This past year, many homes changed into offices. As well at Unilever, where working from home has been the standard way of working from March 2020. Which means that offices are empty for months now. On the positive side, working from home created flexibility and gave people the freedom to go to the gym or for a walk in the afternoon instead of only after working hours. Unilever Benelux Media Relations Manager Marlous den Bieman and Agile Coach Dennis Hobbelink say that trust is essential to move towards hybrid working and more flexibility in your workday. Looking at the future of work, Unilever is certain to be hybrid they say.
Hofplein19, Unilever’s stunning new office, is still an oasis of tranquility. The company’s hybrid working trial was planned for this summer but was delayed due to the government re-imposed work-from-home rules. Dennis is part of a multidisciplinary team that gathers regularly to think about the future of work. “A recent Unilever survey found that the ideal mix is to work in the office 40% of the time. At Unilever, facilitating individual preferences is important. The challenge then is how do you encourage people to come in without it turning into an obligation? And who should come to the office when, and how?”
For Marlous and Dennis, the past year has been a rollercoaster. At first, working from home felt like a luxury. But, as time passed, they missed working in the office and seeing and speaking to colleagues in person. “Last summer we relocated to our new office at Hofplein and could come in on request”, Marlous says. “It was good to have the option to work at the office again. Plus, this place is wonderful in terms of light, workspaces, having colleagues around and its location in the city center.” According to Dennis, the lockdowns have shown the benefits of more trust and flexibility. “We now focus more on output, which did a huge amount of good. I’ve heard that from a lot of colleagues. Personally, I’ve also missed the chit chats here at Unilever. Those moments really add something special to your day.”
The function of offices is gradually changing, from a workplace to a meeting place. Not only the central location near the city’s train station, the new Hofplein office is appealing in so many other ways. “The new Hofplein office is an awesome change”, Dennis thinks. “I moved to Amsterdam recently, and the hurdle to commuting here from other places has really lessened. My favorite spot in the office is an out-of-the-way cubbyhole with a fantastic hanging chair on the 8th floor, with a view of Hofplein.” Marlous adds, “A mix of online meetings and face-to-face brainstorm sessions would be the ideal combination for me. In this building, you can use different spaces during your day: touch down spots, the library, phonebooths and the rooftop terrace together offer a nice setting to work in.”
“A recent Unilever survey found that the ideal mix is to work in the office 40% of the time”