Back to the office?

Doing the laundry during working hours, no more traffic jams, better concentration, working from home is not bad at all. In recent months, the Dutch worked at home so overwhelmingly that the Social and Economic Council (SER) even referred to it as the largest homework experiment ever. Slowly there is talk of a return to the office. But do we want to? And does the office function remain the same? More and more people are voting for a better balance between working at home and at the office.

For example, last week ABN-AMRO announced that less than 4 percent of its employees want to return to full-time work in the office. At KPMG, 80 percent of the employees believe they will appear less in the office forever. In any case, the one and a half meter society means fewer people can come to the office. Apps with which you can reserve a desk are therefore mushrooming.

The office becomes a club house
Why would you go to the office? Why would you sit in a noisy open-plan office when you have completely furnished your workplace at home and you can concentrate much better there? The office can still be used for physically meeting colleagues and customers and for creative sessions with each other. Although you can also see that discussions with two to three people are increasingly done during a walk. The office becomes more of a club house, where it is about meeting and coming up with new ideas and insights.

Task-oriented work
Before corona, various organizations were already making a cautious switch to task-oriented work environments. In other words: Choosing a workplace based on the activity you are going to perform. Do you want to focus on a difficult task? Then you sit in a concentration booth. Do you have to make a lot of calls? Then you take place in a bell house. Do you want to brainstorm with your team? Book the brainstorm room. However, not all offices have made this change already. Most offices still consist of desks and meeting rooms. In the new situation, task-oriented work is more important than ever. You do concentration work at home, catch up with a colleague during a walk and meet new people and make plans together at the office.

To be on the safe side
It is important that this is done in a safe manner. Some of the offices will reopen (partially or completely) in September, while others will choose early 2021 or even later. This depends on many factors, including the type of work, the size of the company, the organizational culture and the size of the office. One company leaves the return entirely to the employee, the other sets a number of mandatory days. The most important thing is that the new office function is embraced with due observance of the one and a half meter rule. Offices must therefore be classified both corona proof and task-oriented. It is important that special attention is paid to the ‘flexible spaces’ such as the reception, the elevator, the waiting area, canteen and corridors. It is precisely in these places that people unnoticeably get too close to each other. But the places where meeting and creativity are central must also be made larger.

Many entrepreneurs have a hard time during the corona crisis. But as Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I see that many entrepreneurs, as well as schools and healthcare providers, are developing and digitizing faster. This way “every disadvantage has its advantage”. So together we also turn the largest home-working experiment ever into innovation and improvement of the working environment and the worklife balance of employees.