There’s no denying the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace forced many of us to rethink our current work models. Even with many employees already working remotely, our Randstad headquarters in the Netherlands had to transition into a full remote work model. 

When our offices began to reopen, it became clear that a hybrid work model was the preferred arrangement among our employees. This desire for greater flexibility aligns with the results of our Workmonitor survey. This research shows that one in three employees believe a hybrid work model to be the most ideal working arrangement. Furthermore, nearly one in four employees want flexible work hours.  

At this point, we began the journey of building a hybrid workplace that aligns with our company culture and allows our employees to be at their best. Here’s a look at the things we have learnt so far. 

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centre on employee’s best self

As an HR leader at Randstad, I focus on creating a workplace that allows all employees to be their best selves. This core principle is intertwined with our company culture and belief that if we are all at our best, this contributes to the satisfaction of clients, candidates and employees.

Throughout the pandemic, we maintained a strong focus on ‘best self’ and will continue to do so as we transition to a hybrid model. We realise that this process won’t happen overnight and it’s not something we could do without first gaining input from our employees.

Once we better understood our employees’ needs, we were in a place where we could take steps to create an environment where they could be their best selves, whether working from home or at the office.

For example, we adjusted our compensation package to include additional benefits, such as reimbursement for home office supplies, allowance for home internet costs and discount prices on wellness products, to alleviate some of the pressures of working from home.

As important as the principle of ‘best self’ is, it’s only effective when the individual employees’ needs align with the team and the results we want to deliver as an organisation. So, it’s when the combination of best self, best team and best results are in alignment that makes the difference.

a work schedule built around choice

As an organisation that firmly believes people should be at the steering wheel of their own careers and their own vitality, we knew that we wanted to give our employees a voice in what their hybrid work schedule looks like.

We realised that hybrid work wouldn’t look the same to all employees. Our workforce consists of both introverts and extroverts; employees with children and others that live alone; and employees that live close to the office and others that have a long commute. We don’t want to ignore these differences or  build a one-size-fits-all hybrid work model.

We feel that a tailor-made approach works best. As such, we encourage each employee to think about their specific role and to determine what responsibilities they must handle at the office and what duties they can continue doing remotely. Employees must also be understanding of the needs of their teams and the organisation.

Additionally, we are working on developing guidelines for our managers. Next to their regular one-on-one meetings and performance check-ins, these guidelines will help them facilitate conversations with their teams. Through these conversations, they can agree on a schedule that allows each employee to be their best self while also making sure the team can work at peak performance too.

(over) communicate

If there was one area that I underestimated, it was the need for consistent communication. While I knew from the start that communication would be a key component of transitioning to a hybrid work model, I still underestimated it. I cannot stress enough just how important it is to communicate — even when there’s nothing to communicate, you must stay connected. 

The need for consistent communication is even more crucial as we head back into the workplace. The pandemic generated a lot of stress among workers and many have anxiety about what the future of work will look like. In fact, according to our latest Randstad Workmonitor, nearly half of the global workforce admits being more stressed since the pandemic and 50% of workers are concerned about workplace exposure to COVID-19. 

We found that the best way to help alleviate some of this stress was to keep our employees as informed as possible. For example, I continue to send out frequent COVID-19 updates to ensure our employees knew that we were staying up to date on the latest regulations.

Since creating a hybrid model is still an ongoing process, it can be difficult at times to provide clear communication. I had to learn that it’s ok to not have all the answers yet. The key factor is to stay close to your people and  provide the best guidance possible at the time — even if that means saying, ‘We’re still working on that.’

technology is a must

Hybrid work is not possible without the right technology in place. Fortunately, we did very well when it came to technology. Within just a few weeks, our digital factory was able to create a digital planning tool to meet our hybrid work needs. A prime feature of this tool is that our employees can book a place at the office. This feature allows us to control exactly how many people are working at the office on any given day and scale up or down our capacity level in adherence to the latest government guidelines. It also allows employees to see who is working at the office and who isn’t, which enables them to better plan their time at the office.

the importance of touch

At Randstad, our overall business strategy is based on ‘tech and touch.’

We know that technology can support us all in our daily lives and we are already working hard to make technology work for us. But from our long history, we know above all that the human connection is the most important part of our business. We can better serve our clients and candidates by creating real connections based on trust. And this also holds true for maintaining our own workforce.

Prior to the pandemic, touch moments were a natural part of daily life at the office. We were likely to bump into colleagues just walking down the hallway, have lunch in the company restaurant and hold impromptu meetings at the office or travel to another subsidiary of Randstad.

Today, there is a stark difference. Instead, we must make a conscious effort to stay connected and to create touch moments with our colleagues. These touch moments shouldn’t be all business, but also include low-key, fun ways for colleagues to interact.

Soon, we are going to nudge our employees to prompt more touch moments with co-workers all over the world. We will ask two employees to connect, both from a personal and business perspective. Based on that conversation, each employee recommends a colleague that the other one should connect with next. This process continues after each meeting to create a chain of touch moments.

redesign for a hybrid workplace

We realised that we would have to transform our office space to meet the new demands of a hybrid model. As we ask our employees to think about where they can do what tasks best, we expect they will use their home office to handle tasks that require uninterrupted concentration, such as completing a presentation and the Randstad office to connect and collaborate.

With this in mind, we have created multiple spots on each floor for collaboration as well as specific areas with screens and whiteboards for teams to work on projects. Employees also have access to the company restaurant for meetups. Of course, we’ve kept plenty of individual workstations for our employees to use in-between meetings.

This new office design also helps to strengthen our company culture by creating a space for facilitating touch moments.

hybrid workplace
hybrid workplace

experiment – learn – adjust

With the pandemic still ongoing, governmental guidelines are changing regularly, not just here in the Netherlands, but across the globe. I found that we just have to accept the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty. Due to this factor, we need to remain agile enough to adapt quickly and effectively.

Creating a hybrid workplace is not going to happen overnight. Rather, it’s an ongoing process and will be for some time to come. It’s ok to have a period where things are less clear if we are working towards developing the optimal work model.

To make this a reality, we must experiment with different formats, bring the team back together to discuss what worked and what didn’t and adjust if necessary. This process gives us room to grow and time to build a hybrid workplace where best self, best team and best results are in alignment.

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about the author
Suzanne Kahle
Suzanne Kahle

Suzanne Kahle

hr director, randstad global

Having more than 30 years experience in HR & recruitment, her extensive expertise lies in developing effective HR strategies to drive engagement, innovation and change. Suzanne is deeply committed to randstad’s purpose of supporting people and organisations in realising their true potential. In her current role, she leads randstad’s corporate organisational and employee development to ensure successful business transformation.

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