image: The On Run Club. Credit: Mikael Olsson