Mar 31, 2020 in Viewpoint

How to manage an empty office

In last week’s webinar, we talked about how we can support employees at home. Together with Simone van Tongeren from ENGIE, Marco van Gelder from Veldhoen + Company and René van der Vlugt from WRKPLC we explored the topics of well-being, collaboration, and productivity. What stood out the most for us? The importance of a healthy work-life balance and setting up clear priorities for employees. Let’s go through some highlights!

Esmeé van Vliet
by Esmeé van Vliet
Remote working
Now that employees are working from home, it’s important for the management to set the right priorities

The well-being of remote employees

Simone van Tongeren is innovation manager at ENGIE, she develops effective and vital buildings for her customers by looking at the needs and priorities of the users. We asked Simone: How can you keep the well-being of remote employees high?

“Supporting the well-being of remote employees is difficult. You can’t control their workplace at home, but you can give them advice. Provide employees with knowledge on how to recreate a good workplace. Think of fresh air in the room, good ventilation, direct sunlight, and sound. And if it is possible, let employees bring home some furniture from the office. But it’s not only about the physical workplace. It’s also about creating new routines and activities to maintain a healthy work-life balance. During entertaining the children or walking the dog, employees still need to feel connected to their jobs. The best way to do that is to check-in with employees regularly. Ask them how they are feeling and how they are dealing with this situation. You can do this by having personal conversations as a manager or team lead, and stimulate virtual lunches with teams.”

“Provide employees with knowledge on how to recreate a good workplace.”

Simone van Tongeren, Innovation Manager at ENGIE

Collaboration from a distance

As a consultant at Veldhoen + Company, Marco van Gelder specializes in activity-based organizing and is naturally interested to see how we can still collaborate effectively from a distance. In the webinar, he started directly by saying: “There is no business as usual anymore. Not for employees, and not for companies.” That being said, how can you help employees collaborate with their teams at home? “Now that employees are working from home, it’s important for the management to set the right priorities. Tell employees what you expect of them, so you can relieve them from the stress they might be feeling. Focus on the output and communicate clearly what you want to have and when you want to have it. Employees then can do their jobs when and where they want.

Technology plays an important role in collaborating. As a company, you should take advantage of the number of tools on the market and experiment with tools that provide good communication and overview. But other than that, HR can really add value from a social side. They can check in with employees and ask how they are doing. In this period, we need to take care of each other.”

Tools to ensure productivity

We all experience the current situation for the first time. But when René van der Vlugt was working for Microsoft he redefined the workplace concept for their new office. He had to shut down the office for 3 months, and shared his learnings. We asked René: How can you adopt the right tools for productivity in the organization? His answer was spot-on: “It’s not just about the tool, it’s also about how you use it in an organization. In this time, it’s important to focus on working smarter.”

“In my recent experience at Microsoft, we had to move into another office. In the meantime, we choose to make employees self-aware on how to work without an office and asked them to work from home for 3 months. To help them work productively at home, we created a set of rituals about how we wanted to collaborate. For example, 45-minute meetings so everyone always has a 15-minute break, focused work in the morning and collaboration in the afternoon and use video when you’re in an online meeting. This is something companies can do right now to help employees connect with colleagues and make them feel in control. And when it comes down to choosing the right tool – it can be anything. Slack or Microsoft Teams, you just have to make sure the technology matches the company values.”

Technology as the connection

As all of our speakers in the webinar mentioned, it is important to communicate clearly with employees. Ask them how they are doing, invite them into lunch meetings, give them tips on how to work productively and how to set-up a good workplace at home. In this time, collaborating is difficult, but not impossible. With help from technology, you can still connect employees to the company and each other.

Stimulate virtual team building

To wrap it up, we've searched for some tools that not only help collaborate, but also focus on the fun part in the work-life balance. So why not incorporate those to have a little virtual team building?

  • That taking breaks is important is nothing new. But how about lunching with colleagues online? In Slack, there is the possibility to add the so-called Donut extension. What does it do? It pairs individuals in that channel randomly together, so they can have a one-on-one Slack-call. This way employees still meet colleagues online and they don't have to lunch alone. And got a new team member on board? Let them introduce themselves with Aloha.
  • Employees who sweat together, stay together. Maybe your organization took care of the health of employees by providing sport lessons weekly. But now that’s no longer possible. Luckily, there are multiple ways to still have an online workout with your team. You can use Zoom and hire a private instructor to host a session online. Or you can get employees Fitbits and set challenges, so they can still have a bit of competition.
  • What’s a Friday afternoon without drinks and games? There are tons of online games employees can play together. For example Pictionary or Scrabble. Put the event in everyone's calendar, set-up some online games and of course put on your video by calling through Zoom, Skype or Microsoft teams!

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