“We created a powerhouse” – Interview with Uffe Ostergaard

In recent months, the Hapag-Lloyd colleagues in Region North America have been especially preoccupied with one major topic: the relocation of the Region’s headquarters from Piscataway, New Jersey, to Atlanta, Georgia. Now that the move to the brand-new, modern office is almost complete, Uffe Ostergaard, President, Region North America, tells us how it feels to reach this long-awaited milestone and what benefits the new set-up will bring to his colleagues and customers.

Uffe, after nearly four years, the transition to establish one US Area and the new headquarters for Region North America (RNA) in Atlanta is now complete. Employees from Piscataway, Chicago, Houston and our “old” offices in Atlanta have officially moved into the brand-new building. Congratulations! How does it feel?

Thank you! We’re feeling great! The colleagues and I are a little exhausted, but also exhilarated. It has been a comprehensive transformation that brought Hapag-Lloyd in the United States together as a single organisation. We have created a powerhouse in Atlanta, with 750 colleagues, while maintaining a strong sales presence in multiple locations. The planning took a lot of consideration. First we took the three Areas – Gulf Pacific, Northeast and Southeast – and merged them into one – shifting several hundred positions to Atlanta.Second we are now completing the move of the Regional HQ in October.

Moving is always a big step and entails a lot of changes. How did you get your colleagues involved in the process over the past years?

As soon as we could give more specific information, we were always transparent about the process with our colleagues and told them how it would be implemented and which impacts it would have. The leadership team has also been heavily involved – and from early on they have backed me on this journey which I am very grateful for. In fact, I think that is the single biggest factor on our people in making the transition to Atlanta, moving families to a very different environment.

The new 'Powerhouse' for Hapag-Lloyd employees in Atlanta

Which advantages come with this new set-up for our colleagues, customers and Hapag-Lloyd?

We now have 750 people working under one roof, which is 5 per cent of all Hapag-Lloyd employees. This gives us a lot more opportunities to develop and attract talent, as there is now more room for people to grow in the organisation and in the same location. There are more positions, and people can move into different departments. It’s also a very attractive workplace. We have state-of-the-art offices, eco-friendly facilities, a gym, a coffee shop and a nice canteen. Having 750 people working under one roof gives us the scale to have all these benefits.

Another advantage of working together in one location is the collaboration. You can just walk down the hall and talk to someone in person or have meetings at short notice. Suddenly, everyone is within reach. In the past, we had the vessel planners sitting in Houston, Port Operations in Atlanta, and Procurement and Equipment in New Jersey. Now they all sit shoulder to shoulder, which makes it so much easier to resolve issues and collaborate.

The new set-up will particularly benefit our customers. We will keep Sales as close to the customers as possible and still have Sales offices in all the locations where we had them before. But we have really strengthened our service organisation by having our resources concentrated in Atlanta. We are more flexible in responding to fluctuating workloads. Plus, we are a much more attractive employer, which makes it possible to get the talent that we want and need. We have a lot of people who are very tech-savvy, who we can train extensively in one location and that have the tools and support to serve customers at a consistent and high level. It just wouldn’t be as effective in four locations.

As you mentioned, the new headquarter is a modern, state-of the art building, where the workspaces are designed to match our “Future Way of Working” (FWOW). Can you tell us a bit more about it?

The open spaces are a major asset. There are nicely spaced-out focus rooms and collaborative spaces. The building is configured to FWOW, in the sense that there are only about 550 work spaces for the 750 staff members. We have introduced technology for the colleagues to book their desk on an app the day before. It’s been a big change, and it has been controversial for many people who weren’t used to the idea of not having their own desk to work at every day. So far I am finding that people are handling it very well. Of course, the colleagues who work in one team are still in the same “neighbourhood”, so to speak, to make sure that their desks aren’t located too far apart. Everybody has lockers and a custom made bag with their belongings, which they can bring to their desk. After 6 pm, this is one of the cleanest offices I’ve ever seen. No one leaves anything behind.

Another benefit is that people are communicating more with each other because the seating arrangement is mixed up every day. People sit in different places and come in on different days. The offices also have the latest technology and fantastic areas to sit and relax in. We have a very nice coffee shop with a barista. There’s also a gym in the building, that everyone is encourage to use and where I still need to make my way. The canteen looks amazing and has very affordable food – healthy options as well as some junk food. Finally I would say that it is an attractive location with easy access and many shopping and dining options nearby.

Sustainable: a green wall and trees are also integrated into the new building
There is also a coffee bar inside the new headquarter in Atlanta
A container wall as interior decoration for a modern interior design of our office in Atlanta
The workspaces are designed to match our “Future Way of Working”

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