Thank goodness we are allowed to return to the office, and now everyone is talking about hybrid working being the ‘new normal’. So, how many days will we be at the office? What do we need to optimally facilitate meetings and other kinds of sessions? How will the flexible combination of online and offline work affect building management, ICT, cleaning, security and catering? These are important issues, and not surprisingly they are the subject of much thought and debate.
However, strangely enough, none of the discussions really focuses on the ‘mature employment relationship’ angle, an attitude based on the principle that managers and their staff work on an equal footing, operating on mutual trust, respect and reciprocity. In my opinion, this fundamental attitude is much more important than whether you’re at the office two, or three, times a week.
It’s my belief that a mature employment relationship is an essential condition for the success of hybrid working. There are three main questions in this debate. What does the client want, now and in the near future? Which work processes do we need to make it work? What are the parameters, and what do employees and their managers expect from each other? In other words: what do we need to make hybrid working a lasting success, what efforts will be required of the employees and what do they expect from their managers?
Now that the measures to contain Covid-19 have eased, it’s only logical to start thinking about the practical organisation of our new working environments. If offices are used more and more often primarily as places where people come together, talk and create, the requirements for facilities services will change. Facilicom has already designed a number of innovative concepts to meet this change in demand, e.g. Facilicom@Home (to help WFH (work from home) workers), Food&I (meeting places with personalized food) and Gom’s flexible cleaning services (catering to the actual use of work stations). We have noticed, too, how hybrid working, which helps us find an optimal balance between work and home life, can contribute to our drive to stimulate happiness at work for both own employees and our clients’ employees.
The innovative developments in facilities support for the workplace of today and tomorrow are exceptionally relevant, but whether hybrid working will be a success or not depends on our company’s ability to talk about how to get the best from one another, based on the clients’ wishes. The debate could produce agreements on the number of days we are at the office. But more is needed. For a start, there’s the problem of whether to join in a session or not. I, for one, have more than ten meetings scheduled every week. If you want to attend every meeting face to face, you will be back at the office five days a week before you know it. Part-time WFH sounds plain and easy enough perhaps, but which days will be your WFH days? Which meetings should be attended by everyone in person? How can we hold a meeting efficiently if some of the team members join in by video call?
In essence, hybrid working involves conditions and expectations that ensure that we achieve success for a company. It is a fundamental attitude that we must continue to discuss within the company - and accordingly entails much more than a simple discussion about the average WFH days a week or the layout of meeting places at the office.
In my view, we have a unique opportunity to create a new normal based on an honest, inquisitive attitude to make hybrid working a success. I really hope that every company is open to talking about hybrid working on the basis of a mature employment relationship, where the debate touches on the issues that actually matter: the best ways to achieve the results we are all looking for. And in this context, the issues are facilities-related matters, such as accommodation, ICT and catering. But first and foremost, it should include the agreements you make together about how you work together. If we can talk about these things, hybrid working really will be the new working.
Albert van der Meulen, Facilicom Group’s Vice CEO