On December 14, the Dutch government announced stricter measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. That means working from home again for the time being, with all the associated inconveniences.
During the corona crisis, the Netherlands discovered working from home en masse. While working from home used to be mainly limited to some administrative tasks at the kitchen table, department meetings, and bilateral meetings are now simply organized via modern video conferencing tools. Tips are exchanged via Twitter about the right choice of clothing for the team meeting and an online variant of the Friday afternoon drink has been spotted at many companies.
Canteen croquette or sandwich at the kitchen table?
The question has often been asked before the new lockdown: “will we all go back to the office soon? What does the new normal look like for the employee?” learn from this homework time?
Working from home certainly has its advantages. It’s cheap for the employer, saves the employee a lot of travel time, and is proven to be more efficient: you plan your time better and video meetings are much shorter than in real life. On the other hand, there is the eternally lurking laundry basket, limited space, bored children, and the fact that human contact is an important necessity of life.
It’s not for nothing that 24,000 respondents in a large international survey among employees indicated that informal social contact was one of the most important elements of the working day! That contact is of course also available via video call, but it has important disadvantages. Spontaneous meetings at the coffee machine, a chat with the boss in the elevator, or having a ‘consultation’ with your colleague is no longer possible. It is precisely those informal social activities that often turn out to be the most important drivers behind innovation and personal success.
By bike to the flexible workplace
There is a good alternative to working from home: working close to home at a satellite or flexible office. The facilities are at the same level as in the office and there is a better work-life balance. Employers have more options for flexibility in their own location offer and can save on (expensive) office space in the city. The quality of life of the employee improves due to a shorter distance to work, the costs for employer and society are lower due to reduced traffic jams and we reduce the emission of harmful gases.
So why aren’t we in that flexible workplace en masse yet? To be able to offer a good flexible workplace to around 8 million workers, the offer must increase in residential areas. At the moment there are about 200 flexible offices for 8 million workers, including self-employed people without employees. Those trendy but often expensive locations are mainly located in the center of cities, while there is a need for smaller-scale locations in Vinex and the countryside. Contracts with real estate landlords often have a longer term, which means that accommodation costs for employers initially increase and that the flexibilization of the workplace is still too expensive for many employers about the benefits.
Investing together in the new way of working!
The government can play an important role in expanding the necessary infrastructure in the ‘flex economy’ by encouraging new construction of flex offices, conversion of existing buildings, and repurposing shops in village centers, for example. In this way, we combat vacancy and we meet each other more often, at an appropriate distance. Stimulate and reward employers for sustainability and improvement of mobility by, for example, including the use of flexible work locations in the energy label of the existing locations.
With fairly simple interventions, an acceptable solution can be found for everyone and we can quickly get back to work in the new Normal.