The New World of Work doesn’t mean you can freewheel

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Last year Volkswagen and BMW in Germany gave employees the right to be ‘unavailable’: they no longer had to be available by email or telephone after office hours. I don’t think we in the Netherlands should go along with this trend; if we did, we would be back to square one with the New World of Work.

Something’s wrong if you feel like you need to be available 24/7. Britta Boelrijk Britta Boelrijk Programme manager New Way of Working

Volkswagen even went so far as to make it technically impossible for staff to receive email after office hours. The idea was to allow employees to ‘switch off’ their work and to nip concentration problems and exhaustion in the bud.

Better balance

The New World of Work allows you to strike a better balance between your personal life and work. If you have children, there will be times you want to watch them in a school play during office hours. And nowadays, people need to take care of family members more often. For example, you sometimes need to accompany your parents to the hospital on weekdays. At ABN AMRO, it’s your own responsibility to catch up on the work another time. Some people do that in the evening, others on their day off. The bizarre thing about the New World of Work is that nobody bats an eye if they have to work on their day off once in a while – but the other way around is a different story. I know very few people who start the working day by going for a run. If we all thought that was normal, we would cut down on a lot of stress. And not everybody is necessarily at their most productive between 9 am and 5 pm. That’s where flexible working hours can be a real help. But flexibility shouldn’t turn into stress. Something’s wrong if you feel like you need to be available 24/7.

Talk, talk, talk

A number of things are essential to creating a good work/life balance. First, you need to make clear arrangements with your team. Don’t plan any meetings after 6 pm or when your colleagues have a day off. If you do, people will feel they never really have ‘free’ time. Decide together what you need in order to perform well, stick to agreements and evaluate regularly. The New World of Work doesn’t mean you can freewheel. If you don’t see each other every day, you need to contact each other a lot. Managers need to monitor how their staff are doing. At ABN AMRO, we have daily and weekly huddles where we discuss the planning and timelines. We also share our ‘mood’ with each other at these meetings. You can tell your colleagues how you’re feeling and whether you are facing any obstacles, either at the office or at home. You’ll be more alert to potential issues if somebody always says that things are ‘fine’. We can’t handle constant pressure, so it’s important to open up to one another. Create a safe environment where everybody feels comfortable. I’m sure that in the end, everybody will benefit from this approach.

Survey facts

  • 25% of employees questioned feel that flexible working conditions create a heavier workload. Most employees work for the bank outside office hours in addition to their regular hours

  • 42% of all employees reply to work emails outside of their working hours.

  • 29% keep an eye on their email while on holiday.

  • 14% reply to work emails while on holiday.

Source: Raet HR Benchmark 2014-2015

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