Aug 04, 2015 in Viewpoint
Finding a balance Jörgen Verstralen
In this category, we will focus on employees and the contradictions they encountered over the course of their careers in regards to their workplace. We will look at the developments in activity-based working through their eyes.
Jörgen Verstralen, 34, Site Manager at Johnson Controls, is responsible for optimal customer satisfaction for soft services, including cleaning and catering, at four locations in North Holland. This includes the "The Edge" office building in Amsterdam, where roughly 2000 employees work from various clients in a BREEAM Excellent certified innovative office.
Visiting vs. being visited
In addition to being climate-friendly, The Edge is also the best place to work. The building optimally supports activity based working. How can you tell?
In an activity based working setting, the office is no longer the place where everything happens, but more of a place to meet for those working from home. We are also seeing an increase in work-related visits from our employees on location. In the past, at our older locations here in Amsterdam, we had roughly 400 visitors per week. At this moment, that number has increased to approximately 2000 per week. That’s a big difference. On top of that, people are working from home much more often. So, The Edge is doing exactly what we expected: the building functions as a place to meet.
You have been working in the facility services sector for some time. How is The Edge truly different when you compare it to other buildings?
In many aspects, but there are two items that really set it apart for me. Firstly, the building really has a sustainable aspect. At this time, we are saving 20% on energy costs with The Edge as compared to our former office. In addition, we are generating an amount of data which gives the technical services department more support and enables us to give more customised service. Mapiq plays an important role in this. With all the sensors in the building we can adapt the work environment at any given moment to match the behaviour and therefore it also meets the demands of the employees. This means we can create an effective office building where people can work best. That’s a big change in the world of technical services.
How was it done in the past?
Facility services organisations often allowed themselves to be guided by what services they were able to offer, this means that the needs of the employees were often derived from the existing options. They accepted the solutions without worrying too much about whether problems were being solved. This resulted in little correlation between supply and demand. I have seen this change over the years. A building like The Edge is better able to adapt to the needs of the employees. Employees are sent a message, for example, whenever the parking garage is full so they will know in advance that they will have to drive to the other parking lot - just a small example of how it makes the work day easier.
The technological developments, including such programmes as Mapiq, have ensured that facility management is more attuned to the actual work day of the employees and can thereby provide more focused support where necessary. In a demand-oriented environment, users will also make more effort to explain their needs and what they expect from facility management.
What does the future of work look like to you?
It would be ideal if people in the near future could determine for themselves on which of the seven days they will work, and be in the office as based on the data: for example, who is at the office or whether there are a workplaces available. This will happen in the near future.
How has your role changed due to this development?
On the one hand, it makes your work a whole lot easier. As I said, the availability of data enables you to provide more targeted support. In the past, you always had to hold surveys and that is no longer needed with all of the data we collect. I do believe, though, that you should always be in discussion with employees. There are always issues that you cannot find in the data. An example: a team has decided to expand with an additional 50 members next year. In order to be able to provide support, we have to know this is happening first of all, and for this, you need to be in contact. You can think ahead and plan a strategy for the company, but you need to stay in touch with the employees. As a facility manager, this is a real challenge for me. Formerly, I would go to the Director because I knew exactly where his office was - now, that’s no longer the case.
Jörgen Verstralen, Facility Manager at Deloitte
"Formerly, I would go to the Director because I knew exactly where his office was - now, that’s no longer the case."
Old vs. new
These days, of course, many properties are left empty, unused. No matter how sustainable a building may be, building a complete new structure costs a lot of money. Can the facility management principles of The Edge also be applied at older buildings instead of building new structures?
This is certainly possible. With the help of the right technology like Mapiq, older buildings can also generate enough data. In The Edge, the circumstances are optimal and think that we always need a certain example to stimulate change. But, in the coming years, vacant and older office buildings will be renovated and with the right technology, these buildings will also be able to provide similar support.
The Edge is renowned for its design. Is that important to you, how a building looks?
With The Edge, we wanted to innovate and stimulate employees. We believe that’s an important aspect of a work environment. Working with pleasure only happens when what you are doing is inspiring and you are inspired by an environment. Such an environment creates trust and trust creates room to experiment, take risks and ask for help. This creates situation in which employees can flourish. We want to offer our employees this environment and inspire them this way. Inspired people and organisations think, act and communicate from this passionate core and this is what they present to the outside world. This innovative vision is how The Edge was created in collaboration with various parties.
Have you noticed a difference among employees of those who easily adapt to activity based working and those who don’t?
In the transition to The Edge, everyone had to make this big step all at once. You do, indeed, see that there is a certain group that adapts quicker than the rest. But, the rest always slowly follows behind. We have implemented a clean desk policy and this took some getting used to, especially for the younger generation. They were a little more nonchalant. In activity based working you give back a lot of responsibility and therefore freedom to the employees, but cleaning up after yourself is a part of that. You go from having your own room with all your things and papers to having a locker with your bag. But, I believe this will become the norm with digitisation: less use of paper. People will need to get used to this.
Less room vs. appearance
I thought that office buildings were going to keep getting smaller, and that was why activity based working is implemented. In the end, The Edge is not a smaller building, it just has fewer workplaces and is organised differently than the classical office building. How do you see it?
The current trend is, indeed, that less space is used. That is more sustainable and fits perfectly with activity based working. I believe that ultimately, the office building will only be a place to meet for employees and they will end up doing less work there. Still, for big companies like Deloitte, it is important that they manage such a striking office building. Here, it concerns the image you project to both the employees and the customers. You have to find the right balance.
We mentioned earlier how this building inspires your colleagues, but what else does it offer?
In our building, the health of the employees also has priority. They can see, for example, how far they have walked on a given day, whether there is sports equipment available and they can order healthy meals. A cool part of our sports department is that by way of some of the fitness machines, like the bicycle for instance, energy is generated which is then used in the building. This is a service that is offered to you as an employee. You can also order meals. All of our facilities are geared towards the employees being able to get the best out of themselves.
"Is there really no paper here?! Wow!"
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