Christian Schmeichel

Chief Future of Work Officer , SAP

Supernova Award Category: 
Future of Work - Employee Experience
The Organization: 

SAP is the leading software and cloud company for business applications, helping global enterprises to run at their best by simplifying business processes and improving people’s lives. We constantly strive to achieve the same for our 110,000 employees around the world.  


Designing the future of work for and with our employees is one of the embodiments of this promise. SAP’s dedicated Future of Work team is actively designing and implementing our vision of how the future of work looks like at SAP. This is achieved in a holistic, cross-functional approach, and covers the dimension working time, workspace, and work location. The importance of this topic for the company is also emphasized by instating the first Chief Future of Work Officer in 2021. 

The Problem: 

The way we work has been rapidly evolving since Covid-19 disrupted the world in 2020. After a prolonged period of almost exclusive remote work for office workers, we are embarking onto a new era of working: the era of hybrid work. By now, almost every company has a plan for hybrid work and returning to the office, providing generic guidance around utilizing digital tools, building trust, and creating a flexible work environment. However, doing hybrid right is much easier said than done. The challenges of hybrid work go way beyond the obvious; besides looking at technical enablement and work calendar, a cultural transformation is the main success factor for hybrid work.  


For a company like SAP, with 110,000 employees in hundreds of business functions around the world, there is no one-size-fits-all hybrid work setup that satisfies everyone’s needs. If not done right, hybrid work has been reported in other companies to cause employee burnout and dissatisfaction. 


SAP needs a hybrid working framework that puts individual as well as business needs front and center to achieve great results. How might SAP create the right processes and tools to enable a hybrid working model that enables every employee to have a productive environment and every team to perform at their best?  


If SAP gets this right, there is the unique opportunity for SAP to share the learnings to its customer base of over 400,000 enterprises. 

The Solution: 

The SAP Future of Work team collaborated with SAP AppHaus, SAP’s in-house innovation team, to create a tool for teams to define their hybrid work setup. This solution is the Flex Team Workshop, a design thinking workshop that brings corporate guidelines to a team level. It gives team managers and members a structured framework to discuss: Why should we return to the office? What activities do we do in the office? How do we work best as a team in a hybrid working setup?   

The workshop has three steps: 


  1. Retrospective — Understand pain points with the team’s current work setup (remote/onsite/hybrid) 
  2. Define the activities — Sort through activities that the team needs to do together and place them into remote/onsite/hybrid categories 
  3. Reimagine the way you work — Build team consensus on days in the office and remote. Establish a hybrid working setup.  



The Results: 

Since SAP’s rollout of the Flex Team Workshop to every employee in April 2022, teams around the world have been using it. The workshop is conducted on a team level, the team manager participants with team members. Everyone can express their perspectives, and finding answers to the prevailing questions: What are the key activities that do we do as a team, and where and how should we do them? 


After the workshop, one team may decide to come to office 2 days a week on Tuesday and Thursday, while another team prefers to be onsite 3 times a week at 6-hr a day to avoid rush hour traffic. That is the beauty of this workshop—it is not a corporate mandate, but an open dialog for a team to reach a consensus on going forward. 


Here are some anonymous quotes from the optional post-workshop survey: 

  • “I have a better understanding the needs of my colleagues regarding flexible work.” 
  • “This workshop gave me a better picture of where our team stands with regards to hybrid work environment.”  
  • “It helped us see which days work better for certain activities onsite, and why do we do them as a team.” 


Participants highly value and engage with the SAP Flex Team Workshop. It has proved to be an effective tool a team can use to have critical discussions around hybrid work, reach team consensus, and prepare for office reopening. 


Since the global rollout of Flex Team Workshop in April 2022, SAP employees around the world have immediately put it into use. The Future of Work team is actively collecting feedback from workshop participants regarding usability and applicability of workshop results. Based on the anonymous post-workshop survey, participants strongly agree that the workshop is an effective use of their time and report a high commitment to put the outcome of the workshop into practice. 


(To the judges – Since this workshop is so new and only rolled out in April 2022.  We are waiting for Q2 ends, to have a complete quarter with key metrics reporting. By early Q3 will have better statistics on # teams using the workshop, and future survey results.) 

The Technology: 

The Flex Team Workshop is conducted with basic collaboration tools—digital whiteboards (MURAL) and webconferencing (Microsoft Teams). Familiarity of existing corporate collaboration tools significantly reduces training barriers and puts focus on the workshop content itself. The concept behind the workshop comes from extensive research on hybrid work, and testing on earlier version of the workshop to perfect the 3-step structure.  

Disruptive Factor: 

The Flex Team Workshop concept disrupts the discussion regarding hybrid work amongst corporate employees because it empowers teams to shape their unique future of work. This approach makes each team unit part of the solution and enables them to find answers as to why it is critical to meet face-to-face and collaborate onsite. At the same time, this approach also allows teams to reflect on their achievements over the past two years of remote working routines. The workshop embraces the willingness to co-create and explore opportunities of hybrid working together as a team. 


The workshop shifts the dialog from a purely operational perspective to a value-based, activity-driven discussions. Teams are answering their own question on “is it worth it to return to office?”  After the workshop, teams often see clear value in re-building the social connection after a two-year hiatus and look forward to those serendipitous encounters in the office.  It is the human connections that spark creativity and innovations.    

Shining Moment: 

SAP employees appreciate having this engaging workshop for the team manager and members to come together, align personal preferences with team business goals, and reach team consensus.  


Teams found this structured workshop highly effective. It came to light that SAP’s hybrid work approach is unlike other companies’ strict return-to-office policies.  


About SAP

SAP is the market leader in enterprise application software, helping companies of all sizes and industries run at their best: SAP customers generate 87% of total global commerce. Our end-to-end suite of applications and services enables our customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and make a difference.  

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