The coronavirus has put the whole world on high alert. Businesses, schools and government organizations are taking extra measures to contain the virus as much as possible. One of the key measures is social distancing which translates into the workplace as working remotely.
For this article, we interviewed two experts from Vecos (by Skype) about the impact of this measure on the functioning of organizations. Many companies worldwide still apply a conservative working style, in which working from home is still very uncommon.
We interviewed Paul Sandberg, Business Development Asia and Andrea Steinmeier, Key Account Manager Germany & Switzerland. Andrea and Paul recognize this conservative workstyle and notice that many organizations in their regions are not yet designed to let people work from home.
In this blog, we will discuss the impact of the Coronavirus on organizations in Asia and Germany and we will give you tips on how to prepare your organization for (compulsory) working from home.
What kind of workplace strategy is currently used in your region?
Paul: “In the Asian market, many companies are now adopting a more agile way of working. This means that employees are transitioning into working in so-called ‘neighborhoods’, where they no longer have their own personal, assigned desk, but only have a permanent locker.
This locker will be the new storage place for personal items such as a laptop, running shoes, etc. ”
Andrea: “In Germany people talk a lot about new workplace strategies, but you also see that there are still many hierarchy structures in place. Your own office often is a status that you have obtained as a manager. Working in an office with 4-6 workstations is customary.
In Germany, the first step towards a flexible workplace strategy is often the implementation of a home zone or neighborhood within the office. We also still see a lot of mobile drawer units or fixed cabinets near the desks, and lockers more as an extra facility at the entrance. Employees are still very location-bound.”
What are the implications of mandating employees to work from home?
The Vecos headquarters is located in the Netherlands. We see that the Netherlands is already very far in the digitalization of the workplace and has a stable, nationwide and high-speed internet infrastructure. As a result, most companies do not experience many problems when letting the staff work from home. In other countries, for example Italy, this regularly poses problems.
A lot of documentation is only available on paper or in the local company network, which means that people can do little at home. We also see that flexible working is much more accepted in the Dutch culture. In many organizations it is widely accepted to work one or more days from home.
This is a completely different story in Italy, where it is still the norm to work in the office.
Paul: “Because of this crisis, companies will be forced to work more flexibly. I spoke to a design agency for Nike from South Korea this morning. Half of them work at home, but the designers work in the office because they have the equipment there. In addition, there are many companies such as LinkedIn, Amazon and Nike that are requiring to work from home completely. The experience employees now gain from working from home will also open their eyes to the conveniences this entails and will increase acceptance for more working from home in the future.
A company can respond better to this in the future, for example by providing insight into the locker occupancy rate and using the lockers more dynamically.
As a result, they will ultimately need less lockers, resulting in cost savings without sacrificing employee convenience. This will improve the culture and acceptance of dynamic working. ”
Andrea: “This crisis will certainly have an impact on work policies and promote more flexible working models. The most important thing is that the systems are optimally designed, so that you have access to all data. You see in Germany that many people still have to go to the office because there are no facilities for working from home.”
Does the corona crisis accelerate the implementation of a flexible workplace strategy?
These mandatory measures are a good way to put the flexibility of the organization to the test, when the office is taken out of use overnight. For many companies, the problems that will occur caused by the obligation to work from home will be a big eye-opener.
One will certainly want to make a number of provisions to ensure that the company can continue operating in the future in the event of such a crisis. This could mean that thanks to lessons learned during this outbreak of the coronavirus a new workplace strategy will be implemented at an accelerated pace.
What do you think about this?
Paul: “It will certainly give a great push towards more working from home and more flexible working with the result that the offices can be used more efficiently. Employees are less likely to come to the office together. Now the problems that compulsory working from home entail are revealed.
Most of these problems will be solved within a few days, making the step towards a flexible workplace strategy much smaller than before. ”
Andrea: “Yes, this Corona outbreak will certainly speed up the process and demonstrate the benefits of flexible workplace strategies. This does require a good privacy and data policy, which is still often a showstopper in Germany.
For the German Workers Council, the focus is to ensure that employee rights are optimally protected in flexible workplaces and home offices.
I am convinced that companies in the DACH region will now change their processes and digital structures where necessary to be even better prepared for the next crisis.”
What tips do you have for management teams regarding flexible working?
Paul: “Management should encourage flexible working by providing the facilities and technology, stimulating it by rewarding people for working from home and, above all, removing suspicion. If you want employees to be as productive at home as at the office, it is important that they have the right facilities for this.
In addition, it is mainly a culture change, the moment you show as management that you are open to flexible working and act accordingly, many employees will benefit from this . For employees, flexible working is one of the most important things they are looking for in a job.
Andrea: “Flexible working must be accepted and supported in all layers of the organization; management included. This requires a lot of confidence, good managers and the right technology. The change process does not just happen overnight, it must be well prepared and guided and it is important that you involve the right parties and partners.
Make sure you get enough information from all layers in the organization in a change process, so that you develop a well-founded transformation plan. A flexible working style can ensure that as a company you are less affected by these kinds of major crises.”
Vecos has been developing smart locker software for more than 20 years ensuring that companies can make optimal use of their workplace. This software helps companies to work more flexibly, for example because employees can use lockers independently at any location in the workplace without requiring facility management to be physically present to manage the lockers.
This technology fits well with modern workplace strategies such as agile or activity related work. With our software we support companies in the transformation to a new working style.
Curious if this is something your organization could benefit from? Read more about our locker software solution here.