Teleworking where possible

Author: Manu Steens

In this post I give my own opinion, not that of any organization.

Context

In the press conference of 3 June (https://www.info-coronavirus.be/nl/news/nvr-0306/), measures for the phasing out of the lock-down were given by the NVR (National Security Council) led by Prime Minister Wilmès. One measure in which there is quite a bit of resentment among some employers is: “It is recommended to telework if possible.”

After all, many employers want their employees to return to work in a 100% profitable way. This is understandable and desirable, given that the economy is currently being severely damaged by the situation. However, does this also require 100% presence in the workplace?

Nuances in the rules

The ruling of the National Security Counsil is nuanced in two ways: after all, it says “it is recommended” and “if possible”. In other words, this can be interpreted as follows: “dear employers, we advise you to continue to allow teleworking where possible, of course you can return to work where that is not possible, decide for yourself but please use your common sense.” And it is this common sense that is so much needed right now. Because what does it mean if you, like so many other employers, cut corners and decide “that everyone should go back to the workplace”? Arguments are given from “the employees want social contact with their colleagues” to the other extreme “I want to be able to ask everyone questions if I have any” or “it is not 100% profitable at the moment”.

Above all, such a reaction as an employer is indiscriminate. It’s absolute. It does not take into account the people who are afraid of being infected during (public or organized) transport. Such an action is equivalent to asking employees to leave their brains at home in the morning when they leave for work and only use them again at home in the evening. As an employer, you pay emotional interest on this. You can’t turn off emotions. And going against emotions is very demotivating. It is therefore better for the organization to allow only a limited presence in the workplace. The question then is, what is the best way to do that? Do you have to assign everyone a day? Or two days? Etc. And then work from home for the rest of the week where possible?

“Loosely” organized

It seems that this is organized quite “loosely”. It is best for people to come to the workplace if necessary. When necessary, they know best: they are experts in their job and know when they need certain things from the shop floor. Even when meeting colleagues in person is important. The principle can therefore be better “you are welcome in the workplace, if you deem it necessary according to your personal needs” than on orders from above. Because in the latter way, it becomes more difficult to meet and work together efficiently, well and even effectively. This means that the principle of, for example, “come to work one day a week” can be flexibly implemented in consultation with their colleagues. Therefore, the advice is: limit the number of places in the workplace and in the meeting rooms, and let everyone reserve a place if he/she finds it necessary not to work from home that day. Important conclusions can be drawn from the figures that emerge from this in combination with the figures of the performance. E.g. how much office space do you really need, and what is really needed to work 100% profitably. You can then use this to make suggestions for improvement.

Of course, this does not apply to production halls where, for example, cars are assembled and where you need the workforce. That’s why it’s “if possible”.

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields.

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