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Telework has a 360° impact on businesses

Corporate culture, HR policy, mobility, sustainability, building functionality... Companies are facing many challenges induced by telework. Stefan Olefs, Director Workplace Strategy & Change Management at Colliers, insists on the need to think quickly and comprehensively.

How do you see the evolution of the working world?

"We will no longer return to the situation before the health crisis, particularly because of the increasing importance of remote working. This element must be incorporated into the thinking of companies, among other things in the way it will be reflected in the use of buildings.”

"This will depend on the activity of each company and the functionalities that it will want to offer or develop in the future. We are still in a transition period, where office work is starting to pick up again; the systems currently in place will evolve further in the coming months. In any case, companies will be forced to make choices and state them clearly.”

With which impact for office real estate?

"Globally, due to teleworking, companies will start to think about their square metres. Those whose lease contracts are about to expire will certainly want to optimise the rented space.”

"Especially since even before the health crisis, the average occupancy rate of offices in Belgium was around 60%. However, even if individual workstations will disappear, the number of collaborative and project spaces could increase significantly.”

How will management have to adapt to this new situation?

"The hybrid system of sharing work between home and office will have an impact on leadership and management functioning. Autonomy, trust and responsibility are the three key words here: employees will have more freedom and autonomy in managing their time and work, but also more responsibility when working remotely; managers will have to show more trust in employees.”

"At the same time, managers will have to be clear about how they want to manage their teams, what goals they want to achieve, what meetings they want to have face-to-face or remotely, and so on. All this will require flexibility on the one hand, and concrete decisions on the other.”

The question of balancing telework and face-to-face work is therefore particularly thorny...

"Indeed, especially as today some employees want to return to working 100% face-to-face, others want to work only from home and a large majority are in favour of a hybrid system."

"In this context, every company needs to know exactly what its employees' preferences are and adapt its working policy, taking two things into account. One: according to current legislation, employers cannot force their staff to work from home. Two: it is a question of creating a work environment that is sufficiently functional and attractive to bring the most reluctant back to the office... without forcing them to do so!”

Which further evolutions can be expected?

"In terms of human resource management, for example, companies will have to rethink their systems of pay, benefits, home working conditions, training, etc. Some employees may prefer the company to provide them with adapted work furniture at home or a more sustainable means of transport than a company car.”

"More than ever, every organisation will have to ask itself how it will organise hybrid work, what it wants to offer its employees and what image, as an employer, it wants to convey inside and outside its walls.”

What support do you provide to businesses?

"We offer a 360° analysis. The first phase of our approach consists of supporting companies in their reflection to review their corporate culture, processes, HR policy, IT equipment, mobility and sustainability aspects, the size, location and functionality of their buildings, etc. Companies are currently in an observation phase with a lot of uncertainty and nothing is yet black or white.”

"Having the big picture from the start is essential. The company must know exactly where it wants to go and our role is to help it structure this strategic thinking. Although this reflection requires time, it should not be delayed too long; decisions must be made quickly to stabilise things and give employees guarantees and certainties to hold on to.”

Text: Philippe Van Lil
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Stefan Olefs

Director Workplace Strategy & Change Management

Brussels (Colliers)

Working for Colliers  for more than 15 years.

View Expert