A day in the life: Booking.com’s vision for the workplace

As the dust of the pandemic begins to settle, a ‘war for talent’ has begun, as employees emerge from the seismic workplace shifts of the last two years with a desire to work differently – and employers battle to retain and develop talent, while acquiring workers unhappy elsewhere. 
Head office Booking.com - Amsterdam

“In a digital world, so many companies today – from Uber to Apple – are fighting for the same people,” explains René Karreman, Royal HaskoningDHV’s Global Director of Workplace Strategies. “They want software engineers, technicians, through to marketing and brand. So how are you going to differentiate? Suddenly the modern workplace must offer more.”  

As the pandemic hit, Booking.com was in the middle of one of the biggest urban projects in Western Europe – consolidating their multiple offices across Amsterdam into a single headquarter campus. Trying to build their workplace vision as the ground shifted beneath them was the ultimate challenge – but one they look set to overcome as the ‘project of a lifetime’ completes later this year.  

Going to work Booking.com style…  

For the employees in Booking.com’s vision – a Product Manager like Jayne, for example – the first day at their new campus will be the start of an entirely new way of working and living; embracing the ways that our personal and work lives have overlapped.

Crossing by bike over the Amstel River on a warm Amsterdam morning, Jayne is met by a stunning building; its intricate architecture and inter-locking glasswork making it seem as if it’s in the middle of sliding into a different form all together. Accessibility is everywhere – as colleagues arrive on bikes or emerge directly from Amsterdam Central Station.  

“We were growing fast as a company when we started this project in 2016,” says Bob Elshof, Global Head of Real Estate for Booking.com. “There were operational challenges of being so spread out, but also, we wanted to be more visible – to our community and customers; but also our people, allowing for more collaboration and creating a stronger culture.

So when we set out, it wasn’t with just one target – sustainability, or productivity or a smart office; we set out to build the best home for our Booking.com employees and community.”  
Head office Booking.com - Amsterdam
René Karreman

In a digital world, so many companies today – from Uber to Apple – are fighting for the same people. They want software engineers, technicians, through to marketing and brand. So how are you going to differentiate? Suddenly the modern workplace must offer more.

René KarremanGlobal Director of Workplace Strategies

The strategic consultant – following the vision, with an eye on the details  

Walking out of the sun and into the lobby, Jayne is greeted by a sense of calm. The sun still shines down on her though the building’s canopy high above, but the air is cool and the bustle of morning activity outside quietens to a ripple of noise. The lobby breaks off into an auditorium and event spaces to be used by the company and local community alike.  

How did Booking.com actually build this?  

It’s a thought many will have when they see the building complete. The answer is: not alone!  “Yes, building something from scratch was completely new to us!” Bob says with a smile: “Especially the structural elements, the ‘core and shell’ as it’s called. We needed experienced advisors and collaborators all along the way.” One of the first was Royal HaskoningDHV; whose footprint of civil engineering, architecture and design can be found across Amsterdam. René Karreman and Project Manager Jeroen Samsom were the lynchpins of the Royal HaskoningDHV team that Booking.com appointed to draw up the requirements for the core and shell of their new home. 

Team at head office Booking.com - Amsterdam
“Behind the slick user interface, and iconic brand – Booking.com operates like a finely tuned machine.” René says: “Our job in handling the core and shell was to ensure their office did the same; that behind the stunning architecture, the finer details clicked – from materials and floorings to air and acoustics.”  

“Booking.com set the standards high and we met them.” Jeroen continues: “We wanted 90% fresh air through the building, where the standard is 70% - and we pushed on acoustics to provide a silent work floor.”   

Alongside Royal HaskoningDHV, a rich team of talent – from architects to contractors – contributed to a building with health and wellbeing – both emotional and physical – at its core.  

Building community and forging innovation  

After grabbing a coffee, Jayne heads to her Product team on the 8th floor and as she rises, she sees every floor has the theme of a different location – from Greece to Tokyo – a nod to the travel at the heart of Booking.com’s promise; but also the 100+ nationalities represented in the HQ’s 5,000 strong workforce. Jayne has never been to Greece, but it seems at her 3pm meeting on the 6th floor, she’ll finally get the chance.  

While the floors have their themes, the teams that work on them vary. It is a choice encouraged early on by the Royal HaskoningDHV team, who suggested Booking.com build on the smart and agile ways of working that they had instilled for years; using the physical workplace to promote the building of ideas across silos.

“Being spread across Amsterdam before, Booking.com’s tech environment was separate from their software, or from their marketing.” René explains: “We said, your proposition – to employees and customers – will improve if all those people interact; if they mingle and meet – on purpose or by accident.”  

Artist impression - interior - head office Booking.com - Amsterdam
Jayne steps on to a work floor that hums quietly with activity. She picks up her laptop and finds her team via a dedicated smartphone app – waving hi to some of the Design & User Experience team on her way. Most of the faces she sees, she hasn’t seen face-to-face in more than a year. Her team kick-off by making plans to check out the rooftop club for drinks after the day is done.  

The pride in a home of your own  

It’s a day that flows quickly as Jayne and her team work on a new product development. She pulls in other team members from across the floor for their quick opinions and thoughts – and breaks out onto one of the terraces when the team need to get their heads together. In the light of the Amsterdam afternoon, their work is shaping the future of Booking.com’s customer experience.  

It’s a strong vision for the modern workplace – and one Bob and the Booking.com team imagine with pride and excitement for the completion of construction this November and opening doors to employees in the Spring: “Building this home really took a lot of our goals to another level.” Bob says: “With the wellbeing of our employees as our guiding star, we set a high bar across the board, and we got up and reached for it every day for six years. I think it’s the project of my life.”  

By shifting perspectives, we enhance society together.


Artist impression - lobby - head office Booking.com - Amsterdam
René Karreman - Global Director of Workplace strategies


Global Director of Workplace strategies

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