Only 33 km from Munich, but many miles from work stress: At Gut Sonnenhausen companies can let their employees’ creative powers flourish and get batteries recharged amidst historic rooms, ubiquitous greenery, contemporary art – and all in organic quality!
What we spend a third of our lives doing doesn't always have to take place in glass towers on ergonomic chairs. Sometimes, you need a change of scenery and perspective to revive creativity and motivation. Companies would do well to regularly outsource workshops, seminars, training sessions or meetings. So, let's zoom in on this idyll – a nature reserve 33 km southeast of Munich on 25 hectares of parkland in one of the region's largest contiguous wooded areas. We’ve arrived at a picturesque British-style estate you might mistake for one of the Royal Family’s holiday homes. But in actual fact, meetings are held here on an almost daily basis.
The yellow manor house, which opens up to its guests like a horseshoe, was purchased by the Schweisfurth family in 1985. "The stables here were once used for training courses on animal welfare, sustainability, and nature conservation," says Georg Schweisfurth, who runs the manor house as a meeting place in the spirit of his father Karl Ludwig, the founder of an organic farm known as Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten. Here at Sonnenhausen where everything is designed and done for a landscape of rich flora and fauna, great things can grow.
Georg Schweisfurth has created an environment where thoughts can widely roam and at the same time be collected. This is an opportunity taken up by international corporations such as ADAC and Siemens and by mid-sized or small firms, agencies, and even various organic associations. There are seven meeting rooms ranging in size from 30 to 140 m2, some with ceilings almost 4 m high and fully equipped with everything from beamers to WLAN for forging master and meta plans. In the former bakery – now the Kapellsaal – plans can rise like bread once did. In the blue-grey bay window room, ideas can circulate at the round table. Working here is an amazingly relaxed experience.
That may also be due to the cats that roam round the manor house. Touching animals provably relieves stress, and the brick-red tomcat Findus can be stroked quite easily. Although only one of the meeting rooms is called "Free Space”, all of them offer just that. It starts with the views out of the windows: no concrete walls, no honking horns, no pneumatic drills to nip thoughts in the bud. The mind delights at the sight of apple trees, the chirping of crickets, the scent of lavender, and a thick blanket of snow and ice flowers in winter. When the foehn blows, the mind can wander as far as the Alps.
Green is a color that provably heightens productivity and concentration. "Yesterday, some groups were sitting in the courtyard," Georg Schweisfurth recollects. "Today, I watched some others doing exercises in the orchard. You don't always want to be sticking on post-its; life here is also about learning to engage with one other, trust one other, and achieve goals together." At Sonnenhausen, team building can also take place during a cooking class in the cooking stable. If you can stand the weird way a colleague cuts tomatoes, you can achieve anything with them. "Most of the people here are cephalopods, so it's good for them to work with their hands at times," Georg jokes. Then he comes to what makes this conference hotel so unique: art. "Our little jewel is ideal for stimulating the creative spirit." And he's made sure that happens.
"It’s neurologically proven that art, and especially abstract art, triggers emotions and stimulates the spirit," he tells us. A white wall is like a blank sheet of paper – devoid of inspiration and in the long run tiring. That's why this organic conference hotel is peppered with contemporary works of art, which thoughts consciously or unconsciously linger on and the flow of thought is redirected. Georg is constantly rearranging them – provocative, sometimes bloody, and often irritating paintings and sculptures – so the mind keeps moving, too. "Art can sometimes be unsettling. It doesn’t always have to be 'beautiful'. But above all, it should be inspiring."
Taking regular breaks between post-its and presentations is also an art. Or stopping working altogether and switching off.
Gut Sonnenhausen offers space for work-related gatherings of 2-120 people and the 420 m2 indoor riding hall is suitable for small trade fairs, conventions, product launches or corporate celebrations. There are 48 rooms on site, with nearly 100 beds in all. Each of the conference rooms can be booked for half, full or multiple days, mornings or afternoons. Depending on the time of arrival and length of stay, there will be organic catering – and unlimited coffee from Merchant & Friends, a private roastery. At end of the day, there is a choice of dinner, picnic or BBQ. The Sonnenhausen catering counts as best practice in sustainable event design. Much of the meat comes straight from Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten, which Georg’s twin brother runs and is only 2.5 km from the conference site. The vegetables mainly come from their own organic garden – just a short walk from where they will be prepared and eaten. Here, you get genuine regional and seasonal food – along with a free cultural program and live music.
Speaking of gifts, Sonnenhausen also arranges incentives for employees, e.g. relaxation courses like forest bathing or stress management, sports activities ranging from curling or archery to kayaking on Lake Chiemsee, and guided tours through the biotope. Appreciative measures like this won’t be forgotten – and at the same time they convey sustainability in practice.