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The attractive work environment as an HR tool

"Many companies now realize that working from home is not the end of the world," Vandenbulcke explains. "No employer can still tell his employees that it would be counterproductive. During this crisis, however, we are also experiencing a downside due to the fact that homeworking is now forced into the extreme: in some companies, it is still five days a week. For more and more people, it is now starting to take a little too long to come to the office on a part-time basis or only under very strict conditions. A large part of the social aspect of working falls away and that is not obvious to everyone".

Balancing exercise

In the future, companies will therefore have to ask themselves how much room they will leave for working from home. For Vandenbulcke, first of all, the right balance has to be found between homework and office work, because when people stop coming to the office at all, they definitely lose the connection with the employer and their colleagues. "Virtually a lot is possible, but that's not the same as drinking a coffee together and discussing something in the meantime. Working fulltime from home seems like a bridge too far to me. On the other hand, such a balancing act can also produce different results in the different departments of the same company: in one department, perhaps half of the people can work from home and the other half at the office, while other departments may need to be in the office together, for example, because they have to brainstorm."

"Diversity and flexibility in terms of workspaces had already become the most important office trend in recent years, and corona will only reinforce that trend."

Well considered workplace strategy

To successfully complete such an analysis as a company, a well defined workplace strategy is required. And then it's not just about the demand for working from home. Also ' remote working ' must be taken into account, because it is not because people are not at the office that they should be at home. Companies can also make use of satellite offices, hybrid offices, coworking offices, etc. Vandenbulcke: "I think we are really evolving towards a hybrid way of working, where there is an enormous flexibility for employees to choose where they work. After the corona crisis, employers will have to decide how to bring their people back to the office in a way that there is still enough enthusiasm in the head office and that they can still work creatively and innovatively. After all, as a company you have to make sure that there is enough cross pollination between your people so that there remains a dynamism to do new things".

Focusing on freedom of choice
Employees' freedom of choice could play a crucial role in making people enjoy coming to the office. Vandenbulcke already sees inspiring examples abroad: "Some companies are already starting to experiment with models in which they let their employees choose for themselves: either coming to the office full-time, as used to be the case, with a 'dedicated desk' on which the personal photos and the plants can be placed, or working from home three to four days a week, whereby the company ensures that there are enough flexdesks at the office and that there is an ergonomic workplace available at home".

"In any case, you have to take into account that not everyone likes to work from home: you can work at the corner of your kitchen table for a while, but you can't keep that up. If homeworking becomes structural, you also have to have a structural solution. If people can make a choice that makes them feel good, then as a company you can also seduce people to go to the office. 

"Not everyone likes to work from home. If you, as a company, make sure that your office space is a pleasant environment that gives rise to meetings, you don't have to fear the increase in homeworking."

"We do notice that a well thought-out workplace strategy is more than just asking how many days a week people want to work from home. In recent weeks, the demand from HR departments has increased to guide them in this process and in many companies we are already organizing workshops to facilitate the entire thought process. The way in which companies profile themselves in this area will have an increasing impact on their attractiveness as an employer. Diversity and flexibility in terms of workspaces - from focus areas to flexplaces to project zones - had already become the most important office trend in recent years, and corona will only reinforce this trend. Nobody wants to go back to open space: greater diversity ensures that when people come to the office, they always have a space where they can feel good, to concentrate, brainstorm or make a conference call".

"A company not only wants its office to radiate something to its customers, but also to its own employees," says Vandenbulcke. "It used to be the case that the office zone could be grey and boring and that more investments were made in the customer zone. That is over: we invest as much in our own people as we do for our customers, to ensure that the work environment is qualitative and ergonomic. If you, as a company, make sure that your office space is a pleasant environment that gives rise to meetings, you don't have to fear the increase in homeworking. New ideas can only emerge if people have the opportunity to consult and chat informally with each other. The social aspect is an essential part of well-being in the job".

Source: | Text: Diederik Vandendriessche